If you are thinking of entering the world of off roading, green laning or just looking for a cheap 4×4 you will not go far wrong with the Discovery 1.
Almost as capable as the iconic Defender but a lot cheaper to buy, certainly cheaper to run and maintain, not to mention the comfort factor, that makes a difference when on a long run.
If you do your research you can still pick up a good one with plenty of life left in it from as little as £1500, but there are a few points you need to be aware of that we will highlight for you.
The most popular engine version is undoubtedly the 300tdi, some folks prefer the 200tdi lump but many of those Disco’s have left us for the Gods of rust, as they were the first off the line and production only ran for a few early years (1989 to 1994).
The Discovery’s built between 1994 to 98 are still plentiful but getting rarer each year, these are fitted with the 300tdi also viewed as a “bullet proof” engine. Most vehicles are of the 7 seat variety, although the rear 2 “dickie” seats are only good for children and passenger safety could be viewed as an issue with them.
The cosmetics for an older Discovery are not too expensive to sort out with a plentiful supply of parts from salvage and breaking companies nation wide, the usual requirements range from worn front seats, roof liners, door cards and plastic trim parts, all are readily available with a little interweb searching.
With a minimum spend on a few modifications, you can make a Discovery as capable at off roading as a Defender, all of the components are available off the shelf at most aftermarket suppliers for the Land Rover marque.
So finding that right car, and what to look for …
Rule of thumb is has it been looked after, your first impression will usually tell the story, clean tidy outside, stain & rip free clean interior. Service history, receipts, how many owners, mileage is not too important upto 200,000 as long as servicing has been maintained throughout its life.
I would avoid the shabby scratched and knocked variety, even if it has those wanted accessories you have in mind, the car may have been doing battle on those off road play-days and used only for that, which means lack of TLC and proper servicing, plus many mechanical components will have seen a lot of abuse and wear.
The points to check;
Chassis & Panels
All Discoverys suffer from the rust factor in several key places rust will spread from the body mounts into the chassis and the rear crossmember, it’s a good idea to give this area a good check over, the rear body is supported at these points.
Check the low points of the rear chassis too, with a tap or probing screwdriver.
Repair sections for all the problem areas of the Discovery are available, most can be replaced quickly and cheaply with some good welding ability proving to be as good as new, boot floor panels are one good example of this.
Other points to check are the inner wheel arches, front being easily viewable from under the bonnet, rear inner arches tell tale signs are on the rear door jam, open the rear doors and check the point that the vertical panels meet the wheel arch top, if repairs are evident that’s fine as long as they are good repairs.
Seat belt mounts are another area to check that are known rust spots, these will be checked for any future MOT’s and have been the downfall for many older Discos.
Usually most of the doors are fine, it is the rear one that causes problems due to the excessive weight of the spare wheel on two hinges. They tend to drop and sit on the door catch causing lock problems. A point to check but can be rectified without too much trouble. Rust can also be an issue here, easily identified with rust bubbling around the hinge and also at base of the door panel.
Many Discovery’s come as standard with one or two sunroofs, and with age they leak, or at least 90% of them do. It is not uncommon to find them sealed up in one way or another. If the job has been done well then just live with it, if not, then you can be looking at an uncomfortable ride every time it rains at best.
But this will lead to more expensive future work, as the dreaded floor pans will give out to rust eventually from sitting water.
Check if they open, if not has the roof lining started to break up around the frame or is staining present from water ingress.
If you are looking at the age bracket listed above the engine will be a 300tdi, easily detectable with serpentine belts visible at the front of the engine. With regular filter and oil changes these engines just keep running, you can even run them on a mix of cooking/diesel oil without any modifications.
One problem these engines suffered from was the shredding, over time, of the timing belts. A modifying kit was made available and many have this kit now fitted, Land Rover informed all of their dealers to paint a yellow triangle on to the timing cover to show this was completed to the vehicle, needless to say many have worn off or the mark was never added. Some vehicles never had this kit fitted, mine being one, but after a recent belt change, there was no sign of belt wear from contact with the inside of the cover, so it still is as was.
So if you are still in the mind for that older Discovery, take on board the above and you will not go far wrong.