Watch This Heroic Rescue of a Sunken Amphibious Car

You may recall the shocking news from Sunday: the Lane Museum’s incredibly rare amphibious vehicle, the Hobbycar, sank to bottom of a Tennessee lake. Nobody was hurt, but the Hobbycar seemed lost. But not anymore! The Lane staff mobilized their forces and, yesterday, pulled the Hobbycar back from Lake-Neptune’s cruel grip.

The recovery effort was undertaken by the Lane staff themselves, with some assistance from professionals who helped to locate the car with sonar equipment. Said professionals were Jeremy and Donny Shotwell of Shotwell SCUBA Search and Recovery.


I spoke with Jeremy on the phone about the recovery, and he explained the process. Incredibly, it only took about an hour to find the Hobbycar, even though visibility in the lake was no more than about a foot, and finding it was largely done “by feel,” according to Jeremy.

They knew the general area, and the sonar helped, but the real work was done by three professional divers, who had to be very careful to get the car out in one piece. Using some careful planning and a deep understanding of the physics involved, they used a combination of inflatables and buoyant barrels to carefully raise the Hobbycar.

Shotwell also wanted to be sure to credit Rob Harris of Island Hoppers SCUBA, who made the connection between Lane and Shotwell. Without that initial connection, the Hobbycar might have been recovered with more traditional and destructive methods.


Greg, one of the Lane’s mechanics, used a snorkel to dive under the car to attach tow straps. Here’s video of the recovery effort, shot by the Lane:

The Hobbycar is remarkably intact, save for being very waterlogged. The only part missing seems to be the rear-view mirror. Even Museum owner Jeff Lane’s cell phone, found on the Hobbycar’s floorboard, even still worked.


The Hobbycar uses a fairly common Peugeot 1.9-liter turbodiesel, so even if the engine did suck water into the intake and was damaged beyond repair, a replacement engine shouldn’t prove too terrible to find, unlike most other parts of the Hobbycar, which thankfully appear to be quite intact.

Jeff’s phone still worked!

Jeff Lane has stated that the goal is to get the Hobbycar running again, on land and water, but only after figuring out what exactly went so wrong this time.

Godspeed, Hobbycar.

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Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)