31 January 2023
Would you restore a Land Rover even if you knew that it will never be worth what you spent on it? That’s what Libby Williamson did with her 1994 three-door Discovery 1. Patrick Cruywagen finds out what inspired her to do it
Libby Williamson is not your average Land Rover fan. She has guided LRM on greenlaning trips in Yorkshire, the Peak District and also the Lake District. Not only is she a 4x4 driving instructor, she is an accomplished 4x4 driver. In fact, Libby and partner Andrew Robinson have an affliction that affects many other green oval fans the world over; they can’t stop buying Land Rovers. In fact, they have a barn full of them. Some of the tastier ones include a 1957 Series I 88-inch, 1991 Range Rover Classic 3.9, Range Rover Sport SVR and a very tidy 1997 Range Rover P38 4.6.
Libby back in her happy place
While their collection might sound impressive, today all I’m interested in is Libby’s bright red 1994 three-door Discovery 1 300Tdi, as it has an interesting story to tell. I remember going greenlaning in it on a bright, cold, winter’s day in 2013. Libby took me and some other Land Rover owners across the Yorkshire Moors. Even back then I was impressed at its comfort levels and the few tasteful off-road mods to make it more capable.
Before I get ahead of myself, I ask Libby about the car’s early history. “It was originally sold by Waterside Land Rover in Hull in 1994. When I was 21 , Dad bought it. The paintwork was faded and it was nothing special. It was the first 4x4 we bought for our Yorkshire 4x4 greenlaning trips business so we gave it a two-inch lift, added some all-terrain tyres, extended the wheelarches and fitted decent steel front and rear bumpers. I just fell in love with it as it did absolutely everything we asked of it. This Discovery represents the era of Discoverys that I grew up with. Remember I was only three in 1994.”
The Yorkshire 4x4 greenlaning tours company certainly put this Disco through its paces, and it also did some trips abroad including the tough Pyrenees. Eventually Libby’s father decided that it was time to upgrade to a 2014 Defender 110 CSW: Libby was gutted as she didn’t have the money to buy it at the time. “I slept in the back of it so many times and made some incredible memories with our Discovery. I remember where every scratch and dent came from. I was sad to see it go.”
The off-road mods were kept because they remind Libby of previous adventures in what originally was her dad’s Discovery
The old windscreen had a crack and had to be replaced
Libby is very happy with the quality of the paint job
Doncaster lad Ryan Barlow purchased it, but not before Libby made him promise to look after it and that if he ever decided to sell it, she should have first refusal. It wasn’t the last she saw of it however, as Ryan subsequently joined Libby and her dad on a few greenlaning trips, having made some adjustments to the suspension and fitted steel wheels shod in remould mud tyres.
Fast forward several years to just before Christmas 2019, when Libby’s partner, Andrew, makes contact with Ryan to see if he’s interested in selling Libby’s favourite Discovery. He is, and Andrew pays a penny or two more than what he sold it for, but what a Christmas present!
So what condition was it in by then? “It was like going back in time when we went to pick it up. It had more wear and tear but the interior was still mint. I immediately put on some BFG Mud Terrains to prevent it wandering about on the road and I was smiling from ear to ear.”
A new steel rear bumper makes for a very smart back end
The rear door was replaced with a good secondhand example. Boot carpet remarkably clean for such an old wagon
The interior is in great nick, especially when you consider that this Discovery is nearly 20-years old
This 300Tdi engine has only done 144,000 miles and remains in fine fettle
Despite all of the above, Libby knew that it was rotten and needed some work. She took it to her good friend Tony Kipling in Yorkshire as he had previously worked on it. Incredibly Tony was also working at the Waterside Land Rover dealership when Libby’s Discovery 1 was first sold. To get it through its next MoT Tony had to do a fair bit of patching and welding, especially around the rear seatbelt fixings. It made it through the MoT but Libby and Andrew knew already that it would need a full restoration. In the summer of 2021 it was once again trailered up to Tony to work his magic.
All the rotten bits forward of the windscreen were removed
Tony had to fabricate a whole new front for the Discovery 1
So why go through all of this trouble to lengthen the life of a three-door Discovery that is known for rotting? “Loads of people have asked the same – why spend so much money on something that’s not a Defender? I like to think that one day it will be worth way more than what we paid for it. There are so few three-door Discoverys on the road, why would you not save it? It has heaps of sentimental value, too. To me it is not just any old Discovery, it is the one. It is a classic and their values will go up and up. They are already starting to.” She certainly has a point.
Because of Covid outbreaks amongst staff and the number of parts that needed fabricating by Tony, the resto took the best part of half a year. He did suggest that they take it back to original again but Libby was having none of it – that was not the Discovery she fell in love with. “I know that it is not standard and there are some things that just cannot be changed. The modifications are not over the top, it still looks good and it is very usable – I can take it laning and not worry about it. Though Tony might kill me because of the paint job.”
Time for chassis repairs after the rotten boot floor was removed
A whole new boot floor – pretty impresive stuff
Although Libby didn’t want it to look original, she also wanted it to be as close as possible to new. As such Tony had a fairly big budget and was given free rein. The roof corners, boot floor, door panels, sills and wheelarches had to be cut out as they were rotten, and everything in front of the windscreen also had to be replaced or fabricated. While the chassis was in good condition, when the new boot floor was put in Tony had to patch up a section on top of the crossmember, too. It was then given a full respray and the underbody and cavities protected with good old Waxoyl and anything else with colour-coded Raptor. “I think he and his team did a top job. It is good for another 30 years if I look after it.”
As the project went on Tony would send Andrew and Libby updates and photos so they could appreciate the scale of the resto. “It was a pretty big project to take on and it was always going to cost more than the vehicle was worth,” he recalls. “It was a real labour of love, but their values will creep up.”
Could Libby look any happier with the outcome of the restoration? We think not
I ask Libby how she felt when she saw it for the first time. “I was blown away as I never thought I would see it looking so good again. It was quite emotional really, as it was the Land Rover that I first fell in love with. It has personality and it is my car. There is definitely something about this Discovery.”
This is no show pony though, and I suspect it will be the Land Rover that Libby takes most of the time when heading out, except for perhaps on salt roads. The restored Discovery has a VIP parking spot in the garage while the family Range Rover Sport SVR has to be content with sitting out on the driveway – that’s how much Libby loves her car.
You can see more of Libby's Disco on our YouTube channel
Contact: If you are looking to do a similiar restoration and need some advice contact Tony Kipling on 07740 063009 or see oldenglishcars.co.uk/team
LIKE TO READ MORE? Try our Budget Digital Subscription. You'll get access to over 7 years of Land Rover Monthly – that’s more than 100 issues plus the latest digital issue. The issues are fully searchable so you can easily find what you are looking for and what’s more it’s less than 10p a day to subscribe. Click here to find out more details and start enjoying all the benefits now.