By on January 19, 2013

It’s Sandy

Murilee Martin and his merry band of adventurers have already weaved a fascinating tale of a harrowing escape from the vile Super storm Sandy after the Lemons Halloween Hooptiefest in New Hampshire. I have a much less exciting tale, but along the same ilk.

I’m on a boat!

Between deployments, I jumped at the chance to take the helm of the Three Pedal Mafia’s infamous 72 Sea Sprite. After an exceptional weekend, we had the trailer pointed south to Philadelphia. Halfway back, Southwest Air (the one with the on-board comedians) lets me know my flight to OKC has been cancelled. No problem, I was staying the night with team hotshoe Chris and gorgeous girlfriend/team/mate Chrissy. My hosts agreed to put me up an additional night. Monday was lackadaisical and included a trip to the Liberty Taproom for dinner.

Obligatory Facebook photo, taken blurry by the bartender

Over a few beers, Chris casually mentioned he was selling his 1999 Land Rover Discovery. This was his race support/tow pig since his team invited me to co-drive the mighty Wartburg in 2009.

Mad scientists all of them


He had owned the Disco(very) for years, after a long search for exactly the right Disco. Loved and meticulously maintained by the original owner, all the most common problems of these vehicles, including the nasty head gasket and front axle, had already been addressed. He was letting it go to make room for the upgraded tow pig, a Yukon 3500 Denali.

With no other words from SW, I presumed my flight was as scheduled. After a proper Philly cheesesteak lunch I was deposited 2 hours early at Philadelphia International. The Southwest counter was unlit and unoccupied. I called and was told all flights from that airport were cancelled. I was offered another delayed flight home late on Halloween the next day.  No thank you, I can rent a car and be home 2 hours before that one would land.

I called every freaking rental agency that had a kiosk.  All of them silently praised the clowns at Southwest, and openly wanted in excess of $600 for a tiny wheezing crapcan one way to Oklahoma. I then made what should have been my dumbest decision since refusing to go to the ER when a pneumatic cutoff wheel launched a chunk into my neck.

Plan B

“Hello? Chris? Yeah, you just sold a Land Rover.”

I sincerely figured at the price I was offered, I could drive the truck home, sell it and maybe makeup the gas money. My wife was less than confident;

“Just take the flight tomorrow.”

“What?!? Dangit Woman! I know how to get home. It’s a 13 year old British SUV with slightly less than 200,000 miles. What could possibly go wrong? “

By 6 PM EST I was rolling east in my new (to me) Land Rover, signed title and a freshly printed insurance card in the glove box.

I have to confess I knew almost nothing about Land Rovers , but having raced with Chris, I knew he was a stickler for maintenance and always very researched in his purchases. I have experience with British cars, so 187,000 miles scared me a bit. My teammate assured me he would never send me off across this great land of ours in a vehicle he didn’t trust.

The way home

In addition to being strict with maintenance, Chris also is particular about his modifications. My little Birmingham hottie was equipped with a 110 power inverter under the passenger seat which allowed me to keep my iPhone charged. The iPhone (the map was still by Google) informed me I had slightly less than 1,400 miles spread over 7 states to cover.

My parents had a vague inkling of where I was, so they were a tad worried. They called to check up on me. My plan induced laughter.

“You bought a car to drive home?”

“Um, no Dad, I bought a Land Rover. Cars are for peasants; this is quite simply the finest off road vehicle ever made.”

More laughter.  Apparently the over under from my family after the first flight cancellation was on me trying something like this. My Dad knew better.

Yeah, I was quickly smitten with my new purchase. I texted Chris; not only would I not be selling her, but she now had a name. In a nod to her golden color and the circumstances, she was now “Sandy.”

Sweeter than Pedro’s bike were Sandy’s official Land Rover bush grill guard and safari rack. Attached to both was a pair of Hella 700FF aux lights along with a pair of 550s mounted in the place of the original fogs. I could actually illuminate my home in Oklahoma from PA with all of these powered up.

Will Sandy destroy Mental’s marriage? Will it make good on a Land Rover’s reputation and die at the most inopportune moment? Will it duly serve Mental, even in the boring stretches between Columbus and Indianoplace? Tune in tomorrow for part two of the great Southwest Escape.

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22 Comments on “Capsule Review – 1999 Land Rover Discovery Series II, AKA – The Great Southwest Escape. Take One...”

  • avatar

    Rolling the dice… for his next trick, Chris will purchase a 1999 XJ Jaguar off a buy-here-pay-here lot and drive it coast to coast. ;)

  • avatar

    MG Midget was the ladies edition back home.. Disco was for people who couldn’t afford a Range Rover.

  • avatar

    Being from Oklahoma City does explain why you’d want to make that long drive. Everything’s so spread out here that you often have to drive quite a distance for your daily commute anyway…lol

  • avatar

    I’ve made many uneventful trips in my Disco series II, ABQ to OK city, Lubbock, Vegas. Holds plenty of luggage puppies and wives. Fine highway cruiser and 10X more comfortable than the “ancient orange” airplanes SW flies. Plus you can drive over ANYTHING.
    Smart move, very smart.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Things which should not be done in October:

    1. put up Thanksgiving decorations.

    2. launch an invasion of Russia.

    3. drive a British vehicle (length of trip is optional).

    • 0 avatar
      Aaron Whiteman


      Drove that car year round for 6 years, until I finally got a Subaru. Granted, I’ve only accumulated 50K miles since I got it 12 years ago, but I still drive it well into October. I only stop because it’s not any fun to drive with the roof up!

  • avatar

    Let me congratulate you on a well-chosen handle. I’m sure parts and service availability in OK (affecting resale price), as well as along your route, was part of your meticulous calculations. Having driven coast to coast several times, I know what a cinch it would be driving less than half that distance. Then again, I used Chevrolet and Ford RWD V8s, so this story should be interesting…

  • avatar

    He probably just got home yesterday.

  • avatar

    Great truck. I drive an ’04.

    As alluded to, when taken care of these things last forever. And its just a great car to settle into and cruise for miles, well until its time to stop for gas. 25 gallon tank filled with premium isn’t fun..

    • 0 avatar

      I believe the ’04 has a lot of upgrades over the older models, but all (well, admittedly both) of the Discos I’ve driven couldn’t be described as “settle in and cruise for miles”. Seems like there’s 15″ of slop in the steering wheel and the short wheelbase and tall greenhouse made it feel tippy to me.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love Land Rovers, but I’m not sure I could own/drive one every day. A buddy and I play a silly game where we text pictures of Land Rover products sitting on the sides of roads.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree on the “slop”, it does feel that way especially compared to a decent sports sedan, but it isn’t any different than most truck based SUVs. You quickly get used to it, I found the Disco one of the best handling SUVs I have driven. And on the highway that doesn’t translate to the road, it tracks very well, maybe thanks to the full time AWD.

        As for feeling tippy, that is just a feeling from not being used to the extremely high seating and low glass. The seatbottoms are a full 3-ft off the pavement, it takes some getting used to. But the top structure is aluminum and the weight is all concentrated down low, which makes it less tippy than typical SUVs. That is why it can handle a side grade of something like 30 degrees without tipping. It was extremely unsettling when we took ours on the test course but it can handle it and once you get used to it its quite fun to scare your friends.

        As for your text game, sounds like you just think these are unreliable. I almost never see any cars stuck on the side of the road, and when I do they are mostly old junkers, not Land Rovers or any of the other usual “unreliable” suspects. Can’t be much of a fun game if you specifically look for a brand that doesn’t even sell all that well in the first place. Silly indeed.

  • avatar

    These things are so cheap in Australia. Nobody wants them second hand because of their poor reliability and quality. You’d expect to pay at double for a Toyota Land Cruiser of the same vintage because they’re bulletproof. That being said, I’ve always wanted one.

  • avatar

    I had a Disco and loved it, if I ever bought another SUV I would buy one of them again. They are bargains in the used market because everyone is scared of them. Yes, I am sure it will challenge you occasionally, but if you do your own work and keep up with the maintenance you will love it. Sounds like your buddy already addressed the worst things, and the replacement parts are usually built better than the factory parts. The best year is the 04 from what I heard, when it was given the better suspension, headlights, wheels, and engine from the Range Rover. But the 99 is easier and cheaper to work on. IIRC you can even do some pretty sweet engine swaps or upgrades to make these both more reliable and more powerful. Beware of master cylinder failures, they are notorious and can be bad if it fails at the wrong time!

  • avatar

    Famous last words…

    “What?!? Dangit Woman! I know how to get home. It’s a 13 year old British SUV with slightly less than 200,000 miles. What could possibly go wrong? “

    You better be touching allot of wood, all different kinds of it! Ash and Oak work best but what ever you have around.

    As someone that has worked on many many many.. add in more friends Disco’s and other BL/BMW/insert what ever travesty from parent company you want. I can only say, you are more masochistic than I am. And I drive a 470,000 mile Peugeot! (Woot 30 more K and I will have half a MILLION!) See previous write in I did months ago to Sajeev.

    Perhaps I should own one and just show how many miles one can get, wait no. I am not -that- masochistic! Pain is good, but that is pain in the pocket to say the least! Even IF I own stuff to work on the ABS!

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    “My little Birmingham hottie”

    Great, except Land-Rovers aren’t made in Birmingham, They’re made in Solihull

  • avatar

    Ah Discos – strongly considered buying one last year when I decided my next 2nd car/winter beater would be a proper 4×4 that could tow. I’ve owned a British car for 18 years, have a garage full of tools and a lift, and I am a pretty good wrench with excellent luck with European cars of all types. So I bought an ’02 Jeep Grand Cherokee… But maybe someday. :-)

  • avatar

    My mom had one of these back in the late 90s when all rich white chicks needed some ridiculously large SUV and the H2 was considered crass. She wanted something more fancy then the 50k 4runner Limiteds running around (anyone stupid enough to put down 50k for what was a cramped truck with an 183 hp engine needs their head examined).

    Thus came the White Gold Disco with 2 tone interior. Looked like a BMW inside, looked like an SUV outside. LR dealers back then were exclusive dens of Camel Trophy winning trucks, fancy brochures printed for what seemed 10 bucks a piece, LR Experience t-shirts and other garbage that was overpriced for anything but a dollar store, and dealers who would take you and the truck on a plastic fake rock wall to show off you the off-road prowess of a vehicle you wouldn’t even drive on grass.

    Mom had the LR fever twice. The 2000 Disco she bought was one of the most dreadful vehicles I’ve ever seen in the West Bloc. Everything broke. Electrics, forget it. I figured Lucas set up some kind of force field that LR electronics somehow managed to work within a quarter mile of the dealership, then quickly stopped once you drove any further. Window switches, seat switches, dash switches, 4wd selectors worked once to indicate their function, then failed. Some just fell off. The engine started some times, others it just decided to take a union sanctioned holiday. None of the lights and signals ever worked in pairs, fog, turn, brake, etc. Usually one of each decided to go out for no good reason, replacing the bulb made the other light fail.

    These shambling failures started at about 6 months, then went on to the 2 year mark when she disposed of the wretched thing…

    Mom never learned her lesson. In 2010, she bought a supercharged Sport. The sleek spaceship lowered itself to ground level on its fancy suspension after a long highway trip, at a gas station not too far from home, folded up its mirrors and just died. Complete brick. Like it was hit with an EMP. LR’s miracle workers couldn’t bring it back to life, effectively lemoning the car.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s awesome since the H2 wasn’t around in the late 90s.

    • 0 avatar

      Also, I’m pretty sure you couldn’t option a 90s 4Runner up to $50K unless you got the dealer-ripoff rust-proofing, VIN-etching, platinum extended warranty, plus rolled your underwater loan from your previous car into it.

      I believe the V8-powered 4Runner that debuted in MY 2003 could be optioned closer to $50K in more recent years, but that had a 245 hp V6 or a 235 hp V8, not the 183 hp V6 of 2002 and earlier which topped out around $40K.

      Similarly, the H2 didn’t show up until MY 2003 either.

      It sounds like either you got the year horrendously wrong, or you were trying to sound older than you actually are.

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