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Discovery series 1 1989 - 1999

Developed by David Evans and his team, 'Project Jay' was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1989 as Land Rover Discovery. The Discovery marked a major departure from previous Land Rover vehicles by targeting the leisure and family 4x4 market. Although this market barely existed when the Discovery was designed, the timing was perfect for the UK which quickly took to the new vehicle.

G-wac 3 door Discovery 1
3-door Discovery Series 1 - one of the now famous press-launch G-WACs - Land Rover press picture.

The Discovery could have looked very different - as the 1986 clay styling model pictured below shows, the Rover Group influence could have been much more pronounced. You can see from this picture that a five door version was already in the pipeline.

  Discovery styling model - land Rover press picture

1986 Discovery styling model - Land Rover press picture

Unlike Land Rover's previous products, the Discovery was capable of competing against the family car, boasting a comfortable ride and an interior designed by Sir Terrence Conran's Design studio. It could also compete in terms of power and performance, as it used the Rover 3.5 litre V8, tuned to give 144 bhp. For a diesel option, the 111 bhp 200TDi direct-injection turbo diesel engine was introduced. This boasted impressive economy and best-in-class performance, although it was slightly noisier than diesels in competing vehicles.

Even though it was aimed at an essentially family market, the Discovery still boasted the best-in-class off road ability that the Land Rover has come to symbolise. As well as powerful engine options, a transfer case and locking centre differential were fitted. The 100" wheelbase chassis was taken directly from the Range Rover Classic, with coil spring suspension and disc brakes all-round. The only thing missing was the Range Rover's Boge Hydromat load levelling device. The chassis lineage was kept quiet, as Land Rover did not want to lose Range Rover sales.

Probably the oddest feature of the first Discovery vehicles was that they were only available as a 3 door version. Very strange for what was marketed as a durable large family vehicle! The Range Rover was also initially built with only 3 doors. In that case, it was because of concerns about the rigidity of the body whilst driving off-road. This time it was merely the case that they did not wish to erode Range Rover sales by offering a 5 door version of Discovery straight away, a strategy which worked well, allowing them time to push Range Rover further upmarket before the Discovery 5 door version was released, a year after the 3 door.

The success of the Discovery was ensured by the combination of an essentially new market, the 5-door model, and continued upmarket shifting of the Range Rover. Revisions came in 1994 with the introduction of the new, quieter 111 bhp 300 tdi diesel engine, larger headlights and interior enhancements. As well as a 2 litre, 134 bhp, 4 cylinder petrol engine, (MPi), 4-speed automatic gearbox, and air-bags. The 3.9 V8i engine was also introduced to the range, essentially a re-bored and fuel injected version of the 3.5 V8, but this time giving 182 bhp.

The Honda Crossroad

Produced by Land Rover for sale by Honda in Japan, the Honda Crossroad was basically a badge engineered Series 1 Discovery.

The Honda Crossroad
The Honda Crossroad.

Club Link: Discovery Owners Club

If you can help out with more information on Discovery 1, or the Honda Crossroad, please do so.

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Discovery Series 1 pictures

Discovery 1 3-door
Discovery Series 1 200tdi.

Revised Discovery Series 1 300tdi
Revised Discovery Series 1 300tdi.

Revised Discovery Series 1 V8i
Revised Discovery Series 1 V8i.

Honda Crossroad
Honda Crossroad.