The Discovery was the vehicle that saved Land Rover, but also changed it forever. The marque began as a maker of purely utility vehicles for a reconstructing post-war Britain, and the original “Land Rover” established a reputation as a tough go-anywhere workhorse for farms around her native islands but also explorers, travellers and soldiers in a mid-twentieth century world where there were still blanks on many maps, and few roads in the wilds.
But the world changed fast. People started wanting comfort in their utility vehicles. Tchah. Fairies. Japanese and American manufacturers started offering offroad vehicles with things like ‘heaters’ and ‘stereos’. The horror, the horror. So Land Rover created the Range Rover, a utility vehicle which could also be a comfortable family car.
However the country landowners in the UK, Europe and US adopted this vehicle quickly as their own, and it fast gained a snob value. It went upmarket very rapidly, gained lots of luxury fitments to keep the tweed-clad happy, and the price rose accordingly. Once more Land Rover sales started suffering as “normal” buyers bought Landcruisers and Cherokees as they couldn’t afford Range Rovers, but wanted something easier to drive than a “standard” Land Rover.
Enter Discovery, which filled the market slot originally established and occupied by Range Rover – a tough offroad vehicle which could also be a family car. And it sold like hot cakes. For years it was the best-selling 4×4 in not just the UK but all over Europe. I had one for a while, an original 1997 Camel Trophy tdi which I named “Custard”
Custard was a superb truck. Very capable indeed and much loved. However it became clear after a couple of years of ownership that she suffered from the blight which affects all Mk 1 Discoverys – rust in the rear body. The repair and restoration bill would be massive – far bigger than the price I paid for the vehicle – so she had to be sold on. She was, and was restored to almost “good as new” spec.
But I missed her.
And I still needed a vehicle which could be a bit more civilised than Elsa. Elsa was, even as a 110, still too large and growly to be family transport. With only one passenger space she could carry few people, and was too tall for my aging parents to climb into. I lived in a hilly part of rural Yorkshire at the time and wasn’t willing to consider anything but a Land Rover for the second car, so it had to be another Discovery.
Black Paw 4×4 in York had just created their “Discovery Sahara” overlander concept – a Discovery 2 body with the interior, engine and drivetrain of a Discovery 1. The advantages were manyfold – the extra space of the Discovery 2 (and its greater resistance to rust) combined with the simplicity and lack of electronics of the Discovery 1. A friend in the RAF had just bought one which he called “Dingo”. It looked ideal. So I bought the second one that Black Paw built, and called her “Tusker” after both the bull elephant of the African plains and the Kenyan beer of the same name. Tusker had started off life as a West Yorkshire Police v8 motorway patrol vehicle, but she changed…..
She and I have travelled around the Balkans and Eastern Europe together, as well as the Sahara. We’ve also spent time in the Hebrides and Western Europe. She’s a fast and capable overland vehicle which is also happy to carry pensioner parents to the shops.
Currently she’s my daily drive in the UK, and has proved to be an excellent vehicle.
At the top of the Tizi N Tichka Pass over the Atlas mountains
Much of her overland gear is being stripped off her to be transferred to Elsa in her new 130 guise – now Tusker will be used as a light-duty overland vehicle as well as a “daily drive”