Assessing an abandoned Discovery 2

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A sorry state. But can it be saved? : credit: © Trevor Cuthbert
Can Trevor save this Discovery 2? There’s a spot of gardening to do before we see what’s left to work with

Need to know
Time: Around four hours.
Cost: £750.
Difficulty: 2 out of 5 stars   
Models:
Discovery 2.
Tools needed: Vehicle lift, power hose, flashlight, trolley jack and socket set.
Parts & costs: Purchase of 2004 Discovery 2 Pursuit Td5, £750.
Work safely:
• Wear protective gloves.
• Wear safety boots.
• Make sure a raised vehicle is stable and securely supported.
• Wear a bump cap when working under raised vehicle.

 

It is not unusual for there to be a few Land Rovers at my yard awaiting their turn to have a new chassis fitted. This particular Discovery 2 was delivered to me by the owner with the promise that he would soon have a good used chassis brought over, already repaired and galvanised. However, after two years, I realised the replacement chassis was not going to materialise.

I have a short to medium term need for a comfortable tow car, and a Discovery 2 Td5 would fit the bill very nicely, and I have a suitable chassis in stock. So I contacted the owner of the vehicle and explained

that it would be best if he sold it to me. He eventually agreed, with the promise that he would have first option to buy the Discovery back after I was finished with it.

The attraction of this particular example was due to a number of key factors. Firstly, it was one of the last of the Discovery 2 production run, having rolled off the line in May 2004. This means that it is fitted with the more desirable 15P version of the Td5 engine and it benefits from all of the other updates made over the years from 1998 to 2004. Another key factor was the mileage which, at 125,000 miles was not particularly epic: most that I see advertised locally have in excess of 200,000 miles on the odometer.

This particular model is the Discovery Pursuit: a base model with some additional specification, such as 18 inch alloy wheels and air conditioning but, crucially, no sun roof and thus no leaks from them.

 

Bodywork and interior

A good, relatively low mileage engine, absence of leaking sun roofs and late model specification are nothing if the vehicle is not something one could live with. I don’t mind a few age-related dings and scratches, but cannot tolerate lots of panel damage. Likewise, while some owners are happy to live with a scruffy and fusty interior, I like the potential to clean everything up really well and make it fresh.

A thorough assessment of the condition of the bodywork is therefore essential – both for living with the car and for the potential resale value. This is not particularly easy on a vehicle covered in green mossy deposits, so a bucket of soapy water and a power hose are essential tools here. The best tool for assessing the interior is the nose and a good sense of smell, closely followed by the eyes (after rubbish and personal effects are moved out of the way).

Straight panels: A walk around the vehicle shows that the body is in fairly good condition, as far as can be seen under the layer of green moss and other material.

Intact and unmolested: Other than the missing battery and battery compartment cover, the engine bay looks to be pretty much as it left the factory in Solihull.

Interesting patina: Had I known the Discovery would sit for so long, and that I would end up owning it, I would have seen to it that it was stored under cover.

Genuine accessories: The soft Land Rover Genuine Parts A-bar fitted to the front of the Discovery is now a pretty rare, hard-to-find and costly item.

Leak free? The Discovery Pursuit model was a run-out special edition based on the poverty spec model, and therefore happily has no sun roofs!

Sharp contrast: Showing how much potential there is under the dirt and moss, this Discovery might look very smart again after a complete wash and detailing is carried out.

Paint potential: With the moss power-hosed off the paintwork on the nearside, the metallic blue paintwork is revealed in fine condition, and will polish up really well.

No horrors: The driver’s seat, which always shows the most wear, is in quite good condition, and the interior doesn’t seem to have been abused during its 17 year life.

New gaiters needed: The interior needs a really good clean and some worn parts will be replaced to make the Discovery a comfortable environment again.

Not smelly: There is no evidence of dampness in the cabin, despite two years stored outside, so the interior is not unpleasant and there is no sign of mould.

 

Under the body

The assessment so far has been quite promising – the body panels of the Discovery, the engine bay and the cabin have all been found to be in great shape generally. The car is not an abused wreck and, following the deep clean, it looks to be a vehicle that anyone would be comfortable with owning and driving.

Unfortunately, the underside of the Discovery Series II model is often the downfall of an otherwise great vehicle, particularly the chassis. The Discovery 2 steel chassis is a singular case in the Land Rover range of vehicles. Rust gets hold prematurely and, when it catches, the rot can spread very quickly and in a devastating fashion. I own a 2004 Defender with similar mileage to this Discovery, in which the chassis is in almost perfect condition – the following section will show just how different the chassis behaves in a Discovery of exactly the same age.

Close attention to the condition of the underside of the body shell itself is now very important too, as these vehicles are now at least 17 years old (some up to 23 years old) and inevitably body rust is now also a factor in deciding whether or not to save a Discovery.

Unsympathetic storage: The axles and hub assemblies are showing a lot of rust throughout, although some of this will be due to being parked up for over two years.

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Terminal leaking: The power steering box began to drip excessive amounts of fluid just after the engine was started up, and is probably beyond redemption and will need to be replaced.

Bumper support: This rusted out tubular bracket runs between the front dumb irons and commonly rots in this way, regardless of the chassis’ overall condition.

Advanced corrosion: These brackets that attach the side steps to the outriggers on the chassis are weakened and won’t be suitable to use again on a new chassis.

More bad news: This is one of the body to chassis mounting points, where the body mount has rusted quite badly and will require repair
or replacement.

Safety first: The flexi hoses between the body and chassis serving the rear brakes will need to be replaced, as the metal end fixings are rusted.

Half chassis won’t be enough: The rust on this Discovery chassis is not limited to the rear. It extends all the way forward, as is very often the case with these vehicles.

No oil leaks: Both the main gearbox and transfer box are fairly dry. Often, the oil will leak from between the two components, where the oil seal fails.

Dry bellhousing: Oil can leak down from failed seals or gaskets at the top of the engine, or from the rear main oil seal, but this example is very clean.

Terminal rot: The chassis rust gets worse as we move to the back of the vehicle. Here at the trailing arm mount, the rust cannot be repaired, such is the damage.

Exhausted: The flanges on the tail pipe and the middle silencer are heavily pitted with rust. These will not survive a separation to remove them from the vehicle.

No longer holding: The rear body bracket on the chassis is practically detached. Hopefully the corresponding point on the body will be okay.

Both sides now: The story is the same on the other side and here we can also see that the rear bumper mounting bracket is rusted through as well.

Telltale sagging: The visible effect of the rust at the rear of the chassis is that the bumper has not only dropped, but is very flexible too. It’s a quick way of checking a Discovery 2.

Axle stability: The Watt’s linkage between the rear axle and the chassis is not looking particularly healthy, and will probably need to be replaced completely.

Will clean up okay: While the axles have extensive surface rust, the various brackets are still strong – a proper rub down and paint process will probably be enough to revive them.

Original springs: The front coil springs look very tired, and the shock absorber turret is blown with rust. Luckily these components are not expensive.

Exposed: I was never a fan of the unprotected fuel filter housing behind the rear right wheel and I like to adapt a Defender cover to protect this assembly.

Good rotors: All four brake discs are not very worn and well within thickness tolerances. As long as the braking surfaces can be properly cleaned up, they will be serviceable.

Recent new parts: The brake calipers and brake pads have not covered many miles since they were last renewed, and probably will not need to be replaced.

Can you help?

A search on the registration number indicates the Discovery was first registered in Dundee, but no information could be found on the ‘Murrayfield’ badges on the front wings on each side. Any information on these badges would be most welcome. They are apparently a genuine part, fitted to certain Discovery and Freelander models (please email to [email protected]).