1996 Discovery 1 300Tdi

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What do you do when you’ve just got your Discovery roadworthy? Convert it to a pop-top : credit: © Josh Stewart
Josh Stewart, a Landscape Gardener from NW England, talks us through his project...

What made you buy this particular Land Rover? Well to start with Discoverys are always cheaper than Defenders, but we found this Disco 1 at a local garage and loved the fact it was a blank canvas for us as a family to enjoy, and start to build up how we wanted it from scratch.

What’s the story so far? We bought the Land Rover in 2017 thinking we’d got a very clean, rust-free D1. Unfortunately, that was lesson number one! We quickly discovered a good paint job can cover a lot of problems, as most Land Rover owners will know. We started by adding a raised air intake, some nice new tyres and then a two-inch lift kit. As this Disco was also our only car at the time, we had to keep it a little bit sensible. We adapted a Ford Transit roof rack for our roof, to store a top box, waffle boards and a spare wheel.

I then invested in a secondhand MIG welder and started on the never-ending list of rust repair jobs; all four wheelarches, both sills which I rebuilt with additional rock sliders, the boot floor, both front footwells, rear chassis crossmember, both A-pillars, both alpine windows and I also welded and sealed the front sunroof up.

The family did a few trips first, to work out exactly what their needs were 

A few trips led us to discuss changing our sleeping set-up, which at the time was a four-man ground tent for myself, my wife Chloe, our three-year old son Flint and eight-year old black Labrador, Roscoe.

We enjoy wild camping and have toured a lot of Scotland, including the islands, England and Wales but got fed up of having to set up a ground tent on the floor. I floated the crazy idea of cutting the roof off the Disco to make a pop-top roof which we could all sleep in to Chloe. She somehow agreed to my crazy plan, so I got stuck straight in.

The first job – which was the scary bit – was cutting the roof off, removing the windscreen and then building an internal roll cage, fabricating a hinge system, learning about gas struts and working out a way to stop water getting in.

We then had to find a company to make us the canvas, as this was something we couldn’t do ourselves. We found a local boat canvassing business called Amtrim which is based in Preston, Lancashire. Obviously, this isn’t something they normally do but they took on our challenge and did a great job.

After this we started to experiment on what flooring would be best to sleep on. We’ve made a temporary wooden floor base to test out, but will develop it further.

This led us to being able to enjoy our first test camp with, of course, the great English weather, but at least the rain meant we could test the waterproofing. We didn’t get wet at all, so I rate that a success.

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What has the biggest challenge been? Working outside and having to deal with the weather, and sharing a driveway. Luckily, we have amazing neighbours.

Any other areas that needed a lot of attention? Now that the rust is sorted and the conversion is done, the mechanical side is just general maintenance. There are always small jobs to do on the truck, and just keeping on top of servicing.

How long has it taken? To do the pop-top roof build, I started in September 2022 and it got to a useable point in April this year.

More weight up-top hasn't dampened the Disco's capability! 

What are the next jobs on the list? Building ladders, adding some pouches for storage inside, outfitting the interior with extra lights and power points. Basically, just building on and improving the base vehicle to make it more useable and convenient when we’re out camping.

What are your plans with it? Just to keep going on adventures with my family. We would love to drive over to France for a trip, and continue enjoying our favourite place, which is Scotland.

Who has helped with this project? My wife who has allowed myself and my son Flint countless hours on the driveway, so thanks for your patience, Chloe! Some very close friends have also gone above and beyond to lend a hand when needed or be on the other end of the phone with advice.

Any tips for someone doing something similar? If you can, get a unit or workshop, as the weather made it very hard at times. Also, if you have the money to spend, invest in good tools if you know you’ll use them a lot. Most of mine are secondhand and well-used, but got the job done.

Where can we keep up with your adventures? Follow us on Instagram:
@the_stewarts_clan

 

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