Concepts and protoypes : Land Rover Discovery

Project Jay was a vitally important programme for Land Rover – it was to create a intermediate model range that sat between the Range Rover and Defender, and fight the Mitsubishi Shogun and Isuzu Trooper in the market.

Designing the car, which was so heavily based on the Range Rover was a difficult task. The main problem was making the newer car look suitably different and stylish – but not too appealing as to rob the old car of its classy appeal. That they managed so well is testament to the design talent at Solihull, and of Terence Conran, for the interior.

Read all about Project Jay

Voyage of discovery


Keith Adams
Latest posts by Keith Adams (see all)


  1. Shock horror hear, a BL/AR product I do have a soft spot for here. I’m glad they ditched the round headlamp idea as on that mule. It just looks wrong & cheap. I know the Disco was a real parts bin special, with bits of Maestro van thrown into the melting pot, but that Conran interior, well, it just worked. Proof that sometimes Austin Rover actually knew what they were doing, apart from when they fitted the 2 litre 4 pot petrol, DOH! If motion lotion wasn’t so expensive, I would have a V8 Disco, with a few not so subtle mods, such as a suspension lift, chunky tyres, and other green lane gubbins.

  2. I really like those interior concept drawings – they have a certain something that the computer generated imagery of today lacks. I can’t adequately explain it, but I feel a little thrill when I look at them. You know you’re looking at somebody’s ideas and vision for something that doesn’t yet exist, but a computer generated image is so realistic that it… oh, I don’t know… does somebody here more articulate than me feel the same way?

  3. I know exactly what you are on about. A computer generated image doesn’t seem to have that ‘personality’ of something that has come from a carefully drawn image. It does feel thatnowadays 99.99% of cars are made just by entering dimensions into a computer & its CAD software spews out yet another ‘euroclone’

  4. I often wondered if project Project Jay was in fact Project J-apan. But I have a 1995 Disco V8 which ive had for about 7 years. I really really like it although its been a little problem recently – engine problems. but It handles well with its AWD system and ABS. Íts nice and quite to drive in and the ride is pretty reasonable. The kids love it cause they can see for miles. the disco is a good all round car (appart from the fuel consumption). I really like how land rover keep / develop the designs from one to the other, eg the new disco looks quite like the 1995 one even when parked next to each other :-). im doing up a 110 at the moment, when I get it road worthy I would like to put some effort into tidying up my disco and keep it 🙂 alex

  5. They did well to produce a distinctive design that doesn’t step on the RRs toes while the mk1 used it’s doors!

    And unlike the Maxi, it wasn’t entirely obvious that this was the case.

    Initially I thought the Disco was a Defender replacement, as they seemed to have similar bodystyles – SWD 3 door, van, LWB 5 door.

  6. I REALLY want a mint condition basic spec early 200tdi 3 door disco in white with no sunroofs.

    If anyone knows of one then please contact me.


  7. I couldn’t agree more with Yorkiebusdriver in his first post above about the parts bin raiding that went on with this vehicle. And they really carried it off very well indeed!

    It helped that the Japanese competition were all more-or-less clones of each other, and didn’t have the distinctive features such as the alpine roof (no doubt the roof lights were from a Defender?), nor the handsome tailgate glass treatment. And the final production interior was a fine piece of design too (I’m glad they did away with certain ‘Citroenesque’ elements such as the fussy switches sprouting upwards from the instrument binnacle, and the rear view mirror with it’s pleated flexible stalk shrouding (for want of a better way to describe it).

    Even the Sherpa headlamps (looking so much better than the round ones) and the Maestro van tail lamps did nothing to cheapen it. Even so, it was a shame they couldn’t have updated the Marina doorhandles, but then, as the donor vehicle still used them, the Disco had to.

  8. Japanese competition – the Japanese sold it….
    Honda sold it as Crossroad.

    A Honda with marina handles, Sherpa and Maestro lights.

    The round Honda badge makes the MG “octagon in a long-shield” badge look like it was intended.

  9. From mid body up the discovery is pure range rover,the inner wings,headlamp backing panel rear inner wings and floor,so it was bound to work.The later 300 Tdi’s are the better bet and can easily see 300k miles if oiled and watered.

  10. The bodywork does suffer grot quite badly, but replacement panels aren’t that expensive either for a meaty 4×4, and there are specialists everywhere. I think the Disco has to be one of the best vehicles designed by Austin Rover

  11. Yorkiebusdriver, reference the 2.0 litre petrol version. This was originally at the request of the Greek importer, as there were tax advantages. I don’t know how sales went there, but on a brief visit to Thessalonika last year I did see at least one example. The main advantage of the 2.0 Disco was that when the Italian Carabinieri wanted a 2.0 petrol 4×4, Land Rover were quickly able to adapt a Defender to use this engine (a North South version of the T16 from the R800 and other AR models). The prototypes were successful in the Carabinieri’s selection process, leading to a significant volume of sales to the Carabinieri and other Italian government agencies. At some point, the T16 was dropped in favour of a diesel engine.

  12. Looking at the interior drawing in picture DISC_09 the words RANGE ROVER seem to be printed on the dashboard.

  13. I visited the South banks (London village) Design Museum at Christmas, and Sir Terence had a whole floor dedicated to him and his collective achievements…

    …BUT NO DISCO!!!!

    The swines!

  14. Just a thought, there are a lot of bonnet less Discovery’s in those pictures – Did the Range Rover nearly die? to become a face lifted glass roof Rang Rover to compete with the Oriental rivals?

  15. The best place that the old 200 & 300 TDI untits ended up.
    But could they rust! Just about everywhere

  16. My Mk1 1998 Safari is going strong at 170,000 miles and the body is good, I wish all my cars had an upholstery material like the sand coloured cord ( i suppose it is special as it is woven with writing, what is it??). The one problem (Two of actually) is the roof window design, I sealed mine up with silicone and took off the winder handles so it won’t rot from the inside. I drive in the Bosnian hills a lot and its only competition is the Mercedes (Puch, Austria) Gelanderwagen (old G series). I would keep it for ever (all bits available) but can’t register in Croatia or Bosnia as it is too old, even though it is in as new condition as possible, bummer.
    How good is a 14 year old airbag?

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