A used at a bargain price is a rather rare occurrence – both classic and new Defenders are sought-after. Finding a reasonable is much easier because there are many of them on the market and they’ve been around since 2010. These can be picked up for between $10,000 and $15,000 for a 2010 model. The LR4 was the predecessor of today’s Discovery and it, along with its LR3 predecessor, was always called Discovery in other parts of the world. They’re all from the same lineage that started with the original 1989 Mk1 Discovery, which was sold in the USA in 1993. This is the American Discovery lineage:
- First-generation Discovery, Series I, called ‘Discovery’, from 1993 to 1998
- First-generation Discovery, Series II, called ‘Discovery’, from 1998 to 2004
- Second-generation Discovery, called ‘LR3’, from 2004 to 2009
- Second-generation Discovery, called ‘LR4’, from 2009 to 2017
- Third-generation Discovery, again called ‘Discovery’, from 2017 onward
A rare and very special 1992 Land Rover Discovery made the news this week because it was auctioned off on Cars and Bids for a whopping $90,000. For comparison, this is over $20,000 more expensive than the best and most expensive off-the-showroom-floor new Discovery flagship, which has a starting MSRP of under $70,000 – and $37,000 more than the base model. People can buy and sell enthusiasts’ cars from the ’80s, ’90s, and beyond on Cars and Bids, an online auction site – and the brainchild of well-known car-review expert and YouTuber Doug DeMuro. But getting back to our Discovery, why is this nearly 30-year-old car, and how much does it sell for so significant?
The Camel Trophy was a car endurance challenge held once a year from 1980 to 2000 and mostly made use of Land Rovers’ various models over the years. The 1992 event started in Manaus, Brazil, and ended about 1,000 miles later in Georgetown, Guyana. The vehicles used were Land Rover Discovery Mk1 200tdi models. Land Rover Special Vehicles commissioned the car in this story for Team USA to compete in the 1992 Camel Trophy challenge. Although Switzerland won the 1992 event, Team USA won the Team Spirit Award. Here’s a short history of the Camel Trophy:
- 1980: The vehicle was the Ford U50 and the location was the Trans-Amazonian Highway.
- 1981 and 1982: The Land Rover Range Rover, in Sumatra and Papua New Guinea, respectively.
- 1983: The Land Rover Series III, in Zaire.
- 1984: The Land Rover 110, in Brazil.
- 1985 and 1986: The Land Rover 90, in Borneo and Australia, respectively.
- 1987: The Range Rover TD, in Madagascar.
- 1988 and 1989: The Land Rover 110, in Sulawesi and the Amazon, respectively.
- 1990-1994: The Land Rover Discovery 200tdi, in Siberia, Tanzania, Guyana, Sabah-Malaysia, and Argentina/Paraguay/Chile, respectively.
- 1995-1997: The Land Rover Discovery 300tdi, in Guatemala/Mexico, Kalimantan, and Mongolia, respectively.
- 1998: The Land Rover Freelander, in Tierra del Fuego.
- 1999: No event was held.
- 2000: The Ribtec 655, in Tonga-Samoa.
The auction car was imported to the USA a short while after completing the 1992 Camel Trophy and has been left in completely original condition. Its Sandglow Yellow paint still bears the scars of the grueling off-road race and is full of dents and scratches – and rather rusty. Even the tires are original and suffer from severe dry rot. Of course, this untouched condition, and the fact that the vehicle has a low mileage of only 29,690 kilometers (18,450 miles) on the odometer contribute to the price it fetched at auction. It certainly wasn’t its luxury features, because it has none.
This is a true collector’s item, a car lifted straight from the 1992 Camel Trophy and only cleaned before being put in storage for nearly 30 years. It has a title and may legally be driven in the US. The engine under the hood is a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four diesel engine producing only 111 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. This car is no modern crossover with punchy on-road performance; it was made to get you anywhere off-road. The five-speed manual transmission drives the rear or all four wheels via a selectable part-time 4×4 system.
The car was sold with its original UK number plate and the uniforms Team USA – Jim West and Dan Amon – wore. It’s in terrible condition, but that adds to its appeal and it is impressive that it still drives, even having been completely submerged once during the 1992 event. With four days to go, the bid was still at $22,500, but it eventually sold for $90,000 on May 4th, 2021.