Disco duo

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Early Discoverys in original condition don’t come much better than these : credit: © Craig Pusey
Two completely original and unmolested early Discoverys meet for the first time, deep in the beautiful Llywd Valley in South Wales

This must be the first time that anything good has ever come from having a Defender stolen, because without that bleakly depressing experience it’s unlikely that Jake Williams would have become the proud owner of this remarkable 1991 Discovery V8 three-door.

Proud owners Jake and Niamh have a lot to smile about

LRM first came across Jake, his partner Niamh, and their beautifully preserved D1 at the LRM Live event at Malvern in May, when the judges unanimously awarded them the prize for the Best Original Land Rover. Now we’re visiting them on the family farm in Monmouthshire to find out more, and we’ve decided to drive down to South Wales in the 1990 Discovery 200Tdi that is on loan to the Dunsfold Collection. Snapper Craig and I are looking forward to a day of interesting stories and fascinating comparisons. Both the Discos are two-owner cars, and both have done only 58,000 miles from new.

The accidental Disco

Over a welcoming cup of coffee in the farmhouse kitchen, Jake tells us the story. “It was 2017, and I was coming up to my final year at Harper Adams University when my 90 pick-up was stolen from outside my flat. It was my first car and my daily driver and I’d done a huge amount of work on it to get it to the point where it was exactly how I wanted it to be. I also needed wheels to get to the university from my digs, and I was totally gutted when it was stolen. The police showed no interest whatsoever, and it was pretty obvious that my Land Rover wasn’t going to turn up, so I decided that I needed to find myself a new vehicle.

“I’d always liked the idea of a Land Rover with a V8 and I started to see if I could find a V8-powered 90, but it was soon pretty clear that even if I could find something, it would be way out of my price range. That’s when I came across the advertisement for the Discovery.

Jake is on the lookout for the early Discovery bull bar. Contact [email protected] if you can help

“It was being offered for sale by someone who knew the original owner’s family, and I made an appointment to go to see it. To be honest, I wasn’t really looking for a Discovery but within minutes of getting behind the wheel I was smitten. It was comfortable, quiet and refined, and the 3.5 V8 gave it more than impressive performance. I loved it and I knew I had to have it.

“The seller told me that it had been bought new on 5 August 1991 by a man named Turner from Congleton in Cheshire and had been supplied by local main dealer, Evans Halshaw. I got the impression that Mr Turner might have been a retired police officer and that he’d bought the Discovery to use in his retirement to tow a caravan.

Original graphics survive

“This is certainly borne out by the configuration he ordered, which included a split-charge system and a towbar with twin sockets. He also ordered a front bull-bar and side runners and seems not to have bothered with the electrics pack, because it has hand-wound windows and manually adjustable door mirrors.

“Mr Turner also traded-in his 1989 Ninety diesel, which had only 14,800 miles on the clock, and this made me wonder whether he’d originally bought the Ninety as his caravan tow vehicle, only to see the launch of the new Discovery later that year, when he decided that it might do a better job. According to the DVLA, the Ninety is still around and in excellent health. If anyone knows where F880 KDM is, please get in touch. It would be great to reunite Mr Turner’s Ninety and Discovery.

A lot of hard work has renovated the interior to pristine condition

“The original owner’s folder and handbook were included, together with the purchase invoice and various bills for regular servicing, and fitting a new battery, clutch and brakes. The service records were very interesting, because they showed that in the first seven years the Discovery covered 36,000 miles, but in the following eight years it did only 12,000 miles, and in the next 12 years just 4000 miles. At some point Mr Turner had passed away, but he and his family owned the Discovery for a total of over 21 years, and I understood that although the family had kept the car for some years after his death, they had eventually decided to part with it.

“I paid £5000 for it which seemed like a lot at the time, but with hindsight I think it was a very good deal. I was 21 when I became the second owner of J855 PRE on 11 January 2018, and it was my daily driver for eight months during my final year studying at Harper Adams, when I used it to commute to classes and for regular trips to the university’s farm, where I was working on my dissertation project.

“I can remember my mum saying that she thought I was mad to buy the Discovery because the fuel costs would be astronomical, but dad was quite keen to see it join the family fleet, because he’d actually ordered a Discovery when they were launched in 1989. He had put down a deposit for a three-door, but the new vehicle was so popular among the buying public that after six months it still hadn’t been delivered. He needed a vehicle urgently, so he cancelled the order and bought a five-door Mitsubishi Shogun instead.

Original cassette player still works

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“Once I got the Discovery home, one of the first things I did was change the tyres. It was still on what I presume were its original Michelin XM+S covers which were dated 1991. There was plenty of tread left and no sign of cracking, but tyres that are over 30-years old seemed to me to be an unacceptable risk.

“The wheel rims had been hand-painted several times in various shades of white, cream and turquoise, so I had them blasted and powder-coated and they look much better. I spent many, many hours deep cleaning the beige interior and it is in remarkable condition generally. I fitted Exmoor Trim covers on the front seats to help preserve them. Some of the plastic components have cracked, such as the rear number plate light shroud and the centre console, and it’s not really feasible to repair these, so I have my eye out constantly for new-old-stock parts.

Discover interior design was cutting edge in 1989 and is still a nice place to be

“When I bought the car, the original white paint was very oxidised and flat, but after a lot of effort and elbow grease it has regained much of its depth and lustre and looks great. There is some damage on the lower near-side rear quarter panel which I will address at some stage. All the interior and exterior plastic trim and the window seals have been treated to restore the colour and prevent cracking. I’ve also carried out some underbody protection as well.

“The original fitment side steps were very tatty but I didn’t like them anyway, so they came off, although I’ve kept them because they’re part of the car’s history. The bull bar was in a terrible state and basically beyond saving, so I have refurbished a period-correct Range Rover one for now, and my search for an early Discovery bull bar continues. They seem to be very hard to find, but I’m hopeful that one will turn up. I’ve also carried out a full service and replaced all the fluids and service items, plugs, leads and distributor cap, as well as fitting new bushes and a replacement steering damper.

More commonly found on Series I vehicles, the satchel adds some useful storage space in the Disco

“It’s no longer a daily driver and we restrict it to light use during the summer months. It’s kept undercover and we try to find a sensible compromise between using it enough to keep it in good shape, while not putting too many miles on it. It doesn’t go out when there’s salt on the roads and we try to avoid going out if it’s wet. It’s weird to be cosseting a Land Rover in this way, but it’s necessary if original vehicles like this are to be preserved.

“That said, I love driving it and it is without doubt the most comfortable Land Rover I’ve ever driven. I knew it would be better than my old Defender, but it is much better than I expected and solves all of the well-known comfort issues in the Defender. And I love the V8!”

An engine bay you can eat your dinner off following many hours of careful cleaning

​​​​​​Niamh chimes in to admit that she loves it as well, and adds that it is Jake’s pride and joy. “I’ve told him he’s not allowed to sell it,” she says, “even though I’m not allowed to drive it. Yet… We’ve taken it to several of the big shows including LRM Live at Malvern this year, where we were absolutely delighted to find we’d been awarded the Best Original Land Rover prize. It was great to take the Discovery into the arena and talk about it.

“We’ve also attended the Peterborough show a couple of times, and we’re going to the LRO show at Belvoir Castle [9-10 Sept] this year. We are regulars at the local South West Classic Car Club meet at Chepstow too, which takes place on the first Sunday of every month.”

A very worthy winner at LRM Live earlier this year

Photoshoot done, we spend the next hour in the farmyard, making detailed comparisons between the two vehicles, and exchanging stories and experiences on hard-to-find parts and why we all like the first Discoverys.

There’s a spirited debate about the respective merits of the V8 and the Tdi – 145bhp at 5000rpm, 192lb-ft of torque at 2800rpm, and 19.58mpg at 75mph for the V8; 111bhp at 4000rpm, 195lb-ft at 1800rpm, and 28.9mpg at 75mph for the Tdi. But emotions are what matter, which is why I’d choose Jake’s car over the Windjammer Blue Tdi – Rover’s V8 seduces me every time.

There’s already a Defender 90 hard top workhorse on the farm, driven daily by Jake and his father, as well as the Discovery V8. Jake has always hankered after a first-generation Range Rover V8, and reminisces wistfully about his stolen 90 – he thinks it would be fun to source a suitable vehicle and rebuild it to suit his exact requirements, although he reckons a 110 would probably be a better starting point than a 90. And Niamh has her eye on a Freelander 2 as her new daily driver. It’s a good thing they have such a big barn.

 

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