Church Hill man converts boat to run on streets

Rain Smith • Apr 27, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Look! Out in the streets!

It's a boat. It's a car.

It's a...boat car?

Don Newbry, 70, of Church Hill, has converted a 1973 Glastron boat to run on the roadways.

Outfitted with a Volkswagen chassis and engine, it's registered through the DMV, and has prompted several double takes from other motorists.

"Everybody thought I was crazy, especially since nobody had seen anything like this," said Newbry, a semi-retired commercial painter. "I just said, 'I want to build one.'"

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Newbry's first "boat car" effort was about 15 years ago, while he was living in Florida. He says it wasn't nearly as elaborate at the newest model, which he started piecing together in 2006.

"It's totally legal, everything on it meets all the legalities for a vehicle being on the road," Newbry said. "Seatbelts, windshield wipers, all the lights work, the horn. I made it as safe as I could."

The chassis and engine were stripped from a junked 1971 Volkswagen. And at the time Newbry bought the boat, he had no idea of the model's prominent past.

In the "Live and Let Die" film, James Bond commandeers a Glastron GT-150 identical to Newbry's. This inspired the theme for Newbry's creation: "Shaken not Stirred" is printed on each side, TN-007 is on the bow.

The unique vehicle creates quite a stir at local car shows, where Newbry has won several trophies and plaques. He says that while driving in Kingsport, where he stores the ride, people often follow him for miles and miles. When he stops they have questions galore, or request their picture be made with the car.

Meanwhile, other folks just freak out when they see Newbry heading their way.

"There was a gentleman coming up the hill in a pick-up truck," Newbry recalls with a smile. "He actually ran off the road. I think he thought the boat was loose from a tow vehicle. He went by, and his jaw dropped open."

Newbry, who tinkered in drag racing during the '60s, is building a new, more powerful engine for his boat car. But could there be more crazy car creations on the way?

"Not right now," Newbry quickly responds. "I think I'm done for a while."

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