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CAR CAN DRIVE - AND DIVE

The sQuba, a Swiss-made concept car, can travel like a submarine.

Okay, so the Swiss have invented a car that runs on land and underwater. But did they really have to make it a convertible?

It's called the "sQuba" and conjures up memories of James Bond's amphibious Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me. The concept car - which unlike Bond's is not armed - was developed by Swiss designer Rinspeed Inc. and is set to make a splash at the Geneva Auto Show next month.

Company CEO Frank Rinderknecht, a self-professed Bond fan, said he has been waiting 30 years to re-create the car he saw Roger Moore use to drive off of a dock, although the two passengers should wear wet suits.

"For safety reasons, we have built the vehicle as an open car so that the occupants can get out quickly in an emergency," said Rinderknecht, 52.

Working with engineering specialists, Rinspeed removed the combustion engine from a sports car and replaced it with several electrical motors. Three are located in the rear, with one providing propulsion on land and the other two driving a screw for underwater driving.

The company calls the sQuba the first real submersible car. Unlike military amphibious vehicles, which can only drive slowly on a lake bed, the sQuba travels like a submarine - either on the surface or submerged. The interior is resistant to saltwater, allowing the skipper to drive into a lake or the sea.

Rinderknecht said that it cost more than $1.5-million to make the sole sQuba in existence and that it was difficult to make a car watertight and pressure-resistant enough to be maneuverable underwater.

"The real challenge, however, was to create a submersible car that moves like a fish in water," he added.

About the sQuba

The amphibious sQuba concept vehicle was inspired by the 1977 James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me. Here are a few facts:

- Can plow through the water at a depth of 30 feet and has electrical motors to turn an underwater screw.

- Passengers will be able to keep breathing underwater through an integrated tank of compressed air similar to what is used in scuba diving.

- The sQuba's top speed on land is about 77 mph, but it slows down to 3 mph on the surface of the water and 1.8 mph underwater.

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