High-hour Horsepower: Land Rover Discovery hits 540,000 miles

After featuring a succession of high-mileage Japanese 4x4s, we’ve been presented with a slightly surprising new chart topper – a 1990s Land Rover Discovery.

To anyone who’s owned one of these vehicles, it may seem a little far-fetched that an example has managed to surpass the half-a-million-mile mark.

As our regular columnist and seasoned Land Rover owner Stephen Carr recently pointed out: “I fear the bar has been set too high for me – the one I drive most of the time has started to push alarming quantities of oil out of the breather, despite several visits to the garage.”

But Northamptonshire-based self-employed contractor Martin Rainbow has managed to buck the reliability trend and eke a staggering, and relatively trouble-free, 540,000 miles from his 1996 model.

Original running gear

Martin Rainbow’s Land Rover Discovery

  • Year 1996
  • Purchased 1998
  • Purchase mileage 96,000 miles
  • Mileage now 540,000
  • Engine 2.5-litre four-cylinder Land Rover 300Tdi
  • Power 111hp
  • Torque 263Nm
  • Transmission R380 five-speed manual
  • Price paid £13,500

As the rules of this series dictate, this Solihull-built truck still has its original engine and most other major parts are its first too, including the five-speed manual transmission and the starter motor.

Mr Rainbow is the Discovery’s second owner, having bought it when it was just 18 months old and on an already high 93,000 miles.

“I paid £13,500 for it, which was a lot for me at the time,” he says. “I then had plenty of sleepless nights wondering if I’d done the right thing.”

But since then he’s clocked up about 20,000 miles a year and every year it goes through its MOT with very little bother.

“When it went in for its first service the chap said: ‘There are good and bad ones of these – yours looks like its going to be a good ‘un’.”

To keep it mechanically sound Mr Rainbow has continued to carry out a full service every 6,000 to 8,000 miles, including all oils and filters.

For most of its early life, this involved filling the block with straight mineral oil, but now he’s ungraded to semi-synthetic 15W40. “When it’s running on this it doesn’t burn a drop,” he says.

Long-lasting engine

The engine fitted is Land Rover’s 2.5-litre 300Tdi turbo diesel that, when new, developed 111bhp and 263Nm torque.

Apart from regular servicing, this has had just one core plug replaced and it is still on its original head gasket. The tappets were adjusted about 12 years ago and they’re still OK now.

Engine of Martin Rainbow's Discovery

© James Andrews

One possible reason for the engine’s longevity is the fact that Mr Rainbow gives it a regular dose of Millers diesel additive. This apparently helps lubricate the fuel system and the engine in general.

He uses regular pump diesel and during general, mixed driving an 80-litre tank will get him about 600 miles (about 34mpg). However, on a long, cruisy run this will nudge up to almost 40mpg.

Tougher transmission

Unlike earlier 200 Tdis that were known for gearbox problems, this 300 model had a beefed-up version that’s still going strong.

There’s apparently just a slight crunch when going into second as, understandably, the synchro is slightly worn.

The transducer that controls the speedometer also stopped working a few years ago and it took a month or two for him to get around to fixing it. As a result the odometer reads only 537,000.

Interior of Martin Rainbow's Discovery

© James Andrews

Other mechanical work has included three clutches – the original lasted for 370,000 miles, but the second was much shorter as the garage forgot to fit the version with a heavy-duty selector fork.

Show us yours…

If you’ve got a high-mileage 4×4 that’s given you sterling service and is still on its original engine, we’d like to hear from you.

The trucks above are clearly tough to beat, so we’d be interested to see vehicles with 350,000 miles or more on the clock. Thankfully we’re no longer eagerly awaiting news of a vehicle from the Land Rover stable that’s made it into the high-mileage club.

If you’d like to be featured, email a few details to oliver.mark@markallengroup.com

It has also had a pair of rear brake callipers, an alternator, one radiator and new track rod ends.

But the rest of the mechanicals are original, including the steering box, front suspension turrets and the exhaust – although this has had some welding.

But it’s the bodywork that has required most of the attention. Over the years it’s had two sets of sills, front inner wing sections, repairs to the rear inner wings and a new boot floor.

Mr Rainbow carried out all of these repairs himself using a mix of pre-made repair panels and some he fabricated himself.

The original set of replacement sills came from Land Rover, but these were expensive and rotted out quickly.

The next set were galvanised versions from an independent suppler, which are still solid.

Some of the electrics have also had attention, particularly the ECU. “I’ve learnt my way around it over the years and I can usually pinpoint any problems pretty quickly,” he says. “They’re not expensive to fix either.”

Despite the mileage, the truck is still Mr Rainbow’s daily driver and he has no plans to change it or reduce its workload. “It’s a working vehicle and although I look after it mechanically it doesn’t get pampered,” he says.

“After all this time it’s got quite a bit of sentimental value and I still enjoy driving it.”

Other high-milers

Here’s the league table of mile-munching motors we’ve featured in the past:

Show us yours

If you’ve got a high-houred tractor that’s given you sterling service, has clocked more than 20,000 hours and is still on the front line, then we’d like to hear from you.

Just email a few details to oliver.mark@markallengroup.com

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