Swiss Car Fit for a Spy Film

GENEVA -- OK, so they've invented a car that runs on land and underwater. But did they really have to make it a convertible?

The sQuba may conjure up memories of James Bond's amphibious Lotus Esprit from "The Spy Who Loved Me," a car that resembled an airtight submarine -- including the "depth charges."

The unarmed concept car by Swiss designer Rinspeed can plow through the water at a depth of 10 meters and has electrical motors to turn the underwater screw. Break out the wet suit, however.

"For safety reasons we have built the vehicle as an open car so that the occupants can get out quickly in an emergency," said Frank Rinderknecht, Rinspeed's 52-year-old CEO and a professed Bond fan.

Rinderknecht said he has been waiting 30 years to recreate the car he saw Roger Moore use to drive off of a dock and escape a pursuing helicopter.

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 driving the screw for underwater motoring.

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

"We always want to do cars that are outrageous, which nobody has done before," said Rinderknecht, whose innovative company has made transparent, flying and voice-activated cars in previous attention-grabbing splashes at the Geneva Auto Show, where the sQuba will be unveiled next month. "So we thought, let's make a car dive."

The company calls the sQuba the first real submersible car. Unlike military vehicles, which can only drive slowly on a lake bed, Rinspeed said its car can provide a stable "flight" at a depth of 10 meters. The interior is resistant to salt water, allowing the driver to plunge into lake or sea.

Rinderknecht said it cost more than 1 million euros ($1.5 million) to make the sole sQuba that has been produced so far. Rinspeed is in discussion with commercial manufacturers about making a limited number of the cars. The price: "It would be cheaper than a Rolls Royce," Rinderknecht said.