Home » Our Daydreaming Designer Shows Us Why David Should Have Taken That Ridiculous Houseboat Trade For His $700 Chevy Tracker

Our Daydreaming Designer Shows Us Why David Should Have Taken That Ridiculous Houseboat Trade For His $700 Chevy Tracker

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The magnitude of certain opportunities is sometimes not obvious. Things that we might perceive at first to be a curse can turn into be blessings in disguise. We were reminded of that reality the other day here at the Autopian.

Communicating on the infamous Autopian Slack channel, David Tracy was describing the odd items he had been offered in trade for one of his numerous vehicles, many of which he shared with all of you in a recent article. One of the most intriguing items to the rest of us on the team was the houseboat you see below. A freaking houseboat, because I guess anyone selling an old SUV will naturally want to replace it with a floating living space, right?

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While David somehow expected us all to laugh or berate the potential boat/truck barterer for such a silly offer, the reaction was surprisingly positive from the team.

If I recall, Jason responded with a resounding “DO IT…JFC JUST DO IT” or something along those lines. Indeed, essentially all of the staffers immediately warmed to the idea of The Autopian Boat. This would be a tremendous opportunity to delve into an area of transportation that there has been admittedly a dearth of coverage of here on this site. Not only that, but this vessel could prove to be a testbed for a way to finally “flip the script” on amphibious vehicles. How could David lose?

First, the boat itself. It’s virtually impossible to understand the potential of a large floating home from just a few less-than-spectacular photos of a seemingly less-than-spectacular vessel, but that’s what we’re gonna do.

The boat on offer is a single level. We’ll start by adding a party deck on top, complete with a low perimeter wall finished in a rough paneling we will call “SHIT-lap” (a play on “shiplap.” Also, we’re gonna cover it in graphics anyway). Speakers will be built into the wall, wired to amps in the house section below pumping out OONZ OONZ OONZ sounds for all present. There’s a wet bar added to one end, while the other features a “flying bridge” to pilot the damn thing down Lake Tetanus from up there. Retractable tiki torches can hold string lights.

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There appears to be a rectangular front “deck” to this houseboat that a bold man offered David for his Chevy Tracker; this would be great for a car to park so you’d have a “land dinghy” to drive places when you reach your destination (like some barges do). However, the deck appears to be too small for a car unless you had staffers with Smart Cars or a Changli. And as luck would have it:

But maybe we don’t need to have a little car on board. We’ll just drive the boat on land. Say what? How?

Well, today’s electric “skateboard” car chassis systems are so low profile, flat, and self-contained, we are finding that they can underpin almost anything. A questionable-condition houseboat absolutely qualifies as “anything.”

Via Skateboard Platform 2

Source: Wikimedia

Presenting NautiSled, an answer to a question that you’d be afraid to ask, and probably should be.

Here’s how it would work. You start by positioning the NautiSled unit at the boat ramp half submerged like you would with a trailer.

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You would use either RC car-type controls or something rather similar to a gamer system controls (see below) to move the Sled (but with gauges like a speedometer that will be needed later, or a holder for your phone or tablet that could sync up with the NautiSled app and provide speed, battery info and such).


source: Amazon

A winch pulls the boat into position on holders mounted to the top of Nautisled.

Once secured in position, you place the controls into whatever forward facing position on the boat that works for you. For this thing, you could put them up on the ‘”lying bridge” up top for a commanding view, or even inside the forward-facing Changli. This would be a wired controller of course; wireless is certainly possible but even if you don’t fear death I am sure that someone on board this monstrosity would.

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I particularly like the idea of this tiny low-powered Changli seeming to be the face of this big-assed thing. It’s sort of like the giant vehicle in Fury Road that had a w123 Mercedes limousine as the ‘driving’ compartment.

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Screenshot: Mad Max Fury Road

I mean, with around 64 horsepower, the real 240D limo was only marginally faster than the tombstone replica that exists in a New Jersey graveyard:


Anyway, the nice thing is that on most boats, the pilot sits on the right hand side, so the controls for operating he NautiSled unit could be mounted ahead of the “front passenger” seat of your vessel and you’d be driving on the correct side of the boat/car for the United States. Then you hit the road!

The NautiSled features headlamps, signals, and area for a license plate so you would at least be legal there. Of course, driving on the street in a vehicle with no seat belts, no air bags, and the possibility that a collision could allow the boat on top of the sled to become a flying machine might make this legal nowhere in America except the State of My Mind. Still, add a few lap belts, strap the boat down real good and all is well.

[Editor’s Note: A bit of an aside: For years, Jason has been suggesting that Automakers build amphibious capability into vehicles, especially minivans. One of his main points is that the boat doesn’t have to be great — it just has to float and be fun. People will like that. Recently, there’s been disagreement among The Autopian’s cofounders about whether it’s more important for an amphibious car to be a good car or a good boat. This zany mockup by The Bishop is clearly a better boat than it is a car. But for someone who has some property in a nice small town with various canals, it could be fun. Boat around, then drive into town for lunch, maybe launch somewhere else — ideal. But that’s a narrow use case. I agree with JT: Good car, bad boat for amphibious vehicles. -DT]

This SUV-For-A-Boat trade would be a win-win-win for everyone from David that gets a good deal for a car he no longer needs, Autopians that get a place to party like it’s 1999, and the transportation world that gets a new mode of amphibious motoring.

What could possibly go wrong?


All illustrations by The Bishop


Our Daydreaming Designer Imagines The Ultimate Autopian Tour Bus – The Autopian

Our Daydreaming Auto Designer Reimagines A More Modern Version Of The Legendary GMC Motorhome That Died In 1978 – The Autopian

The Daydreaming Designer Shows How To Make A Budget Tiny House From A Broken RV – The Autopian

Would You Sleep In An RV Made Out Of A Hearse? – The Autopian

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50 Responses

  1. I like the Nautisled idea. Wheels and axles add a lot of weight and making them retract is an engineering hassle.

    Maybe you could also have a generator attached the the engine that can re-charge the batteries as you drive on the sled. Or, make the sled run as gas over electric like a train. just have a small battery to get the sled to and from the boat ramp.

  2. Quick solution to the boat getting launched in an accident. Bolt it down.

    Locking dogs allow you to move it from the launch ramp to the parking lot in a safe manner, anything above that and you have to spend some time getting it bolted down.

    1. richardodn- remember, you’d need a tablet to mount in front of the wheel for your speed and range gauges to be street legal! There’s the NautiSled app that gives you that dashboard. And a clamp to mount it to the dash and floor of the boat or Changli.

  3. If anything, this would tempt David to sail the globe in search of sketchy vehicles to bring back to LA. He doesn’t need that temptation right now. You look at the house part of it and think of the possibilities for sprucing it up. All David sees is something to be demolished so he can fit two or three shitboxes on his boat instead of just one.

  4. Hmmm, I like this idea of what is a essentially a self-propelled, remote operated, trailer. With the trailer attached, it even becomes a sort of EV motorhome. If you leave the houseboat powered with an ICE, and hooked a generator to the engine, then you could even make it a hybrid RV. Since RVs make shitty cars in general, the fact that this would be a better boat than car is a non-issue.

    1. Maximillian- I like that! It’s sort of similar to those images you see online where a car has a generator bolted to the trunk lid powering a window air conditioning unit,

  5. I wonder how much slip rental costs in CA? I’m curious as to what the actual savings could’ve been for David if he lived on the high seas. Shoot, I bet the Metropolitan could’ve fit where Bishop put the Changli

    1. Man With A Reliable Jeep- I think a boat slip is pretty damn expensive, but if Beau let him park this thing on a trailer in one of his lots that would be the play. Sort of like Jim Rockford without the sport coat and Firebird.

    2. I know of a few people that, rather than buy a cottage, have a sailboat and dock it at one of the various marinas in Toronto. Easy relaxing weekend getaway with minimal driving.

    3. When i lived out there it was close. If you owned the boat it was cheaper. If you were paying on the boat it was expensive. It was the cheapest way to get waterfront but apartments miles from water were cheaper.

    4. A buddy moved to San Francisco some 15 years ago for a high-paying (relative to our semi-rural area as I tried to point out at the time) job. Shocked at the astronomical rents, by the second year he had bought two* old sailboats and docked them a couple miles apart. The payments on the two plus slip fees, etc., came in at just over half of what he had paid the first year for basically a small bedroom with kitchen & bathroom access.

      *it seems they have laws prohibiting full-time living in a docked boat: he said there was a four day limit, so stayed Mon-Thurs nights in one, then weekends in the other

  6. While I love the idea of David living on a houseboat flying “Jolly David” flag (like a pirate flag, but with crossed wrenches), I suspect a rusty barge would be more “on brand.” With twin Jeep 4.0s driving the screws.

    1. I eagerly await the article on DT figuring out how to get the second 4.0 to turn backwards! -twin motored boats were a major culture shock when I moonlighted at a marina

  7. No no no…

    The perfect David Tracy application for this houseboat would be “floating garage”.

    Put a roll-up garage door on the living quarters, install a lift, air compressor, and 220V generator, and you have a water-based wrenching garage that no HOA can claim jurisdiction over.

    1. BigThingsComin- I’m not sure if it would have made it to a 4th generation, unless the VW Type 4 actually took off, but this is revisionist Vega-free history, right? Still, now I’m curious of what that would look like, especially if they brought back the other body variants.

  8. First reaction: you’re gonna need a bigger winch
    Second: you forgot the water-slide!
    Third: for weekend conferences, you just buy several Zodiacs & free-standing tents: instant guest cottages

    1. TOSSABLE- I really need a longer NautiSled, or mount the winch a lot further forward.

      Yes, the omission of a waterslide is unforgiveable, as is not having ‘the plank’ to force guests to walk on if they express love for BMW’s latest styling language or if they criticize the Yugo.

  9. The problem with the Nautisled is that you have to return the to same marina where you launched.

    If you want to travel down the coast you’re out of luck unless someone has set up a Nautisled rental franchise at your destination marina.

    Much better to have the battery pack and wheels integrated into the boat. Set it up as a hybrid, so the wheels or props could be powered by the battery or the battery topped off by a generator.

    As a bonus, that would let David silently stalk marinas looking for the next rust heap.

    1. Clear_prop: that is true but with a traditional transport method your tow car and trailer are still at the same marina anyway.

      Yes, you could rent a NautiSled at your destination and scope around on land at the place where you arrive.

  10. Re: What could go wrong? Um – using a “skateboard” EV setup as a submersible boat trailer for this thing strikes me as something that could go catastrophically wrong, no? You want to submerge a large lithium battery? In WATER? Is that not how unquenchable fires are started?

    1. dblues- There’s gonna be thousands of battery powered pickups pulling boats out of the water soon, so they sure as shit better get the waterproofing thing down. But seriously, you’re worried about that? I mean, that’s a bigger concern than a five-ton thing sitting on a platform going at 50MPH steered by something like a Playstation controller?

  11. I do think an old Whitcraft might be a better base, deeper V-hull and peaked prow for better stability and sea-keeping ability, would make longer trips up the coast semi-feasible

  12. I mentioned in the column a live aboard boat might be a great choice for David. The offered boat really didn’t⁹ give us a good view. But after days of thinking about it i think get the boat and wear an eye patch. Then sell tshirts with DT wearing an eyepatch.

  13. A year ago I came across an old rusty 65′ tugboat for sale in Saginaw for $10,000. Oh how the gears turned in my head…Scheming and dreaming of how to drop it into a small landlocked pond where I would live like a demented sea captain. My wife did not approve.

    1. iwannadrive- I heard that song in a dentist’s office the other day. Maybe that inspired me:

      The last thing they’d see
      Is the front of the Changli
      As the good ship Capsize Down went sinkin’

      To think that the Edmund Fitzgerald was on its way to drop off iron ore to make…Mustang IIs.

  14. Bishop.
    We’ve been over this like six times. David’s supernatural ability to make anything rust instantly + thin metal hull which only floats if it has no rust holes = BAD IDEA!

    1. Look, rootwyrm, I figure that if he gets into boats he’ll be too broke to follow Mercedes Streeter’s interests in airplanes and flying. At least with a boat there’s no chance of him ever crashing into my house.

      1. …. I’ve got a 1954 Johnson 5.5HP outboard I’m gonna be putting on craigslist soon.
        Needs seals in the lower unit and a carb rebuild, but she runs.

        1. I can’t imagine there isn’t some kind of cesspool local to Moab? A retention pond or something? He can park his various rustbuckets on shore and live on the boat.

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