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

LRO (UK) - - Contents - PHO­TOS: BOB ATKINS

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

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