Here's What's Wrong With The Mysterious Land Rover Discovery In My Backyard

Back in September, a truck dropped a gorgeous 1995 Land Rover Discovery off in my backyard. Though I marveled at the perfection of its paint and body panels, I didn’t crawl underneath or even try to start the motor. But now that I’ve given the Land Rover a solid once-over, I can finally tell you what’s wrong with this mysterious British 4x4. Well, sort of.

I have such a complicated relationship with the 1995 Land Rover Discovery in my backyard. I remain baffled by what it’s doing there in the first place, and its mechanical history remains a total mystery to me. But despite that, I’m still smitten by what is one of the most beautiful Land Rovers ever built.

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Today I decided to have a closer look at the gorgeous, green, tan interior-having, manual transmission-equipped machine, as I could no longer tame my curiosity. My friend whose vehicle this is told me there was something wrong with the engine, but he didn’t elaborate. So I yanked the battery out to charge it, only to find that it was toast. I installed a fresh battery, which I jump-started with my Jeep, and then this happened when I went to fire up the British off-roader:

Nothing. Nothing happened.

Now, generally, I wouldn’t even publish this story until I’d gotten to the bottom of why this thing isn’t cranking. I’d try to hand-crank the motor to see if it’s seized, I’d do some electrical system diagnoses, I’d try to jump the starter directly with a flathead or a jumper cable, or I’d just swap out the starter itself. But folks, it’s cold and wet, particularly on my lawn, which has some major drainage issues. And while I have an extremely high threshold for discomfort, it’s not like I need to get this Land Rover running at this very moment.

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But I do feel like writing about it, as its mysteriousness fits the Halloween theme. There it sits in my backyard, lurking. Why is it there? I still don’t know. What sort of electrical gremlins and other demonic maladies ail this Solihull-built 4x4? You tell me.

But it’s definitely not looking good based on the state of the engine bay. On first glance, it’s not too bad:

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But what troubles me is the empty coolant bottle, and all the white splash marks everywhere. Did this thing blow a coolant bottle, hose, radiator, or other cooling system component at some point?

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Worse would be if the engine is actually consuming the coolant, and based on the antifreeze bottle on the passenger’s side floorboard, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case:

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And what’s with the two oil bottles next to the coolant? There’s another in the back seat area, along with oil additive that promises to reduce oil burning and increase compression.:

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All of that makes it quite daunting to even think about what the inside of that 3.9-liter V8 looks like.

I’ll have to wait to find out just how bad the engine problem is, but even without the starter motor cranking, I was able to do some baselining just by crawling under the Disco a bit, and installing that battery. Three dash lights remained lit after leaving the key in the on position for a bit: the oil light, the brake light, and the battery light. None of those are lights you want on.

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The battery light would explain why the engine doesn’t crank. The oil light is a bit odd, since I assume that’s an oil pressure light, and since the motor is off, you’d expect that to be low. And then there’s the brake light, which, based on the fact that the pedal goes all the way to the floor, may actually be indicating a real problem.

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Other less important issues are the saggy driver’s seat:

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The door trim issues:

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(Here’s a closer look at the odd texture of the worn-out bit at the top of that door card):

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And there’s some trim missing above the radio, which reads “CODE” on its screen, indicating that some sort of anti-theft system has been triggered.

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Below that on the center console is the most pathetic looking shifter boot I’ve ever had the misfortune of laying my eyes upon:

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Seriously, it looks like that talking hat from Harry Potter.

Honestly, I only spent five minutes sitting in the truck, and it’s become clear to me that these Disco interiors were extremely shoddily constructed. I mean, look at the gap in this broken steering column trim:

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And how about the weird, dark brown spots at the top of the dash. What’s going on there? And what’s the deal with the broken screwed-on trim at the base of the windshield?:

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And no shoddy interior would be complete without the classic saggy headliner, and my god does this Disco deliver in that area. Behold the sag:

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The most egregious flaw of this vehicle, though, isn’t a broken part, but a missing one. Well, a missing two, technically.

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I am, of course, talking about this machine’s lack of rear jump seats. What’s the point of owning a disco without the fold-up jump seats in the back?

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This is just not acceptable.

Still, despite this and the fact that I don’t know the shape of its apparently-blown engine and its interior needs work, I still think my friend Justin did a bang-up job snagging this thing for two grand. Here’s why:

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The underbody is in phenomenal shape, with only tiny hints of surface rust here and there.

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Add the clean underbody to the beautiful aluminum outer panels covered in excellent-condition green paint, and this Discovery is definitely worth my friend keeping, even if it ends up needing a new motor.

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And if that’s the case, I’ll be tending to three V8s this winter: This one, the one in my brother’s 1966 Ford Mustang, and the one in my 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle.

Let the V8 winter begin.

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About the author

David Tracy

Writer, Jalopnik. 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle, 1985 Jeep J10, 1948 Willys CJ-2A, 1995 Jeep Cherokee, 1992 Jeep Cherokee auto, 1991 Jeep Cherokee 5spd, 1976 Jeep DJ-5D, totaled 2003 Kia Rio