'Rust bucket' 1978 LandCruiser converted to EV to drive 7km under water across Darwin Harbour — again
A 1978 LandCruiser "rust bucket" is being converted into a waterproof electric vehicle that its team of engineers hopes will make it across Darwin Harbour — under water. 
A team of 30 divers is aiming to break the record for the longest and deepest underwater drive at the end of July, covering 7 kilometres at a depth of 30 metres.
The underwater drive will take place exactly 40 years after a group of Darwin mates attempted the same mission.
In 1983, a team of 70 divers took turns driving a LandCruiser fitted with a 60-metre snorkel across Darwin Harbour.
They drove more than 3 kilometres before running into a rock ledge and getting floated to the surface.
Darwin-raised engineer Glen Summers is working on the vehicle conversion.
"The original story was like folklore when we were growing up," he says.
This time, Luke Purdy is spearheading the revival mission.
"Sitting around at the pub, we thought 'Jeez, it can't be that hard, we should give it a go'," Mr Purdy says.
After more than a year of preparation and six months of working around the clock to restore the vehicle, it is proving to be more complex than the team of childhood friends from Darwin first dreamed.
Tom Lawrence is managing the project and bought the vehicle on Gumtree for $5,000.
"It was a rust bucket. It would have needed $30,000 to $40,000 worth of work just to get it roadworthy," he says.
The project is entirely self-funded.
"We're doing it on the smell of an oily rag. It's [like] rubbing two sticks together when you need a bunsen burner," Mr Lawrence says.
After buying the LandCruiser in Brisbane, the team towed it to Townsville, Newcastle, Melbourne, and finally to Darwin.
In each location, a network of old friends — who are now electrical engineers, high voltage electricians, remote-operated vehicle engineers, and tradies — volunteered their time and skills.
Together they are restoring the LandCruiser to working order, converting it into an electric vehicle, creating a complex oil compensation system, and waterproofing the engine.
"We've begged, borrowed and stolen tools and parts for the job," Mr Lawrence says.
"Creating an oil compensation system like this is usually a huge commercial operation, something the ADF would undertake.
"If we can build it we will succeed. The difficulty is building it."
The LandCruiser is now parked in a workshop in Darwin's Fisherman's Wharf.
As word spreads, tradies, retirees, and generally helpful Darwin folk are coming to work on the ambitious project.
"It's turned into a sort of men's shed," Mr Lawrence says.
The vehicle's cabin is open and divers will take turns driving.
They are not diving with tanks on their backs, but instead a support boat will connect to divers through an umbilical cord that supplies air, a camera link, power to light a helmet, and directions.
Decades since a group of people delivered on a hare-brained scheme to drive a car across the sea floor of Darwin Harbour, one of the architects of the idea reveals just how they did it.
About 250–300 saltwater crocodiles are captured in Darwin Harbour every year but that is not what is worrying the team of divers.
Taylor Smith is one of the group of friends who has been working on the car all year.
"We're spending so long on the car we're not really worried about the sharks or the crocs," he says.
Although the vehicle preparations are behind schedule it is a deadline that cannot be missed.
The drive will precisely coincide with a neap tide when water movements are at their smallest.
"If you run on a normal tide the change between the tide is so severe it'll probably run the car out of the harbour," Mr Smith says.
Tim Proctor spearheaded the 1983 attempt and believes this year's team might just be able to complete the crazy mission that he couldn't finish.
"I think they've got a great chance. The problems that we had in our time are different to the ones they've got," he says.
Mr Proctor's 35-year-old son Tom will follow in his father's footsteps, joining the team of divers driving the vehicle later this month.
"I'm very proud. Let him get on with it," Mr Proctor says.
The drive will retrace the 1983 route, and although Darwin Harbour has been mapped extensively since then it still presents risks.
"The pathway is across Darwin Harbour from Mandorah to Mindil Beach and there are a lot of obstacles in the way," Mr Purdy says.
"There are a couple of gas pipes and some communication cables we have to worry about, and there's an old submarine net still in the harbour."
Visibility will also be a problem.
"In some of the test dives we've done to 30 metres it's so dark you can't see your hand in front of your face," Mr Purdy says.
The entire trip will take six-and-a-half to seven hours and will take place on July 29.
The mission will be live streamed and spectators can watch from Mindil Beach.
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.
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