ZEELAND, Mich. (July 2015) — She thought she was going for a boat ride, so Corry Hoekstra was a little surprised when her friends directed her into a car.
She figured out her mix-up when the car drove straight across the lawn — and into Lake Macatawa. Hoekstra was riding in an Amphicar, which can be driven on land and in the water. It’s the only vehicle for which you need both auto and boat registration.
“I thought it was a boat ride, and I was really excited about it,” Hoekstra said. “When we got there, I only saw a beautiful little car. But we drove it right into the lake! We could put our hands in the water; it was so much fun.”
A group of fast friends
Ed Koops drives three Royal Place Place residents into the water in his Amphicar.
The amphibious vehicle is owned by Ed Koops of Holland. His sister, Joyce Sluiter, wanted friends from her retirement community, Royal Park Place in Zeeland, to experience a ride in the unusual car. She mentioned the possibility to Hoekstra and two other women, Gert Gruppen, and Jean Sneller.
It wasn’t the first time they had planned an outing together.
“We’ve been friends since I moved in, a year and a half ago — we met at Royal Park Place, and we just clicked,” said Gruppen.
The women do a lot together — get afternoon coffee, play BINGO and card games, go grocery shopping, and watch movies, for example.
“There’s always something to do at Royal Park Place,” Gruppen said. “It’s just a neat, family-like feeling here.”
Each Saturday night, the four women go out for dinner. That’s where their Amphicar adventure started.
“One week I asked them if they’d ever like to go for a ride in my brother’s Amphicar,” Sluiter said. “They said sure, so I planned the outing.”
A little misunderstanding, a lot of fun
The exact details of the ride were a little unclear to some of the passengers.
“With so few (Amphicars) around, I suppose I shouldn’t have assumed they’d know what I was talking about,” Sluiter laughed.
The result of the misunderstanding was a delightful surprise. The women cruised across the lake for a while — even riding by Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant and waving to some astonished outdoor diners — before heading back to shore.
“People were taking pictures of us!” Hoekstra said. “They were probably saying, ‘Can you believe those gray-haired people out there?’”
After the getting back on land, Sneller announced, “Now I can cross that off my bucket list — and I didn’t even know it was on my bucket list!”
A rare opportunity
Gert Gruppen, Joyce Sluiter, Corry Hoekstra, and Jean Sneller pose for a photo with the Amphicar.
Not a lot of people get the chance to ride in an Amphicar. They were made in Germany in the 1960s, and roughly 3800 were sold in the United States. Very few of them are still in working condition today, but Koops has one of the few.
“My brother is a car collector, and this is the star of his collection,” Sluiter said.
According to www.amphicar.com — the official website of the International Amphicar Owner’s Club (IAOC), of which Koops is a member — the Amphicar is basically a boat with wheels. The bottom is all sealed up, and the doors have watertight rubber seals around their edges. Separate water locks keep the doors from opening accidentally.
Once in the water, the driver shifts the land transmission into neutral and engages the dual propellers of the water drive. The front wheels serve as rudders, so the driver continues to use the steering wheel to guide the vehicle.
The IAOC has regular meetings (called Swim-ins) across the country, and they occasionally meet in Holland, at Koops’ house. His land on Lake Macatawa even has its own ramp — one he made from a production line conveyor belt — for the car to get into the water.
The club’s next Michigan meeting is scheduled for Sept. 11-13. If Sluiter and her friends are on the shore that weekend, they won’t be the least bit surprised to see a parade of cars heading straight for the lake.
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