It’s a Boat! It’s a Car! It’s the Buick Waterbug!


Detroiters are known to do some pretty strange things with automobiles. Take for example the Waterbug, built by Richard B. Cronin from an old Buick convertible. 

We don’t know much about this wonderful oddball creation, but we’d love to learn more. It seems that sometime around 1960, Detroit resident Richard Cronin created this vessel, which he called the Waterbug, by grafting the top half of the body from an old Buick convertible onto a steel boat hull. (The panels appear to come from a number of Buick models, mainly 1948 and 1949.) The feat was recorded for posterity in this news item in the September 1960 issue of Popular Science magazine, below:

In our book, there’s no fame like workbench magazine fame, and Mr. Cronin hit the jackpot. Here’s another article from Popular Mechanics in August of 1961:

The Waterbug was also featured in the Detroit Free Press on June 27, 1960, where it was described as bright red in color. This photo below, scraped from the internet, shows a ’48 Buick dash, complete with radio, and the midship-mounted engine, just visible in the foreground, appears to be a Buick Fireball straight eight. The sailors are Mr. and Mrs. Cronin, we presume.

Finally, the photo below, an uncropped version of the lead photo at top, shows the old Detroit Edison Conner Creek power plant in the background, which places the scene somewhere in the the Detroit River marina district. (The plant’s seven smokestacks, prominent Detroit landmarks, were known as the Seven Sisters.) Adaptations to the Waterbug’s Buick bodywork for marine use included a forward hatch cut into the hood and a pair of air inlets behind the doors to provide cooling for the engine.

After the brief flurry of publicity in 1960 and 1961, the Waterbug seems to have disappeared. The vessel’s fate and current whereabouts are unknown. To us, anyway.

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