Land Rover Discovery 300TDi – the Disco

A proud moment….! The Discovery clocked over 200,000ks while driving along the Oodnadatta Track.

You never just own a Land Rover. You either hate it with a passion or you love it like a cherished member of your family. Such was the case with my Land Rover Discovery Series 1 300TDi. I loved that car. Kylie loved it too. We both shed a tear the day we traded it in for the Nissan Patrol. That 4WD was a huge part of our lives and took us to some amazing locations in comfort and safety. It wasn’t always smooth sailing but we could always rely on the old Disco to get us there and back in one piece.

It all started back in 1997, I was going through a significant change in my life and it meant my earning capacity was not as great as it had been. My 4WD at the time was a Land Rover Discovery Series 1 V8i. A wonderful car for sure with glorious performance but an appetite for unleaded that would put a smile on the face of a Texan oil baron. As much as I loved that car, I simply couldn’t afford to keep in in fuel. I paid a visit to my friendly Land Rover dealer who showed me an ex fleet TDi Discovery. It had been in Land Rover’s dealer fleet in Newcastle NSW and had clocked up just 10,000k of mostly highway travel. It was also a ‘rural pack’ as LR called it. No airbags, no dicky seats in the back but it did have cruise control, electric windows and central locking. The price was excellent which made the final decision too easy.

You know you’re doing it remote when you need to consult a GPS to find out where you are. This was real Land Rover country.

The engine on the TDi Discovery, a 2.5l direct injection turbo diesel, was an absolute peach. It would never win any drags at the traffic lights but it had sufficient grunt to pull away purposefully enough to keep pace. It was also a remarkably efficient engine for its time. No matter what driving conditions were encountered, it consistently returned fuel economy figures at or below 10.5l/100ks. Towing our modest camper trailer (about 1.5t) it would barely rise over 13l/100ks. I know by today’s standards, that’s just average, but at the time it was exceptional. The 89l tank was good for 800ks at least. Off road trips to the Victorian High Country were much more fun without having to keep an eye on the fuel gauge.

Comfort-wise, the Disco was peerless. Even today, It is difficult to find a car that will match it for long distance touring. A day’s drive in excess of 80 hours was a piece of cake in the Disco. One time I drove from Madura in WA to Wilmington in SA, a distance of over 1100ks, all in one day and I only stopped because I was fearful of running into a kangaroo at night.

The engine that changed the way we look at diesel engines. The 300 TDi was an absolute gem. For a 2.5l engine it had loads of torque and used very little fuel.

I did a lot of modification top the Disco over the years including a dual battery system, home-made rear drawer system, CB radios, and a dash pod with various instruments and controls.

The abilities of the Discovery were extraordinary. It took me everywhere including Cape York, twice across the Oodnadatta Track, often towing the old Bush Hopper camper trailer. It traversed the worst this country has to offer and it suffered terrible abuse by me as I pursued my 4WDing passion. When Kylie and I got together, it took her on her first outback trip with me and converted her to an avid traveller to the Australian outback. It became our beloved noble stead.

All that said, being a Land Rover, it wasn’t without its mechanical foibles. The universal joints were a week point, I broke the rear differential once. The wheel bearings gave me some grief until I rectified the stingy amount of grease applied at the factory. A rusty welsh plug proved difficult to get fixed by any mechanic. The final straw was a never rectified wobble in the front end following a clutch replacement, despite spending many thousands of my hard earned trying to fix it.

Towing the old Bush Hopper camper trailer, the Discovery would never use more than 13l/100ks. It was no rocket but it towed this with ease all over the Outback.

In the end, time, lack of maintenance and the scares of a hard life took its toll on the Disco and it was traded in for the Nissan Patrol. While we were both excited about the new 4WD, we both shed a tear when the old girl was handed in.

I don’t know that I have ever loved any of my vehicles like I loved the Disco. It got me out of financial difficulties, it took me everywhere I wanted to go, it got me home every time, and it cemented Kylie and my relationship together. Whenever I got into the driver’s seat, it was like slipping on a custom made silk glove. It just felt right. To this day, we both miss the old girl.

Despite the look on her face, Kylie loved touring in the old Disco.