Half-million mile Disco 1
Martin Rainbow’s 22-year-old Disco 1 refuses to stop rolling along the road, even after more than half a million miles. Mark Saville finds out why
Mark Saville meets the owner of a megamileage motor and finds out how it’s done
‘It’s a small lorry and you have to drive it accordingly. Treat it with a bit of respect and it’ll last’
Martin Rainbow’s Discovery 1 is a very ordinary-looking example of a 1996 300Tdi. A closer look reveals that, unlike many of its siblings, this one sits level, hasn’t been ‘improved’ with DIY off-road protection and isn’t wearing over-sized mud tyres – but that’s not the reason I’ve trundled out to rural Cambridgeshire to see it. The remarkable thing about this Disco is that it has covered a staggering 545,155 miles on the original engine, transmission and axles. Even the starter motor is the original one, fitted at the factory. So I’m here to find out the secret of this Land Rover’s longevity.
A great secondhand buy
Martin bought the Disco about 20 years ago with 93,000 miles on the clock; it was only 18 months old and he paid £13,400. ‘That was a lot of money at the time and I was anxious about the high mileage at first,’ he remembers with a shudder. ‘I don’t know much about its history before me; it was a privately owned vehicle with a full service history, I believe.’
In the early years, Martin had it regularly serviced by a local company. ‘I must have been doing between 100-200 miles a day, travelling around various counties for my work.’
Martin has carried out all his own servicing for many years now, but he still gets a local specialist to do jobs like cambelt changes. ‘Genuine Land Rover cambelts are good for about 80,000 miles. I always use genuine belts. This one had the 300Tdi pulley alignment upgrade kit fitted early on.’
How to stay the distance
The Disco has manual transmission and the first clutch lasted around 370,000 miles. ‘The second one lasted about 30,000 miles because they didn’t fit the heavy-duty fork as I’d asked them to do – very disappointing,’ explains Martin. The third clutch has now done around 150,000 miles and is still going strong.
Part of why it has clocked up such a huge mileage is due to Martin’s empathetic driving style. ‘I don’t race the gearbox,’ he confirms. ‘It isn’t a racing car; it’s a small lorry and you have to drive it accordingly. Don’t race through the gears, don’t accelerate too hard and don’t ride the clutch. Treat it with a bit of respect and it’ll last – mine certainly has.’
Driving with your brain rather than your ego also has huge benefits when it comes to tyre wear – you leave less rubber on the road and more money in your pocket. Astonishingly, Martin reckons that in 20 years and more than 450,000 miles he’s now on only his sixth set of tyres. ‘I started with Goodyears and stuck with them, then changed to Pirelli Scorpions that started delaminating but I couldn’t get my money back. I tried Bfgoodrich AT after that and typically they perished before they wore out – very good. I had a couple of sets of these and I’m now on Runway Enduro HT 235/70 R16. They’re between an all-terrain and a road tyre; they get me into places I need to go.’
No pampered pet
Martin’s Discovery is a workhorse – you can tell by the decor, and the bootful of power saws and other tools of his trade. His servicing regime includes changing the engine oil and filters regularly, around every 8000 miles.
But he changes the transmission oils only about every 10 years – and the last time he adjusted the tappets was about 14-15 years ago. So it hasn’t been mollycoddled.
‘In between Mots it costs me a negligible amount. Last year, it needed new discs and pads on the back. I’ve got a biggish caravan, about 1600kg, that I tow with the Disco about half a dozen times a year.’
Elephant in the room
The unavoidable fact is that Disco 1s decay. So has Martin’s? ‘Obviously, it is a Land Rover,’ he
This old warrior wears its battle scars proudly