The Amazing Toymakers DUCK-W

Toymakers DUCKW wooden amphibeous carAn exquisitely constructed mini DUCKW (sort of) made from beautifully varnished light timber and plywood with full on land and water ability.

Our thanks to the McCue Family for this one. Found in a famous toy auction house at Stockton on Tees, this ‘one off’ crazy piece of amphibious invention, came complete with an electric outboard motor to provide drive on the water and full steering and leaf spring suspension for the land part of the operation.

A folding windscreen, one blue and one yellow headlight one plus some fascinating parts from an old refrigerator (I think) on the front deck add style and two tip-forward adult sized seats, all go to complete this beautifully designed and built vehicle.

Sadly, it had no method of drive on land other than push along manpower. Brakes were not an option either – that’s right the slipway was a case of wheee-splash!

We have absolutely no idea who built this vehicle or why but would be fascinated to find out. A lot of creative design, care and love went into it. So if anyone knows – please contact us. Every youngster we have shown it to has absolutely loved this machine. It has proved to be such a fun little vehicle that we could not leave it alone.

In most cases, we do not alter what the inventor has made but we just knew when looking at this one that the creator had really wanted to make it drive on land and sea but whilst having been an amazing woodworker, they had lacked the skill to do the mechanical parts.

DUCKW amphibeous car testingSo we put our heads together with world famous Belgian inventor Rene Baldewijns and his projects manager Katty Vermeulen, constructors of the world’s only drivable submarine - the 'Amfibidiver'. The ‘Toymakers DUCKW’ took a trip over to Belgium.

So we put our heads together with world famous Belgian inventor Rene Baldewijns and his projects manager Katty Vermeulen, constructors of the world’s only drivable submarine - the 'Amfibidiver'. The ‘Toymakers DUCKW’ took a trip over to Belgium.

Rene tests this sort of thing in a plastic inflatable swimming pool, having to drive things up a ramp of wood balanced on barrels until they plop into the water – an amazing act of invention in itself!

A buoyancy test, found leaks around the steering gear and showed up balance as a real potential problem. If one person is heavier than the other, or there is only one person - it leant well over to the heavy side.

Providing balance

No problem. Rene built a carrying rack for the two big batteries and formed a track going from side to side under the seats. A bicycle chain, electric motor, small wheels for the rack, some wiring, two push buttons and electrical gizmo’s later and he had produced a highly effective system where by pressing one button or the other, the tray with the batteries simply slides across to act as a counterbalance.

DUCKW amphibeous car chasisProviding drive on land and water – a really clever bit! To do this, Rene took two motors from a miniature electric kart, complete with electrical gizmo’s, a computer joystick, the light control slider from an old photocopier, some bicycle gears, bicycle chains, an on/off switch and another for forward and reverse. A very neat bit of welding using two ‘J’ shaped roofing bolts made a clever chain tensioning system to complete the kit.

He decided on an independent drive to each rear wheel via the chains for reasons that will soon become clear. One motor was geared to each rear wheel with the controller operating both motors in forward or reverse at the same time. The suspension to the rear wheels was done away with due to the need to tension the chains. If it had been left, every time the DUCKW went over a bump, the chain would come off!

Providing drive on water. Ingenious is the word to use. Reverting back to ages old technology, Rene designed paddle wheels to run in side boxes. The drive to these is provided by a spring loaded clutch at the end of each axle. Turn the clutch head and it springs forward to engage three pins into the end of the axle and the paddle wheel then turns with the car wheel on either left or right.

Turning on the water. Ahhh, that is where the computer joystick comes in handy. By flipping a switch, each electric motor now becomes independently driven. They can be driven in reverse or forwards simply by using the joystick – just like space invaders! This is actually a highly effective design with a fairly short vehicle like this and it can turn on the spot! The photocopier light control? Well I thought it was obvious! - Rene has used it as a speed controller. It’s a bit weird to operate but like most things Rene invents - it does the job pretty well.

Making parts for the DUCKW amphibeous vehicleKatty dries the varnish to keep warmKatty had to endure some sub zero days working during the winter. We have a photo of her sitting on the cold concrete floor in front of an electric fire and either trying to get warm or trying to get the varnish to dry – now that’s dedication for you.

The finished product? Well they could be excused for having just put the bits together and left it alone when it all worked. Instead, they went on to produce a beautiful pair of timber paddle wheels and side boxes, complete with moulded cut-outs with clear plastic inserts through which you can see the wheels thrashing the water.

DUCKW wooden amphibeous car exiting waterOn land and water? - It goes like a bomb! A great success and a huge big thank you yet again to Rene and Katty – oh yes, and to Rene’s two children who acted as test pilots for the water bit!

We would like to hope that the original maker of this great little machine will one day be able to visit it at the museum (when located) and see the improvements we have made. We are sure that whoever it was, will be really pleased. Enjoy.