Land Rover Discovery V8i ES | Spotted

Burly, British, unstoppable and occasionally V8-powered, the Series 1 kicked off quite the dynasty

By John Howell / Monday, 31 October 2022 / Loading comments

1989 was a bit past it for disco fever. Well, it was for the sort of disco that involved John Travolta, flares and illuminated dance floors, but not for that other famous form of disco: the Land Rover Discovery. Now, I’ve written a few things about Defenders over the years, mainly about how I am not a fan. But look, I am not trying to start a war here. I’ve no beef with all you Defender diehards; everyone is free to love what they love in my book. But personally, I never really gelled with them, mainly as a consequence of having to actually use them properly on a farm, to do farmy things.

This might have had something to do with being the youngest in our family. Anyone who’s the youngest will know that it leaves you clutching the short straw, always, which in this case was a straw that pointed straight to the back of our soft top Defender. That was where I sat. I didn’t even get a proper seat. Just the hard metal bench that runs up either side that was just wonderful on bitterly cold mornings. No heater, of course, not even a proper rear window for that matter, which meant I also got the backwash of hydrocarbons from the soot-emitting four-pot diesel.

So just imagine my joy – my unbridled gleefulness – when an original Disco replaced the Defender. I can’t remember the exact year, but I don’t think it was long after they first arrived on the scene. What a thing it was to behold. I didn’t mind at all going in the back now, because this was an unadulterated luxury. For a start, it had doors. Five of them. How I marvelled at the way they opened then closed, with a tight seal to shut out the cold and the fumes.

It had glass windows, too, rather than a roll of vaguely see-through, yellowed plastic. This panoramic glazing meant I could gaze out and watch the world go by in all directions, instead of looking directly out the back with my view typically blocked by a livestock trailer. I could even look up to God, through either sunroof or the side windows in the rear, and give him a wink and say, “Thanks for taking a day off from damnation and making the world a better place, mate.” Well, my world at least, as I sat propped up by proper seats, with sponge cushions that were trimmed in lovely warm cloth. It was also really cool inside. Not dark and dingy, but brightly coloured with lots of interesting details: grab handles on the sides of the front seats, the stepped roof and the nets above your head to shove things into.

And because the Discovery seared such a deep brand into my mind back then, I bought one many years later. It was a 300 TDI auto in plush ES spec. I used it to tow the speedboat that me and my mate had clubbed together and bought during our wakeboarding phase. As anyone who’s ever towed with a Disco will know, it’s fantastic at the job. Our boat was an 18-foot Fletcher with a 175hp Yamaha two-stroke V6 on the back, so not light. But the Disco trundled along as if it were an empty trailer hooked up to the back. Rock steady it was, at all times.

The thing that really impressed me about the Disco was its off-road capability. I took it to Devils Pit once, which is an old clay quarry that’s been turned into an off-roading play pit. The runs are graded like a ski resort: green, blue, red and black. I couldn’t do the black runs because you had to have a roll cage fitted, but my Disco did all the rest without flinching. And this was in winter, when the clay was stodgy like putty and would clog up the tyres in a moment. These weren’t Goodrich off-road specials, either, just the standard all seasons. Yet, while Land Cruisers, Hiluxes and Shoguns all fell by the wayside, my Disco just kept plodding on, with the occasional use of the diff lock for a particularly steep or gruelling section. That day was the best fun I’ve ever had at 5mph, I can tell you.

So after that longwinded regression to explain why I love the original Discovery like a brother, I bring you this. It’s done over 100,000 miles, sure, but take its age into consideration and that makes it a low miler. It’s an ES, like mine was, so it comes with all the mod cons – twin sunroofs, air con, leather, powered and heated front seats – and apart from a bit of wear on the driver’s seat (they all do that, sir), it looks tidy. And handsome, in its shade of metallic midnight blue. What gives it an extra kick for me, and I hope you, is the drivertrain. That trusty 3.9-litre Rover V8 coupled with a five-speed manual. For all-round capability, that’s hard to beat. Especially with an LPG conversation that means you might be able to use it despite the cost of petrol. This, ladies and gentlemen, is my kind of Disco fever.


Specification | Land Rover Discovery V8

Engine: 3,947cc, V8, naturally aspirated
Transmission: five-speed manual, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 185 @ 4,750rpm
Torque (lb ft): 230lb ft @ 3,100rpm
CO2: N/A
MPG: N/A
Recorded mileage: 109,000
Year registered: 1995
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £6,995

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