18 August 2023
Richard Canterbury’s head-turning Disco 2 is also a very capable off-roader... From the daily commute to all-terrain family expeditions, it ticks every box
A cool wind rustles the dense heather as the bright springtime sun beats down on the hillside. Dust swirls and dances as the breeze catches it, before letting it fall back on to the dry, stony track. Stunning views lie in every direction, with the greens, browns and dashes of purple of the North Yorkshire Moors radiant under crisp blue skies. When the wind dies, the peace of our remote location is broken only by a cold sirloin steak hitting a smoking-hot griddle pan. This is the life.
Every inch of the Disco’s interior has been fitted out with useful equipment
‘‘We get out and do this sort of thing as much as we can as a family,’’ explains Richard Canterbury, owner and builder of this cracker of a Discovery. ‘‘You don’t have to stray far from home to get away from it all. My wife, our little girl and I often head out after work and school to have dinner out in the countryside. It just makes you feel good.’’ Chomping down on the steak baguette Richard has just handed me, I’m inclined to agree. A quick wander around the Discovery 2 is all I need to see that this Land Rover hasn’t been chucked together with any random parts, either. What doesn’t need to be there simply isn’t, and what is there is the best he could find for the job in hand. ‘‘It’s had six sets of shock absorbers on it,’’ he laughs, cracking open a can of cola. ‘‘I’ve come back to the Old Man Emu ones. They just work the best for the weight of the car. The springs are Old Man Emu as well, but I’ve added a one-inch spacer front and back for a bit of extra height, as they’re only a 40mm-lift spring.’’
Richard, right, shows LRM editor Martin the D2’s bespoke fabricated low-profile roof rack
This ethos of painstakingly researching and developing each modification is evident wherever you look on the D2. Until recently, it didn’t have a roof rack – one of the first bolt-ons many consider adding. ‘‘No one sold an off-the-shelf roof rack I liked the look of. In the end, I had a local fabricator make this one. Instead of clamping to the gutters, it picks up on the factory extended roof bar mounts. I just wish it fitted slightly closer at the front.’’
By now, you’ll have picked up on Richard’s fastidious attention to detail when it comes to upgrades, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. When he set out to build his ultimate family adventure wagon from the ground up, the base Land Rover had to be absolutely spot-on, too.
Rear air con vents a very rare option and for Richard an absolute essential
‘‘I specifically wanted a D2 with rear air-con.’’ He explains. I look at him confused – in all my years of working on Land Rovers, I’ve never seen dedicated rear air conditioning in a Discovery 2. He gestures at the vents built into the headliner. ‘‘Rear A/C is a very rare option in the UK, but I wanted it because I knew I planned to go overlanding and want my daughter to be comfortable in the back,’’ he explains. ‘‘The downside is you lose the storage bin or dickie seat on the left side of the boot because that houses the unit.’’
With a suitable Discovery 2 tracked down and bought for a princely £2500, Richard drove it as his daily vehicle for two months to prove it was a good ’un before duly ripping it to bits. The process then began of starting to put it back together, gradually improving areas Land Rover skimped on when it was first built.
Performance upgrades have been kept to a minimum in favour of reliabilty
The Disco’s original backbone was nowhere near as crusty as many others of the same vintage, but with plans to keep the vehicle indefinitely, a galvanised replacement from Richards Chassis was ordered and treated to a coat of black Buzzweld Galv in One paint. While they were off, the front and rear axles were stripped and shot-blasted, then primed in Rust Encapsulator and top-coated in Chassis in One, also from Buzzweld.
Rock sliders supplied by Dirt Monkey Off Road, together with underbody guards
Meanwhile, the D2’s bodywork wasn’t getting neglected. All the panels were prepped and resprayed in their original Zambezi Silver, and the underside of the shell was stripped back to bare metal, primed and then layered up with body-colour FXLiner to help with sound deadening and protect against stone chips. While apart, the sunroof cassette and roof rail bosses were removed, cleaned and re-sealed; not that Disco 2s have a reputation for letting water in, or anything…
With the refurbished body ready to go back on to the new galvanised chassis, Richard could start to make his vision of a perfect Discovery 2 a reality.
Cranked Watts linkage locates the axle positively and accounts for mild lift
The axles first went together with Ashcroft automatic torque-biasing differentials, and fitted with brand new ball-joints, hubs, brake calipers, backplates and pads and discs. ‘‘I fitted front hubs to the rear axle as the ABS sensors have longer cables, which gives a bit of extra slack and means they don’t stretch when the suspension is at full travel. For the same reason, the brake hoses are longer braided ones from Pioneer 4x4,’’ Richard explains.
Spacers and slight lift give the Disco a purposeful look
SuperPro bushes isolate vibration and harshness, and Terrafirma castor-corrected radius arms, twinned with a cranked rear Watts linkage, keep the handling precise, with the favoured Old Man Emu springs and dampers giving a smooth ride while supporting the Disco’s extra weight. Tough tracks and a fully-laden vehicle demand a strong wheel, and Richard’s choice of Terrafirma Dakars pushed out slightly further on 30mm spacers are just the job – they look great powder-coated in Shadow Chrome, too.
Torque Performance front bumper painted to mimic the standard Disco 2 item
This Discovery does a great job of looking tough and purposeful, without being overly aggressive. This is partly thanks to a Torque Performance front bumper which has been carefully painted to mimic the original plastic one. Elsewhere, Dirt Monkey Off Road supplied the body-hugging rear bumper, rock sliders and a plethora of underbody guards to keep the D2’s vitals protected when the going gets tough. At the very back, a Terrafirma 2-inch receiver hitch allows fitment of either a traditional towbar, or a recovery point for extra clearance.
Tuning kept to a minimum
Under the bonnet, restraint has been exercised for maximum reliability. While it’s easy to throw the kitchen sink at the venerable Td5 in the name of outright power, Richard’s plans for extensive overseas travel mean tuning has remained more on the reserved side, with just a little extra punch offered by a bigger Serck intercooler, Bell Auto Services silicone hoses and remap and Double-S exhaust to free up the breathing. To boost engine longevity in harsh conditions, the decades-old components that normally get replaced as and when they fail have all been changed for brand-new OE parts for peace of mind. A new AMC cylinder head, turbocharger, in-tank fuel pump, pressure regulator, water pump and the infamous injector wiring harness have all been fitted, with a more efficient Allisport radiator and gearbox oil cooler in place to ensure the five-pot stays cool and fighting-fit for as long as possible.Downstream of the engine, an Ashcroft uprated automatic gearbox and bigger V8-spec torque converter handle the torque and transfer it to a Winchester Gears T-box, which houses another ATB and manually-locking centre diff. ‘‘The bigger torque converter makes a huge, difference,’’ enthuses Richard. ‘‘You can really feel it when you pull away, it gets rid of that dead spot that auto D2s suffer as standard.’’
Richard’s D2 gets used for everything from the school run to overlanding, as well as occasional wading!
An order went in to Gwyn Lewis 4x4 for a pair of wide-angle propshafts to account for the suspension’s extra ride height and flexibility, and the heavy-duty Sumo steering arms hark from the same company.
Now, while the oily bits are all very impressive, it’s how neatly and precisely the Disco is set up for camping and overlanding that’s really hard to get across without seeing the Land Rover in the tin. Everywhere you look, Richard has innovated and tweaked things to make life that little bit easier and better for himself and his family while out exploring.
There are numerous storage solutions dotted around the car. This one has accessibility from in the cabin
One of the simplest and most effective mods for both day-to-day use and longer-distance travelling is the Camp Covers storage unit that’s attached to the Britpart dog guard. It holds all the gear that’s needed to be kept accessible from the passenger area, and prevents smaller items from rattling and clattering around. Similarly, the boot of the Disco is a masterclass in well-packaged storage, with the slide-out ARB 47-litre fridge always on standby for a quick lunch or milk for a brew-up.
Lunch on the go: The gear storage is all about quick and easy set-up
The tail door holds a flip-down table with slide-out base with room for a Cadac twin-burner and extra kitchen space, but the illumination was another area that needed refinement. ‘‘I used to just have a light bar in the back door, but then when you’re doing dinner you can’t see because you cast a shadow onto whatever you’re cooking. So I mounted a slimline LED strip in the top of the table. It works really well.’’
A rear window guard from Devon 4x4 provides handy mounting locations for utensils, and inside the main loadspace ARB storage drawers are divided up by Front Runner drawer liners which house recovery gear, tools and spare parts. Above, a Flatdog cargo shelf is ideal for stashing clean boots and a change of clothes, and where individual pockets are needed for smaller items, Richard has used chalk pouches which are originally designed for rock climbing. Clever, eh?
It’s a busy console but everything is there for a good reason
Up front, the ubiquitous US-spec cupholders flank the centre console, and a Tuff-Rok panel sprouts charging ports for any cameras, tablets and phones that need topping up. To the left of the tunnel, the monitor for the National Luna split-charge system nestles within reach and lets Richard keep an eye on power levels. I stop to admire the neatly-retrimmed headliner, a job done by MSJ Headliners using a special carpet to further cut down on noise.
Sandwiches finished, we roll the awning back in, rinse off our plates and stack everything back into the D2, ready to set off and enjoy the rest of the greenlanes. We might only be a few miles from Richard’s York base, but we could be anywhere – and that’s the whole point of a vehicle like this. It lets you get away from it all, without needing to go far at all.
Richard Canterbury, owner
Not many would take a D2 this far… Ballpark cost? You’re not the first person to ask that! The base Discovery cost £2500 and within six months of starting the build I was up to around £25k. Some people look at me like I’ve lost my mind when I tell them, but it’s turned out exactly how I envisioned it, if not better, and it’s my forever vehicle. What 4x4 can you buy new for £25k these days anyway?
What do you use it for? Absolutely everything. I take my little girl to nursery in it, commute in it, use it to tow my brother’s off-road racer, go greenlaning whenever I can. I’m now starting to head further afield in it on trips. It had to be capable off-road but still as refined as possible on it. I love driving it and the capabilities off-road surprise me every time I go out, but one of the things that I love is that its ready to go at any moment. I literally just throw a change of clothes in and we’re away ready for adventure on the spur of the moment.
It looks mint considering the use it gets. How? Yeah, I’m quite particular about keeping it clean to say the least. It gets washed at least once a week and I try to stay on top of things. It’s starting to pick up little marks and scratches here and there now, but that was always going to happen given how much I expect from it. It’s done over 30,000 miles since it went back on the road in 2021.
What have you changed? Since the initial build I’ve taken the automatic torque-biasing front diff out and changed it for an air-locking diff instead. I found the ATB generated quite a bit of torque-steer especially when towing. I also added the roof rack, along with the ARB awnings and extra lights, and made a few other small tweaks just to revise it. It’s constantly improving.
Any future mods planned? I want to add gullwing flip-out doors where the rear quarter windows are to make the most of the dead space inside the boot. But I don’t want them to just open into the loadspace – I want lockers with formed foam inside to hold a Jetboil and stuff to make drinks in one side, then have the air compressor to feed the locking diff and kit to reinflate tyres and run tools on the other.
Where do you want to go? We’d love to go to the Italian Alps on a family holiday, off-roading in Parc de Marquenterre in France, do the Spanish Pyrenees and Badlands, certainly a return to Morocco at some point. I’m also eyeing up Tunisia for a possible trip. For now, we just enjoy it day-to-day.
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