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Amphibious cars make a splash in S.C.

Whether you're Popeye the sailor or Bobby Rahal the auto racer, a Ridgeland, S.C., company has the right car for you.

The Hydra Spyder, the creation of Cool Amphibious Manufacturers International, is just as comfortable on a black ribbon of highway as it is on the high seas.

The Ridgeland-based company delivered its fifth amphibious car to an anonymous, ultra-rich customer last week.

“It handles like a Jet Ski,” said Jerry Cirino, who was in the Lowcountry to pick up the car for his employer. “It's definitely fun.”

Cirino, who manages the owner's summer home in upstate New York, will drive the Hydra Spyder there. It will then be shipped to Europe.

Such a Hollywood-esque car doesn't come cheap. The Spyders start at $175,000 and, other than the engine, are handcrafted and assembled in Ridgeland.

The identity of the owner is a secret, but the car will be aboard the mega-yacht Samar, which is allegedly owned by a wealthy Kuwait-based businessman.

That kind of customer is normal for John and Julie Giljam, who own Cool Amphibious Manufacturers. About two years ago the company created the prototype Hydra Spyder, which combined a high-performance sports car with a speedy, maneuverable water craft.

The company uses a private lake because its products tend to draw crowds when taken out in public. When the Giljams took their unique Terra Wind motorhome/yacht out at All Joy Landing in Bluffton a few years back, people thought someone had had a heart attack and drove their RV into the water, said Craig James, a fabricator with the Ridgeland company.

That led to police and rescue vehicles showing up.

As much fun and as famous as the Terra Wind is – it has appeared on “Good Morning America” – the Spyder is John Giljam's favorite.

It features a Chevrolet Corvette LS3 engine. It offers comfort and power on asphalt or water. It can reach speeds of 125 mph on land and, with a flip of a switch, retract its wheels and cruise up to 50 mph on the water.

The orders keep rolling in.

Four more Hydra Spyders are waiting to be assembled and the company still gets queries from potential buyers. There is a one-year wait for the vehicle.

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