The Dobbertin HydroCar, an exotic sports car capable of traveling on water, took its maiden voyage during its first-ever public appearance this morning at Lake Norman's Ramsey Creek Park.

The HydroCar will be the centerpiece attraction in the Food Lion AutoFair's Showcase Garage April 8-11 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Rick Dobbertin, of Cazenovia, N.Y., the inventor/builder of the HydroCar, and his wife Mary put the HydroCar in the water in front of onlookers at the Ramsey Creek Park boat landing. Several other vehicles that will be featured at AutoFair were also on display at the HydroCar launch, including a "rat rod," a Rolls Royce Ghost and a Chevrolet Corvair. The vehicles will be featured in AutoFair displays celebrating "rat rods," or "beaters," which are a type of hot rod that is unfinished on every surface; a collection of Lottery Fantasy automobiles; and a 50th anniversary celebration of Chevrolet's Corvair.

Video of the HydroCar's maiden voyage can be downloaded here.

Construction of the HydroCar began in 2002 and took more than eight years, $300,000 in materials and 20,000 man-hours to complete. Dobbertin engineered and built every part of the unique vehicle from raw materials, including its tube-frame chassis, marine-spec aluminum hull, aviation-grade electrical system and Stealth fighter-like canopy.

Painted an eye-catching Corvette Yellow, the HydroCar is 23 feet long, weighs 8,000 pounds and measures 10'4" wide. The engine, mounted behind the driver, is an all-aluminum 572-cubic inch Merlin V-8 that produces more than 750 horsepower. On land the HydroCar sends that power to the front wheels through a custom-built automatic transmission and in the water, a heavy-duty transfer case behind the transmission spins the Swiss-built outboard propeller.

Dobbertin touts his HydroCar as being the first amphibious vehicle with a fully articulated body, which means the conversion from car to boat takes place automatically through the movement of major components.

AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday. Ticket prices are $10 for adults; children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Coupons for $2 discounts on adult tickets are available at Charlotte-area Food Lion stores. Parking for the event is $5. For more information on the four-day event, contact the speedway events department at (704) 455-3205 or online.