40-Series Land Cruiser driven under the sea

The Toyota Land Cruiser has always been synonymous with toughness and reliability and it has been the go-to vehicle for the toughest terrains on earth. Then, 40 years ago, Tim Proctor and his mates who love diving and 4x4s, thought “Hey, why don’t we drive a Land Cruiser across Darwin Harbour?”

Look: Aussies drove 7 km under the sea on an old Land Cruiser image

1983 record attempt

As Proctor remembered, “it probably [came from] a few too many beers around the barbeque one afternoon”, and the group was quickly in agreement and immediately embarked on a 6-month work preparing a hand-me-down Land Cruiser.

That Land Cruiser was modified thoroughly to make the engine and transmission as waterproof as possible and includes a 60-meter (197 feet) long snorkel and exhaust.

Unfortunately for the team, they had to call it quits before making it halfway through the underwater drive due to a mechanical failure.

Look: Aussies drove 7 km under the sea on an old Land Cruiser image

The Mudcrab started its underwater drive on the morning of July 28, 2023

This year, the Aussies were at it again, onboard a Land Cruiser (again).

Record attempt

Four decades after the first crossing attempt, a new generation of Darwin locals were on a task to complete the unfinished business 40 years ago.

Look: Aussies drove 7 km under the sea on an old Land Cruiser image

Engineers Finn Davy and Glen Summers were at school when they first heard about the events in 1983. “For me, it was almost like folklore as I was growing up,” Davy says. “When Glen and another student, Tom Lawrence, called and said they were doing the project, it just ticked every box: the adventure side of things and the technical nature. It was pretty exciting.”

The vehicle dubbed the “Mudcrab”, is a 1978 40-series SWB Toyota Land Cruiser that was modified with an electric engine, most probably to get rid of the 60-meter snorkel and exhaust that Proctor’s team built in the 1983 crossing attempt. The mud tires were also filled with water and were reported to tip the scales at 150 kilos each. Overall, the team spent 12 months prepping the Mudcrab for this record-breaking attempt.

Look: Aussies drove 7 km under the sea on an old Land Cruiser image

Diesel engine swapped for an electric motor

On the morning of July 29, 2023, the Mudcrab began its drive underwater. Supported by 30 divers, the Mudcrab slowly crawled its way from Mandorah to Mindle Beach. The divers took turns driving the Mudcrab, as the immense pressure 30 meters (98 feet) below sea level only allowed them to spend 15 minutes at a time, then they have to resurface.

It was reported that 4 hours into the “drive”, the silt had swallowed the Mudcrab’s tires and the team had to use inflatables to lift the vehicle out of its predicament. It also took the team another 2 hours to lift the Mudcrab over a gas pipeline, setting back the team’s ETA into nightfall.

After almost 12 hours and a couple more bog downs, the Mudcrab emerged from the waters with one of the team members holding a pair of barramundi fish as trophy.

Look: Aussies drove 7 km under the sea on an old Land Cruiser image

Hundreds of spectators celebrated with the team as they emerged from the seabed

As to why they have chosen an old Land Cruiser, Glen Summers commented that “as a pretty passionate electric car guy, these older cars are so easy to convert and they are just tough… There is no bodywork, no panel work, no electrical or airbags to rip out – the amount of stuff we would have to remove [in a modern car]. It [the 40 series ‘cruiser] is perfect for this. It doesn’t have to be registered and we don’t need any safety stuff, because we are driving really slowly … 1 to 3 kilometers an hour.”

Here in the Philippines, a similar attempt would mean driving underwater from Naic, Cavite to Mariveles, Bataan on Manila Bay's seabed. It could also be comparable to driving around Manila during the habagat (monsoon) season.