's Great British Cars – Land Rover Discovery Mk1

Sun 7th Oct 2018

Great Britain, great cars. The UK motor industry is respected the world over, and though many of the vehicles are actually owned by foreign manufacturers, there can be no doubting of the fantastic heritage of the British motor.

To celebrate Britain’s famous history is launching a series looking back on some of the most famous vehicles the UK has ever seen.

Land Rover Discovery Mk1
Any vehicle credited with saving an entire motor group is worthy of praise, but when that motor group is the Land Rover and more importantly the team behind the iconic series of SUVs, that vehicle should quite rightly demand legendary status.

Launched in 1989, the Land Rover Discovery was a mish-mash of contemporary driving design, put together inside a shell of bit-parts from around the Rover Group’s many different cars on offer.

So what we got was an SUV built on a shoestring, with parts from the Austin Maestro, the Austin Montego, headlights from the Freight Rover van and taillights from the Maestro van, even the door handles were from a Morris Marina.

But this was no Frankenstein’s monster of a motor, in fact it won a British Design Award in the year of its launch… but how? Much of that credit must go to whoever made the decision to bring in the influential Conran Design Group to design the Discovery’s interior.

Given the simple brief of creating the Discovery as a ‘lifestyle accessory’, the most innovative SUV of its time came with the kind of luxury you would expect from a consultancy responsible for some of the 20th Century’s most breathtaking design work.

The Conran’s chose to produce their mock-ups away from the factory floor, instead using the Range Rover bodyshell at Conran’s own workshops. This freedom gave them the opportunity to experiment with some brilliant ideas, including magazine holders above the windscreen, hand-holds for rear passengers which were incorporated into the head restraints of the front seats, remote radio controls on the instrument cluster, twin removable sunroof panels, which came complete with a zip-up storage bag. The Discovery even came with a Land Rover branded cloth fabric holdall in the front centre console, which is a collectors item these days for those which survived.

Land Rover had discovered a real winner on the road, their mid-sized SUV perfectly placed between the defender and the larger Range Rover.

Years of manufacture: 1989-1998 
Price when new: £19,249
Price now: £200-£10,000
Engine: 2,496cc 4cyl diesel, 110bhp
Top speed: 87mph