Rick Dobbertin was born in Madison, Wisconsin on October 4, 1952. His father, Bruce worked for GMAC, and his mother, Jan, was a homemaker. Due to his father’s line of work, the family was transferred several times – Madison and West Allis WI, Ho-Ho-Kus and Glen Rock NJ, Pittsburgh PA, Annandale VA and finally Syracuse NY. He has one sister residing in the Chicago area – Debbie Anderson.
Rick’s parents decided to wait until he was a full nine weeks old before exposing him to the world of automotive design. To the right, we see Rick with a model of a 1952 Chevy, possibly attempting to determine where to chop and channel the body.
At the age of ten, Rick tried his hand at modifying a bicycle and ended up with a hand-powered, rear wheel steering version. High-speed stability proved to be a concern – as did low-speed stability. This project did not end well…
Rick’s first racecar was built at the age of eleven, utilizing such high-tech materials as masonite and plywood for its construction. The car raced in New Jersey and won several heats before retiring.
Rick’s first custom project car was a 1966 Corvair. The car was turbocharged and equipped with a “Fitch Sprint” fastback roof and racing suspension.
Never able to leave things alone, in the early seventies Rick modified a 1967 Corvette coupe with wheel well flares, different taillights, engine modifications, doing his part to help make today’s factory stock Corvettes even more valuable.
Other projects included a 1978 Chevy Monza “Sleeper” equipped with a turbocharged 350 Chevy, a racing automatic transmission and “V-6” emblems. “This was probably the most fun car I ever owned – it looked like a complete stocker, but would easily run low 12’s in the quarter mile.”
From 1975 to 1978, Rick owned a sandblasting business, blasting everything from water towers to automotive components. From 1979 to 1987 he owned AA/Speed and Custom in Springfield VA specializing in turbocharging, supercharging and nitrous oxide injection, quickly gaining the reputation as one of the country’s top custom car innovators and fabricators.
For the past two decades, Rick Dobbertin has dedicated much of his life to the design and fabrication of innovative, one-of-a-kind vehicles. Every component that went into their construction was hand selected by Rick and there was never a compromise on quality or workmanship. (Well… almost never.)
He is pictured here with one of the final candidates for a Pro-Street project. However, this proved to be a bit too small as a starting point.
One of Rick’s more publicized automotive endeavors began with a ground-breaking twin-turboed, 6-71 supercharged 1965 Nova SS, which was awarded Hot Rod Magazine’s 1982 Street Machine of the Year and won the 1982 and 1983 Car Craft Street Machine Nationals.
Rick chose the ’65 Nova body due to its “boxy” shape and widespread appeal amongst hot rodders. The car was bought from the original owner with only 21,000 miles, so it made the perfect starting point.
A few years later, Rick began plans for an even more radical Pro-Streeter. He decided to begin with an extremely narrow and small body as a starting point to better accentuate the engine, wheel and tire modifications.
Due to its small size, Rick decided that the starting point would be a 1985 Pontiac J-2000, which was then fitted with a stainless steel frame, 24″ wide tires and a twin-turboed, twin supercharged, nitrous injected small block Chevy mated to a 4-speed Lenco transmission.
The car was awarded Hot Rod Magazine’s prestigious 1986 Hot Rod of the Year and went on to win all four of the major national magazine sponsored shows in 1986 – The Hot Rod Supernationals, The Popular Hot Rodding Super Street Meet, The Car Craft Street Machine Nationals and the Hot Rod Super Cruise.
In Hot Rod Magazine’s 50th Anniversary issue, (January 1998) the J-2000 was called “The Ultimate Evolution of Pro Street” by the editorial staff. Ten years later, in their 60th Anniversary issue, (January 2008) it was listed as #41 in their list of “The 100 Most Influential Hot Rods of all Time.”
Always looking for a challenge, Rick’s next project would be a thirty-two foot long amphibious craft, The Dobbertin Surface Orbiter. The Orbiter was fabricated completely from stainless steel and was designed to circumnavigate the Earth, over land and sea without any type of support vessel.
For nearly three years, Rick was in an unprecedented position to study amphibious craft design having actually lived aboard the Orbiter throughout a 28-country, 38-state adventure dubbed Project Earth-Trek.
During the trip, which covered 30,000 miles on land and 3,000 miles at sea, he encountered everything on land from the smooth, well-kept highways of the United States to the pot-holed, wash-boarded dirt paths in the frontier of Colombia.
While on the water, he encountered every sea condition from the dead-calm waters in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York to eighteen-foot seas in the Caribbean’s Mona Passage on a crossing from The Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico.
Throughout the trip, Rick also had the advantage of seeing, first hand, the interest generated by the Orbiter. After talking to people in every port, he was struck by the realization of how indispensable a safe, fast, reliable, user friendly amphibian would be and the tremendous worldwide market there is for such a unique craft.
So, on April 15, 2002, after nearly two years on the drawing board, Rick began fabrication on a full-scale prototype of The Dobbertin HydroCar. This amphibious craft is unlike any other amphibian on the planet. Because of its user-friendly design, speed, (an anticipated 125mph+ on land and 60mph+ on the water) reliability and safety features, the DHC is sure to revolutionize the amphibious craft industry and set new standards unheard of with current amphibious designs.
Today Rick lives in Pennellville, NY, a northern suburb of Syracuse, NY, with his wife Mary. They were married on July 28, 2000, and are both looking forward to the day that the HydroCar is completed and Rick can actually be seen outside of the garage once again.
Mary is a designer at Carlyle Compressor, a division of Carrier Corporation. She has been employed with the company since 1990.
At home, she is not only responsible for moral support, but also for helping with the HydroCar’s design – especially when a detailed drawing is required for special machining or fabrication.
Whenever another person is required, Mary is always there to lend a helping hand. Whether it’s helping to run wiring or hose, installing the radiator, or picking up parts on the way home from work, Rick can count on her. She is also responsible for the website design and all of the updates.
Above, Rick and Mary are pictured with Henry Winkler and Cindy Williams at the debut of the HydroCar at the Syracuse Nationals in 2008.
Because he’s “The Fonz”, Rick chose to ignore the way he was holding his wife – (and the way she was smiling) just this once.
And finally, a “Slightly Retouched” photo of Rick and Mary, taken while vacationing in Las Vegas a few years ago…