Full-service, cottage industry car restoration is all the rage these days. It seems like for every popular enthusiast platform out there, there’s a shop that’ll take an example and reshape it into something fresh and improved upon. On the extremely high-dollar end, there’s Singer for Porsche and Icon 4×4 for various vintage off-roaders. But there are other shops out there that might not go into as much detail as those two, but will still restore something into a clean, mechanically sound, and more modern version of its previous self. That’s where Revel Machines comes in.
Revel Machines is based in Los Angeles and specializes in re-imagining the Land Rover Discovery I (mid-’90s) and II (late-’90s and early 2000s). The company takes clean examples and then go about cleaning them up even more, upgrading certain components, and making them into solid, reliable, adventure-ready rigs.
Yours truly has an affinity for these old, comfortable crawlers, so you can see why I wanted to learn more. I recently reached out to Revel via email for a rundown of what they’re all about, why they chose the Land Rover Discovery to specialize in, and what they think of the platform in general.
Where It Began
David Solarte founded Revel purely out of what seems like a couple of chance opportunities. He and his fiancée were in search of a capable off-roader to take on a long, scenic road trip and happened upon his first Disco II while perusing the web for potential candidates. He hadn’t really noticed old Land Rovers much before but was intrigued by their overall design and sturdy look. Sure enough, the one he bought was well taken care of and barely needed any work. After some maintenance, lifting, and other mild modifications, it fulfilled its purpose incredibly well.
“We ended up taking this Disco on an amazing trip to the Valley of Fire, Zion, and thoroughly enjoyed it!” Solarte recalled via email. “It looked the part, performed exceptionally well, and it waited until after we got back home to blow the gaskets, haha. I was prepared for this, and had already contacted a local shop to not only fix it for me, but also allow me to be there during the entire process so that I may see the ins and outs of it.”
From there, Solarte’s interest in this platform grew. As pretty much all of us enthusiasts would experience in similar circumstances. He also gave it a name, “Zion,” and continued to enjoy it around Southern California. But one day he found himself in a position to make a nice piece of scratch off of it.
“I found myself driving Zion around El Segundo one day, where I was approached by a local who was totally taken aback by the build and simply asked ‘Hey, is that for sale – if so, how much?‘ After a little back and forth, they threw out an offer I couldn’t refuse, and before you knew it, Zion was in the hands of a new owner. I was excited and couldn’t believe that I had taken that lump of coal and turned it into gold.”
After that, Solarte found himself behind the wheel of a 2000 BMW 735i, and started missing Zion.
“He (Zion) had allowed me to traverse the streets of LA without a care about hitting a pothole, a curb, or running over the typical sewer rat. He had allowed me to park virtually anywhere without being too concerned about getting dinged or attacked by a shopping cart … and above all he had given me the road trip of a lifetime all the while looking great while doing so… He had allowed me to be king of the road, he had allowed me to Revel, and the rest is history.”
The Next Chapter
After that, David decided to dive back into Discoverys (we decided that’s how to pluralize) and thought up a way to do what he’d done with Zion, but to now turn it into a viable business.
“Right now, I have two ways of going at a potential build from Revel Machines” he explains of his business plan.
“The first is simply to take a look at my current inventory of finished builds and see if there is anything you (the potential customer) like. I do my best to acquire color combos that are unique and above all, vehicles that have very strong bones. Engine, suspension and interior can all be addressed rather easily but a body with extreme rust, dents or accidents is usually a no-go in my book.”
He’s absolutely right, especially considering how plentiful and inexpensive parts for these old trucks are, as well as how easy they usually are to work on.
“The second option I have is looking at my current inventory of stock vehicles, and commissioning a build. Taking this route gives you, the potential client, a little more choosing power as to what color you may like, what your headliner will look like and what suspension components you’d rather have.”
What he comes up with is really quite cool, and definitely maintains a key brand identity. After ensuring the rig will be as reliable and trouble-free as possible after a comprehensive service, he utilizes parts from the same suppliers to ensure each vehicle is unmistakably a Revel rig, both in appearance and performance.
“I take an overall look at the paint on the vehicle and if I feel the paint or clearcoat needs addressing I get it repainted. These older Discos typically have clear coat peel so I look into fixing that almost 99% of the time,” Solarte wrote me.
After this phase, I move into suspension and off-road components. I go through and replace brakes, rotors, bushings, the steering damper, anti-roll bar links, tie and track rods, radius arms (if needed). I then install brand new shocks and springs and inspect the towers and other components for any integrity/longevity issues. Next, I install brand new lugs, wheels, and tires, followed by wide wheel arches. Lastly, I install an aesthetically gorgeous steel bumper along with custom-made rock sliders. The finishing touches include another fresh oil change and Revel branded vinyl.”
As you’ve probably noticed so far, his builds turn out quite clean, and definitely have a distinct look to them.
On Land Rover Reliability In General
Finally, I asked David for his thoughts on Land Rover reliability, and what he says to the naysayers out there.
“There is no doubt that a mechanic shop will try to nickel and dime you on a Land Rover, and OEM parts will always be just that much more expensive. But to say that reliability is an issue on these vehicles is in direct correlation to how they have been maintained throughout the years. If you are getting a vehicle maintained at ‘Regular Joe’s’ shop and he’s simply applying band aids to larger problems, you eventually see how and why most of these machines have ended up in the local junkyard. But if you do things responsibly, I honestly feel the headlines of ‘over 300k miles’ are fully justified. Yes, the plastic bits and pieces will eventually start to break on you, but these engines and transmissions are extremely capable systems that can give you BMW, Honda, or even Toyota longevity.”
It’s certainly cool to see these old, mildly-luxurious tractors (I’m talking about the Disco 1 in general, pre-Revel overhaul of course) getting a new lease on life as nicely appointed, fully-restored rigs. The selection of parts is great, and man, the world needs more clean Discoverys cruising the streets. Old Land Cruisers, Broncos, and NAS Defenders are cool, but the world needs much more resto-mod variety.