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Discovery Classic

The Discovery classic entered the market in 1989 with the trusted old Rover 3.5 V8 carburettor and the new 2.5 litre 200 Tdi motor. Build on the Range Rover Classic chassis it has solid underpinnings for a comfortable ride and great off road performance.

With the Discovery, Land Rover did however for the first time in history, moved from 32” wheels to 29” wheels. This change, although it may sound insignificant, this does make the old Rangie better off road than the Discovery. But then again, the Rangie was so good that for the intended market of the Discovery, this was no real drawback.

The Discovery Classic will take you anywhere, but make sure that you don't pay much even for a perfect one. The Discovery classic still used the LT77 main gearbox which is by now very hard to find. These vehicles should be bought for R 35 000 and less.

Land Rover Discovery Classic – 1989 to 1994

Strong Points

  1. Very comfortable on road and off road.

  2. Extremely well built and durable. Even the oldest models should have the door close with a solid chunk.

  3. Very reliable of looked after.

  4. Good off road ability.

  5. Excellent vehicle for daily use.

  6. Little rust due to mostly Aluminium body panels.

  7. Simple to work on with plenty of working space.

Weak Points

  1. Little Packing Space. Will require trailer for long family holidays.

  2. No under belly space for accessories like long range tanks.

  3. Poor approach angle with original front bumper. Will rip off tupper in the rocks.

  4. Poor handling especially on corrugated dirt roads.

  5. Cannot fit any bigger wheels than standard without body lift.

  6. Magneti Marelli alternators cannot be repaired.

  7. Vehicles are old, so major mechanical components are hard to find.

Suggested buying price for prestine late models

Not more than R 35 000

Typical Issues: General

  1. Rust in the roof around the side windows.

  2. Sagging roof lining. This can be repaired neatly by removing the cloth and painting with PVA paint. Easy DIY project.

  3. Early models (up to 1996) had a weak main shaft in the gearbox that was replaced under factory recall. Check the VIN number for this repair at the nearest dealer.

  4. Rear windows do not open. This is due to dry connections in the Window ECU. Can be easily fixed as a DIY project.

  5. Central Locking motors fails regularly. Can be easily fixed with third part motors that fits on exactly the same holes.

Typical issues: 3.5 V8

  1. SU Carburettors gets worn out, but can be rebuilt.

  2. Vacuum advance of distributor fails. Distributor needs to be rebuilt.

  3. At 200 000 km, it is wise to replace the cams, sprockets and lifters.

Typical Issues: 200 TDi

  1. Leaking vacuum pump. This is not critical, but results in irritating oil leak. New pumps does not guarantee the problem to be solved.

  2. Oil seal behind timing belt cover leaks. The timing belt then perish, fail and the pistons will hit the valves. Advisable to pull timing belt cover for inspection.

  3. Engine pulley becomes worn.

  4. Beware of vehicles where the turbo wastegate was disconnected and fuel supply altered.


Discovery 1

The Discovery 1 was in terms of interior, a significant upgrade on the Discovery classic. Mechanically, it came with the 3.9 fuel injected V8 and the 300 Tdi motors. The main gearbox was the R380 which was used in the Defenders until 2007, so it is still easy to find.

From all three discoveries here, the 300 Tdi is without doubt the pick of the bunch, but they are very hard to find second hand as their owners do not want to part with them. Yet, a good 300 Tdi can be found for as little as R 50 000 which makes it excellent value for money.

The Discovery 1 had some higher spec models with electric front seats and dual airconditioning. Make sure all these things works before buying. It is not impossible to repair, but spares for these luxuries are hard to find. The more basic models are as comfortable.

The biggest disadvantage of the Discovery 1 and Discovery Classic, is the serious lack of packing space. In fact, I was more than once shocked to find that I fit my monthly groceries easier in the Passat, than in the Discovery. A trailer is a must for long holidays with children.

Another important issue with the Discovery Classic and Discovery 1, is the twitchy handling in particular on gravel roads and it will snap out the tail almost every time in a sharp corrugated bend even as low as 30 km/h. This is because of the short wheel base and a Defender 110 for example, does not have this problem while the Defender 90 is even worse. These vehicles should be driven at relaxed speeds. However, comfort on road and off road is excellent for both front and rear passengers and the Discovery is great for daily use in town.

Land Rover Discovery 1 – 1994 to 1998

Strong Points

  1. Very comfortable on road and off road.

  2. Extremely well built and durable. Even the oldest models should have the door close with a solid chunk.

  3. Very reliable of looked after.

  4. Good off road ability.

  5. Excellent vehicle for daily use.

  6. Little rust due to mostly Aluminium body panels.

  7. Simple to work on with plenty of working space.

Weak Points

  1. Little Packing Space. Will require trailer for long family holidays.

  2. No under belly space for accessories like long range tanks.

  3. Poor approach angle with original front bumper. Will rip off tupper in the rocks.

  4. Poor handling especially on corrugated dirt roads.

  5. Cannot fit any bigger wheels than standard without body lift.

  6. Magneti Marelli alternators cannot be repaired.

Suggested buying price for prestine late models

Not more than R 65 000

Typical Issues: General

  1. Rust in the roof around the side windows.

  2. Sagging roof lining. This can be repaired neatly by removing the cloth and painting with PVA paint. Easy DIY project.

  3. Early models (up to 1996) had a weak main shaft in the gearbox that was replaced under factory recall. Check the VIN number for this repair at the nearest dealer.

  4. Rear windows do not open. This is due to dry connections in the Window ECU. Can be easily fixed as a DIY project.

  5. Central Locking motors fails regularly. Can be easily fixed with third part motors that fits on exactly the same holes.

Typical issues: 3.9 V8i

  1. Faulty stepper motor on the throttle body. This results in erratic or idling. Item difficult to find.

  2. Faulty Mass Airflow Sensor. Results in poor power delivery and heavy fuel consumption. Item very difficult to find and expensive at dealers. This may require conversion to a third party engine management system.

  3. Vacuum advance of distributor fails. Distributor needs to be rebuilt.

  4. At 200 000 km, it is wise to replace the cams, sprockets and lifters.

Typical Issues: 300 TDi

  1. Leaking vacuum pump. This is not critical, but results in irritating oil leak. New pumps does not guarantee the problem to be solved.

  2. Oil seal behind timing belt cover leaks. The timing belt then perish, fail and the pistons will hit the valves. Advisable to pull timing belt cover for inspection.

  3. Engine pulley becomes worn.

  4. Beware of vehicles where the turbo wastegate was disconnected and fuel supply altered.


Discovery 2

Technologically, the Discovery 2 was a major upgrade form the Discovery 1 but the chassis and many body parts were shared. This model set the benchmark for gizmos in it's class. All of these vehicles came with ABS and traction control and the CDL(centre diff lock) in the transfer case was for the first few years not connected, later is was removed completely and eventually it was optional for the face lifted Discovery 2. It also came with then 3.9 V8i and the TD5 diesel.

The lack of CDL was right from the start a major complaint when Discovery 1 owners who upgraded to the Discovery 2, found that the traction control alone fell miles short of their expectations and very soon, kits were available to enable the CDL function again. This made a huge difference in off road ability.

Other common options, were the ACE system (active cornering enhancement) which reduced body roll, as well as self levelling rear suspension. While it both worked well, both systems had expensive components that lasted well, but not forever.

The Discovery 2's also had expensive door locking mechanisms and it is safe to say that almost every single one of them eventually fails. At R 1500 a peace and 5 on a car, it is a big expense.

They are indeed awesome vehicles, but most definitely only for a buyer who can tolerate the higher repairs costs of the added systems. Discovery 2's are high maintenance cost vehicles.

In terms of off road ability, they are slightly behind the Discovery 1 in standard form due to a longer rear overhang, but the Discovery 2 can swallow 32” wheels without modification, which makes it then slightly better than the Discovery 1.

Value for money, it certainly is. However, if you are looking for a workhorse to take you around the world, this one is not the most sensible choice.

Land Rover Discovery 2 – 1999 to 2004

Strong Points

  1. Very comfortable on road and off road.

  2. Extremely well built and durable. Even the oldest models should have the door close with a solid chunk.

  3. Very reliable of looked after.

  4. Good off road ability if centre diff lock is connected.

  5. Excellent vehicle for daily use.

  6. Little rust due to mostly Aluminium body panels.

  7. Better handling than Discovery 1.

  8. Can fit bigger wheels without modifications.

Weak Points

  1. Limited packing space. Will require trailer for long family holidays.

  2. No under belly space for accessories like long range tanks.

  3. Poor approach angle with original front and rear bumpers. Will rip off tupper in the rocks.

Suggested buying price for prestine late models

Not more than R 110 000 for late models. Good Earlier models can easily be picked up for less than R 80 000.

Typical Issues: General

  1. Rust in the roof around the side windows.

  2. Sagging roof lining. This can be repaired neatly by removing the cloth and painting with PVA paint. Easy DIY project.

  3. Central Locking motors fails regularly. Not easy to repair and expensive to replace. Only original units can be fitted.

  4. ACE pump fails. Expensive to replace and can leave vehicle completely stranded.

  5. Most components of the self levelling suspension can fail. Expensive to repair, but can easily be converted to ordinary coil springs - a quick DIY job.

  6. 3-Amigos Problem. Can be as simple as ABS sensors that gets faulty, or more expensive like a faulty ABS pump.

  7. Wheel bearing failure. Cannot replace bearing separately. Whole hub assembly needs to be replaced.

Typical issues: 4.0 V8i

  1. Faulty stepper motor on the throttle body. This results in erratic or idling. Item difficult to find.

  2. Faulty Mass Airflow Sensor. Results in poor power delivery and heavy fuel consumption. Item very difficult to find and expensive at dealers. This may require conversion to a third party engine management system.

  3. Vacuum advance of distributor fails. Distributor needs to be rebuilt.

  4. At 200 000 km, it is wise to replace the cams, sprockets and lifters.

Typical Issues: TD5

  1. Early models (10P and 14P motors) suffered from cracked cylinder heads. Expensive to repair. Try to find one with 18P or later motor.

  2. Injector harness needs to be replaced every 40 000 km due to oil contamination.

  3. Injector seals in cylinder head leaks. Oils gets contaminated with diesel. This can result in motor failure if not attended to.

  4. Engine pulley becomes worn. Expensive replacement.

  5. Dual mass flywheel becomes worn.

  6. Although very reliable, it can be a difficult motor to repair.