A Former Camel Trophy Driver Built His Own ’92 Diesel Land Rover Discovery
We never got a diesel engine in the Land Rover Discovery 1, but who says you can't swap one in?
It’s no mystery that I’ve slowly evolved into a connoisseur of old Land Rovers since I picked up my very own Discovery 1 a few months back. I’ve always dug them, but after playing around off-road and driving all over California with mine, I’ve continually descended into the depths of old Rover nerd-dom. At an angle of about 45 degrees, of course, because that’s its maximum descent gradient — see what I mean?
One of the ways I keep my old Discovery nerdery in check, or rather feed it, is to take in as much Disco 1 YouTube content as I can. I happened upon one of my favorite sources, 2nd Hand Overland, a few months back, as well as all of the Fast Lane (TFL) channels, including TFL Classics. Recently, the Classics channel posted a video about an absolutely gorgeous example of a D1:
The owner, Jim West, has a lot of experience wheeling Land Rovers, particularly the Discovery. Not only is he a seasoned professional off-road guide and driving instructor, he was also a part of team USA in the 1992 Camel Trophy in Guyana. For the uninitiated, Camel Trophy was a grueling several-weeks-long off-road competition that went down in tough environments all over the globe. While Land Rover was the official vehicle supplier, the Discovery 1 was the most-used competition vehicle. By the sounds of it, Jim’s been a pro off-road driver ever since.
Jim’s particular 1998 D1 is kitted out with all the usual off-road equipment: big tires, three-inch-plus lift, front and rear lockers, winch, steel bumpers, and so on. All of that is cool, some of which makes it look good, but this rig’s showpiece lives under the hood: a 2.5-liter inline-six turbo-diesel engine. This is what the rest of the world got when the Disco 1 was new, while America only got the 3.9-4.0-liter all-aluminum V8.
Jim bought the truck a few years back in already well-prepped shape, but his intention behind the swap was to mirror what he experienced competing in Camel Trophy nearly thirty years ago. He put together all the necessary pieces and made it happen. It sounds like he’s generally had a great time with it ever since, though has had some timing belt issues. Some recent extensive engine work has hopefully solved that for good.
Despite these issues, he’s been all over the country behind the wheel of this trusty ol’ steed, including up to British Columbia over the border. The diesel’s power probably isn’t anything to write home about, but that’s what high and low gearing and locking differentials are for. Plus, he probably sees much better fuel economy than its previous 4.0-liter V8. From my experience, you can reach as high as 15 mpg with this engine, if you’re willing to hate your life trying to hypermile it down the highway.
It’s pretty cool that a pro off-roader chooses an old Rover as his main vehicle of choice, when there are so many potent chassis out there. It’s a testament to the chassis’ capability and potential. Check out the video above.
More great stories on Car Bibles
• Our Rivian RT1 Review Rundown compiles takeaways from top car journalists on the new electric pickup truck. Check it out to get a big range of perspectives on this vehicle in one place.
• This retrospective on Ford’s surprisingly effective youth marketing from the 2000s is a nice dose of near-past nostalgia.
• Upgrading a BMW ZHP with Toyota Camry parts… it’s a thing, and the results can be better than you might expect.