Amphibious vehicles made at home in Jasper County

Published: May. 23, 2011 at 10:42 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 12, 2011 at 12:46 AM EDT
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RIDGELAND, SC (WTOC) - It may look like something out of the movies, but the amphibious sports called the Hydra Spyder, along with all kinds of other unique amphibious vehicles are built and manufactured right in Ridgeland.

John and Julie Giljam built Cool Amphibious Manufacturers International from the ground up and it all started with an idea to improve their amphibious tour business on Hilton Head Island.

"John has a Master's Captain's license and I was the first mate," said Julie Giljam. "We had to run with an old Larc which was a vehicle that was wide, it was contankous. It was a difficult piece of equipment for every single day we went out on a tour, we'd have to wrench that night to do work on it."

With a background in manufacturing, John Giljam decided to build his own amphibious vehicle

"I wanted to engineer something that was safer, unsinkable and used mass produced parts to service my vehicle that day," he said.

The first Hydra Terra was born. While it was meant to replace their old tour vehicle, another tour company caught wind of it and they sold it and built another.

"We were going to get the second, then the third, then the sixth and at 13 we realized we weren't going to get a Hydra Terra for Cool Stuff Tours," he said.

Instead, they went into the manufacturing business.

"The New York plant builds the hauls and does the aluminum and framing of the hulls," said Julie Giljam. "They've got the jigs up there and they bring it down here and the guys down here put all of the running components, the driving, the mechanical systems."

They also created an amphibious RV called the Terra Wind equipped with all of the comforts of home. It wasn't long until the Hydra Spyder sports car came about.

"It's fun," she said. "It's fast. It hops up. Its fast on the water."

"The first car stared out at over $200,000 for the very first one and right now we're building one for a gentleman going to Monaco to go on his yacht in Monocot and it's over $300,000," said John.

Each one of their custom amphibious vehicles are built with their special patent.

"We are the only US Coat Guard certified vessel that is unsinkable," she said. "We have flotation foam in our vehicles. You can pull all of the drain plugs out of the bottom of the boat and it remains upright."

Now the Giljam's are going green, building an energy efficient Biotrike.

"This is biodiesel powered," said John. "It can run on diesel or biodiesel. It is very high mileage. We get 80 to 90 miles per gallons just running around locally."

Although it only runs on the road, the first prototype draws quite a bit of attention.

They began the company in 1999 and now have vehicles in 13 different countries.

Right now, they've got a lot going on. They're hoping to go into full production on the Biotrike soon and are working on a four seater, making it handicap accessible.

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