I recall when we bought our first Land Rover Discovery. We were at a Silver Auction in Portland.

My daughter Alexandra was in high school. The Disco had been entered by a local dealer known for the brilliant presentation of his inventory – sometimes referred to as “putting lipstick on a pig.”

It was burgundy metallic with a tan interior. Alex was immediately smitten. Even today, Discos, with their raised rear roofs, reminiscent of an Olds Vista Cruiser, have a unique appearance.

She casually walked up to the consignor and asked, “What’s your reserve on this?”.

His response was, “$5,000.”

“Dad, we can afford this!”

I had never entertained owning a Disco before, had done no research, and was blissfully unaware that buying one was similar to wading into the alligator-infested Okefenokee swamp.

Soon enough we became owners. I hadn’t noticed that the brake-pad warning light was on constantly (my PPI was not very thorough). Nor did I check to see if the sunroofs opened properly. (They didn’t.) The power locks, windows and seat heaters seemed to be on a permanent vacation.

The repair bills began to pile up.

As I learned more about this model, I began to discover that no matter how cheap it was, an unsorted one was no bargain.

I had not yet found out about the Pacific Coast Rover Club and the resident Oregon Rover guru, Doug Shipman and his shop, Ship’s Mechanical.

Alex and her friends loved the Disco. It went to a prom. It got driven off-road.

All the while, like a migratory bird, the Disco kept going from shop to shop.

Each place found new and expensive things to fix.

When I had doubled “my investment” in the Disco, I sold it at No Reserve at another Silver Auction. I think the final price was $3,500.

Since then, I have gotten more Rover savvy. Under Doug’s tutelage, I have owned a Series III ’88, an ’89 Range Rover Classic (last year of the exposed door hinges) and a RHD turbo-diesel Defender 90 that was brought over from England. (Bradley’s favorite accessory on the D90 was the “ladder to nowhere” on the back that let him climb onto the Cheetah roof rack.)

Each rig has enriched my life and taken me to places I would never have gone otherwise.

I recall snapping both rear axles in the 88 and disconnecting the rear drive shaft to drive home in FWD. Alex and I flew to L.A. to buy the RRC over Christmas break from SCMer Jeffrey Stout and tried to stop at every shopping mall on the way home. The front u-joint on the D90 disintegrated on the way to Timberline Lodge. I crawled under it, disconnected the front drive-shaft and continued on my way in RWD mode.

The D90 was kitted out as an off-road beast, with an onboard compressor and a rear air-locker, plus winch. Alex conquered some spectacular trails in the Tillamook Forest in the rig.

But I can no longer clamber into the lifted Defender. I mentioned this to Shipman, and he told me he had a client who wanted to sell her 2001 Disco 2. “It has over 200,000 miles, but I’ve been driving it a lot and it seems sound and reliable. It’s not lifted or modified for intense off-road use.”

Dark green over tan leather, it was remarkably stock. With a little twisting and turning, I was able to get behind the wheel.

Doug quoted me a “friendly price” and the Disco was mine. Given how few miles I put on a car, I expect to get a couple of years of light use out of it without dipping into Bradley’s college fund. But I am also aware that there are no guarantees with a 20-year-old used vehicle. You walk to the edge of the high-dive platform, pinch your nose with your fingers and jump.

I bought it for two reasons. First, I enjoy the Rover Club, with its family-friendly events. Kids and dogs abound on the trail runs. The Disco will let me go on a typical run; the extreme capabilities of the D90 will not be necessary.

More important, the Disco lets me turn an upcoming Thanksgiving journey into a road trip with my son Bradley.

We have been planning to visit our good friends Michael and Ben Cottam in Bend, Oregon. It’s about 160 miles. My favorite route is Highway 26 over Mt. Hood; AWD is required.

Yes, we are being safe. Bradley and I are quarantined, as are the Cottams. We will not be venturing away from his house, and will wear masks when gassing up.

Bradley has never been in a Disco and is looking forward to the adventure. While it won’t offer the same Indiana Jones adventure of the more primitive D90, it is still a wildly different experience than riding in a regular car.

And after all, isn’t creating “outside-the-box” experiences what owning old cars is all about? If we drove across Mt. Hood in a modern lookalike SUV, we would just be going from point A to point G. In the Disco, with the spectre of it “failing to proceed” lurking in the dark recesses of our minds, we will be on an adventure.

I’m having Doug put a “ladder to nowhere” on the Disco, which Bradley thinks makes it the perfect rig. Would that all our fantasies could be satisfied so easily and inexpensively.

Another father-son road trip is just around the corner.

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  1. Talk about eternal optimism and a flat learning curve. But, it is wonderful that there are people like Mr. Martin. How else would the market for questionable, clapped-out Alfas and Rovers survive? Not that my garage is free of highly questionable purchases.
    It also appears that he is a highly skilled, emergency mechanic. On the other hand, he had no choice but to be if he wanted to get home. I well remember lying under my Austin-Healey 100S at a cocktail party.

  2. Keith Thank you so much for this little tidbit cross section of classic car ownership. A welcomed departure from all the political rhetoric found on election day. Heart felt memories of famed early “Silver” auctions and the promise of new adventures warmed me this day. Hope you and Bradley have fun making new Thanksgiving memories.

  3. YAHOO You Always Have Other Options…. The car/truck may have to change but the reasons are still the same. Drive, Have Fun and meet interesting people. Don’t let up.

  4. I’m glad you wrote about this as I was curious when you mentioned you had bought a Disco. One of those is an automotive itch I have yet to scratch but am looking to do so. The main reason I never have( other than parking, I’m about maxed out at 5 cars at home currently) is knowing there is a loooong list of things to avoid I dont know about, that are wrong with the majority of vehicles available on Craigslist at any given time. I wish you the best of luck in yours, but it sounds like it may be about as good as they come.