eBay Find of the Week : A guaranteed future classic?

Craig Cheetham

What do we make of this (not so) little beauty, then?
What do we make of this (not so) little beauty, then?

Okay, so I’m biased. I love Land Rover Discoverys and have owned three, including our current family hack, which is a W-reg Td5 ES Auto. Given that we have a large family and live in a grand but crumbling Victorian DIY project, I can’t think of a vehicle more practical or versatile to suit our needs. The fact it’s British and well and truly rooted in AROnline territory was, for once, a secondary purchase consideration – but a bonus nonetheless. I’ll be introducing it via Our Cars fairly soon, but there are other more interesting vehicles on the fleet I need to talk about first…

Anyway, I digress. Like many AROnline readers, I’ve got myself into a spot of bother via eBay on more than one occasion. I have a well-lubricated bidding finger, and a happy-go-lucky approach to what might be waiting for me at the other end. Both my previous Discoverys, my Rover Sterling, my Metro Clubman (ah yes, another one I’ve yet to talk publicly about) and several other Eighties and Nineties classics have come from there, and have mostly been tremendous buys despite my blind faith.

Were it not for there being – in no uncertain terms – no more room at the inn, I’d be adding this one to the fleet tomorrow…

Most 200Tdi Discovery have either rotted away or been modified to unrecognisable levels by now, but this one looks mighty clean...
Most 200Tdi Discovery have either rotted away or been modified to unrecognisable levels by now, but this one looks mighty clean…

Most 200 TDi Discoverys have gone one of two ways: either they’ve been used as road cars up until the point that the bodywork, especially around the rear end, has finally given up the ghost and crumbled away from the inside out, or they’ve been bought up by the ‘let’s off road!’ brigade and now tower above everything else on the road thanks to ludicrous lift kits, tractor tyres, chopped off bumpers, skid plates and multiple aerials (and why not – I’d actually quite like my own roadgoing Tonka toy).

What that does mean, though, is that all of a sudden a smart, unmolested 200Tdi Discovery is a rare old thing. They were, after all, only built for five years before the 300Tdi and Mk 1 facelift came in. These later ones were largely more refined, but in my view lack the purity of design of the original. The Jasper Conran interior, the simple, plain front end, the small mirrors, all of which made the original Disco such a functional yet well-formed vehicle.

Some wear to the driver's seat in the usaal place, but otherwise the cabin of this one is smart and presentable
Some wear to the driver’s seat in the usual place, but otherwise the cabin of this one is smart and presentable

These, I reckon, are about to catch on as iconic classics of their era. 25 years since the launch of what has become one of Land Rover’s most successful nameplates, the appetite for well-preserved unmodified ones is growing, and this one looks well worth the £1,500 asking price.

Okay, it’s not perfect. For starters, it has 200k on the clock (although that’s nothing for the venerable 200Tdi), there are some very small blisters coming through on the rear door shuts (they all do that, sir, and don’t I know it…) and the driver’s seat has a small worn-through area on the squab, but trying finding a Disco with fabric seats where that hasn’t happened.

Many people say the 200 TD was Land Rover's best ever engine - they're not refined, but they are indestructible...
Many people say the 200 Tdi was Land Rover’s best ever engine – they’re not refined, but they are indestructible…

The appeal, for me, lies in the fact that it has clearly been well maintained and looked after. It sits right, no sagging or listing to one side, the bodywork is bright and free of major knocks and the cabin looks clean and very presentable – remember, we’re talking about a fifteen hundred quid cheapie here, not a concours d’elegance contender.

But the great thing is, I genuinely don’t think it’d require that much to make this a show car. Providing the boot floor and body mounts are good, then a liberal application of Waxoyl, some sympathetic stitching to the driver’s seat and a bit of detailing would make it something well worthy of preservation, and I don’t think for a minute you’d risk losing a penny on it.

Indeed, if I had the space, I wouldn’t be sharing it now, as it’d be keeping the Discovery II company outside the house.

Have a look at it here, and let me know what you think…

Pop a spare wheel and a nice new cover on there, and you'll be glad to see the back of this...
Pop a spare wheel and a nice new cover on there, and you’ll be glad to see the back of this…


Craig Cheetham


  1. Looks pretty tidy. A new spare wheel, sort the driver’s seat, a bit of general tlc and it would look great. Assuming it’s mechanically sound a good buy – interesting and hugely practical.

    The original Discovery is what I’d call a ‘clever’ car. It bridged the gap between Land Rover and Range Rover so well and offered something innovative.

  2. As you rightly say a D1 is now sadly becoming a rarer sight on our roads. I also have a Td5 Disco 2 but still admire the original. I remember their launch in 1989 when I was 15 and thinking “One day…” (I also thought that about an Audi Quattro – never managed that dream!)

  3. I really do like the original Discovery, especially the 3-door model with steel wheels, that Sonar Blue interior colourway and those funky side graphics. The interior has such great form, with simple lines and chunky switchgear. This particular example however, certainly looks tidy and has the benefit of the Freestyle option comprising of front and rear anti-roll bars and those Tornado style alloy wheels shod on bigger 235-size tyres.

    One of the tidiest pre-facelift examples I have seen for quite a while.

  4. I really like that. Good find. Has a similar charm to a classic Range Rover.

    Decent non-rusty (but still far from concours) Discoveries are already going up in price. At £1500, this will sell very quickly.

  5. I love the ‘Best 4x4xfar’ sticker in the back windscreen. Someone buy this! The original Disco is a fine old wagon.

  6. I have previously owned a 300tdi and a TD5 Disco. Of the two I felt the 300 was a more “honest2 car with the TD% (mine was auto too) having just too many issues with the electrickery (never mind the air suspension, injector seals and regular failures of door lock actuators. I had trouble finding a rust free D1 on in 2007 never mind now in 2015 so that is a rare find indeed.

    No electronics and a plentiful supply of spares means that with a little TLC the 200tdi should go on forever. Truly a usable classic. Oh, and chain cam too so no belt change to worry about.

    Slow & steady and a bit agricultural but must admit that I would have jumped at this one for the money.

  7. Wouldn’t be very practical for me right now, but if I lived out in the Boonies, and could afford one, I’d certainly consider one like it.

    Well proportioned, with the same sense of being ‘just right’ as the Classic Rangie, they somehow seemed all the cleverer for being cobbled together from recognisable bits of other cars, yet in no sense ‘cheapened’ by it- lesser designs built to such a formula would look like kit cars.

    Honest, tough, and oh so very British.

  8. Very nice car, and does not have one of those awful overcomplicated modern self destruct diesels, so should be capable of being kept running for many years to come! I hope it goes to somebody that appreciates it and looks after it.

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