I served with the US Marines in Vietnam, and ran the field stores in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. American 4x4 makers offer discounts to veterans like me, but I still drive a Land Rover.
I first got into them by using an online match-making app, which said a Defender 90 was the truck for me. My wife disagreed, so we compromised and bought a 1995 Discovery 1. That saw me joining the Texas Rovers Club (texasrovers.org), which gave me an opportunity to play with lots of Solihull products. Then in 2005 I fell in love with this G4 Limited Edition Discovery with 25,000 miles on the clock, so it was hasta la vista to the Discovery 1.
A common issue with the 4.6 V8 is 'slipped sleeve syndrome', when the cylinder liners become detached, causing a rattle and leading to head gasket issues. So, after replacing the head gaskets and then a year later losing oil pressure due to a loose camshaft bearing, I lost faith in Land Rover's engine designers and looked at my options. I wanted to keep the Discovery 2, but have the 4.6's idiosyncrasies designed-out.
I did my research and went for a remanufatured unit from Great Plains Rover in Oklahoma (greatplainsrovers.com). They include enhancements such as Turner Engineering's top-hat cylinder liners, ARP head studs, and an H180 sports torque camshaft that increases peak power by 22bhp and gives more low-end torque.
Top-hat liners have a ridge around the top that fits into a milled rebate in the block, so once the engine is bolted together they can't move. But GPR don't bolt the engine together, they use studs: that makes it easier to align the gasket and head accurately, and it's far more reliable to torque external nuts than bolts that are turning into the block.
At $5750 [about £3460] it wasn't cheap, but I'm happy. It came with a three-year warranty, which I tested with six months to go when a cylinder liner assembly fault revealed itself. I got a new engine and a letter of apology!
I also made a few off-roading improvements, starting with taller 265/75 R16 Yokohama Geolanda MT tyres and a two-inch lift; I restored articulation with adjustable shock mounts and 28in ProComp shocks. Over the years I've added a Safety Devices Highlander roof rack, a steering guard and a set of Rovertracks extended rock sliders to replace the vulnerable side steps.
I also picked up a Cherry Bomb silencer for a song (actually $38 with a gift voucher) so she sings sweet as anything. The most recent addition was a Mantec raised air intake.
Even though the Discovery 2 has now done 100,000 miles, it still drives like new. Its on-road driveability is fantastic, particularly when my wife and I tow our Casita rough-terrain caravan. I also drive the intermediate trails on various rallies, including my club's evetns at Barnwell Mountain, which is where these photos were taken.
I make a point of not getting stuck, and take a lot of pleasure in showing all the youngsters how it's done!
Originally featured in the May 2014 issue of Land Rover Owner International. Download a digital issue, or order a back issue by calling 01858 438884.
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