CONCORD, N.C. (Aug. 23, 1995) – Charlotte Motor Speedway is the only Carolinas stop for the world-wide tour of the handbuilt, amphibious vehicle, the Dobbertin Surface Orbiter.
The speedway will be a destination for the 19,000-pound Orbiter during Phase One of its tour as part of this year’s Food Lion AutoFair, Sept. 14-17. Owners and designers Rick and Karen Dobbertin have already conquered 27 countries, 2 continents and the first amphibious transit of the Panama Canal during Phase One of Project Earth-Trek.
“We of course are asked first what is the Orbiter and why would we build it, and then why would we undertake a world-wide tour,” said Rick Dobbertin. “The Orbiter began as a 1959 milk tanker that my wife and I spent 4-1/2 years developing into an amphibious vehicle. We are both car enthusiasts and wanted to try something different.
“The actual idea came about after we were honored with the Hot Rod Car of the Year award for another vehicle we built. We had offers to take it to Europe and Asia for display, but it was always such a problem. That’s when we decided that if we could build an amphibious vehicle, we could take it anywhere, anytime.”
And so they have, but not always with the anticipated reaction.
“We have gone more than 3,000 miles on the open ocean and 15,000 miles on land,” said Dobbertin, “but along the way we have been the center of a few international incidents.
“In the Dominican Republic there was a march on the American embassy to protest an ‘American Attack Sub’ in their waters. In St. Thomas we were met by police boats after being reported as a Colombian Semi-Sub. Then when we pulled into Nicaragua, the people on shore ran and hid because they thought they were being invaded.
“Most of the time though our visits are very welcomed. We exhibit at all types of venues and often try to work with local schools to promote our mission — To show that even in today’s world, dreams can still be realized through hard work and perseverance.”
The Dobbertins will continue their journey, next venturing across the Atlantic into Europe, down to Africa, India and Australia finally into Asia and Russia, before returning to the United States and their home in Cazenovia, N.Y.