A group of car enthusiasts, divers, off-roaders, and engineers in Australia drove a 1978 Toyota Landcruiser seven kilometers on the bottom of the ocean, setting a new world record for the longest underwater drive by car!
Well, salt is one of the biggest enemies of cars by far. Just living near the beach can wreak havoc on paint and frame resulting in gradual deterioration in the form of rust. Which means driving a regular car through the briny deep is one of the last things anyone would think to do.
Yet recently, and more precisely on the morning of July 29th 2023, a bright orange Toyota LandCruiser drove into the northern Australian Sea to the cheers of dozens gathered at Mandorah Beach for this historic attempt.
The 1978 “rust bucket” had been bought online by the group of friends for around $5,000 and converted into an insulated electric vehicle able to drive underwater, at depths of around 30 meters.
Dubbed the “Mud Crab”, the old short-wheelbase four-wheel drive vehicle was meant to cover a distance of 4.3 miles (7km), between Mandorah Beach and Darwin Harbour a trip that, on a ferry boat, only takes a few minutes.
Though, as you might guess, taking the same trip while driving a car underwater takes quite a bit longer and, as impressive as we think the 2025 Toyota Land Cruiser may be, we’re pretty sure it won’t be able to do it in any form!
The team, made up of a number of mechanical engineers and divers, started by converting the old Toyota into an electrical-powered vehicle.
Then, to improve the already waterproof nature of the driveline, all components were further insulated with silicone oil.
As a result, if water should find its way inside the driveline, the oil would leak out and protect the internal components.
Next, the conventional tires were swapped out for two pairs of Maxxis Trepador that could handle the sandy ocean floor. However, they couldn’t be filled with air, as they would provide too much buoyancy, and so they were filled with water, causing their weight to reach 150 kilograms each.
Although they were confident the powertrain could handle the pressure, they only tested the car once in salt water before attempting the world’s longest underwater drive.
The group involved in this historic attempt came up with the idea over drinks while discussing a previous attempt dating back to 1983.
An attempt that had involved a vehicle equipped with a conventional diesel-powered engine equipped with two 60-meter-long pipes for the air intake and exhaust.
Ok, It was a daring attempt, but ended in disaster when the car hit a rock shelf about halfway and could not be restarted.
But, technology has evolved a lot since 1983, and the team behind the Mud Crab project was confident in their chances.
There were serious risks involved, including catching the attention of curious sharkes or saltwater crocodiles along the way, as well as putting up with the extreme pressure of the ocean floor, but the desire to make history was greater.
And so the orange LandCruiser entered the Australian Sea at 9 in the morning.
The team expected to reach Darwin Harbour by 5 in the afternoon, but they underestimated the difficulty of driving on the sometimes sandy, sometimes muddy ocean floor.
The car got stuck about a dozen times during the 4.3-mile drive, it needed assistance to continue its journey, and it would be lifted out with buoys that were chained to the vehicle.
But there was also a gas pipeline that had to be carefully traversed, and, last but not least, there were frequent driver changes.
In fact, because of the massive pressure so deep underwater, the drivers could only spend about 15 minutes at the wheel at a time, and this slowed the mission down even more.
But eventually, at around 9 pm, and about 12 hours after leaving Mandorah Beach, the brave Toyota emerged out of the water of Darwin Harbour to the cheers of hundreds of excited car enthusiasts.
Because of the high costs, the team will not be appealing for an official Guinness World Record, but their epic 7km underwater drive is considered the longest ever achieved, and by quite a large margin!
Images from web – Google Research