As Fresh As A Daisy

Originally Published: July 2016 Words: Mike Trott Pictures: Mike Trott
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 FIRST FEATURED IN THE LANDY, JULY 2016

Mark Burston may own a Discovery that has covered nearly 700,000 miles, but it’s a Disco that just keeps on giving. And what it gives Mark is a four-wheeled machine he can use every day, yet still allow him to rule the roost at Silverdale too. It’s quite something...

A 200Tdi engine is a highly sought-after thing. Strong, willing, capable and thankfully simple to work on, it’s regarded by many as the best engine Land Rover has ever made. 

But would you want to be the owner of the 200Tdi in this Discovery? It’s an engine with the ability to go round the clock, for sure – but this one has recently racked up its 684,800th mile! That’s like going round the world 27 times, having driven round the whole coast of Britain twice and popped over to Moscow and back as a warm-up.

The average Disco, Tdi or not, would have snuffed it more than half a million miles ago. But as we all know, a Land Rover only as good as the man who works on it.

That’s where this Discovery’s owner comes in. Land Rover owners earn their corn in some weird and wonderful jobs, and Mark Burston is definitely one of them. He builds submarines. Nuclear ones.

Two things to say about this. One, Mark is used to working to very, very high standards indeed. Two, he could be in the back end of Scotland today and the deep south of England tomorrow (it’s easier to get the engineer to the sub than the other way round, see…)

That’s where all those miles come from. Well, most of them. Most people would choose a dull repmobile for a life of hacking up and down the M6, but Mark is definitely not most people. Which is why you’ll see his Disco getting down and dirty on playdays and green lanes on a regular basis.

Actually, though, he stumbled upon the Disco while looking for a van. It wasn’t quite the Transit he’d been after, but it was mint and only had 48,000 miles on the clock, so he couldn’t think of a reason not to buy it. That was a bit more than 12 years ago.

‘She stayed fairly standard for a while,’ Mark recalls, ‘with the exception of chrome bull bars and some newish lights.’ But then the modifying started – as it often does, with bigger tyres. ‘I quickly caught the disease and found I had to beat my mates. I soon found I needed to cut out the arches and then I lifted the body shortly after.’

And it’s gone on from there. Despite being a vehicle that’s well used to putting on a thousand-odd miles in the course of a week, the Disco has become a 4x4 that’s able to go in as hard at playdays as it does on the motorway. 

‘It has been ideal for me because it’s easy to work on,’ says Mark. ‘I can service it within an hour. And it does everything I want – with the comfort of a Range Rover. It has been a very reliable truck – and an awesome off-roader!’

It’s not the first Land Rover he’s owned, though. In fact, it says something that he’s had it for such a long time, because he’s had quite a few cars in the past – some of them at least as remarkable as this one. Safe to say he doesn’t like ‘em boring.

‘I had a Shelby GT500 at one point,’ he remarks casually. ‘That had 900 horsepower. It had to go, though; it’s the only car that has ever actually scared me! That was a very bad car…’ 

That’s ‘very bad’ in the ‘very good’ sense, obviously. 

Mark also had a Range Rover a couple of decades back, which is why he can compare the Disco to one in terms of comfort. Maybe it’s what infected him with the need for another Landy while he was out looking at Transits, too…

Just as well it did, though. These days, Mark says, his endless travels around the country give him the
perfect opportunity to check out a
never-ending list of new green lanes. It’s got to the point where he reckons he knows most of what the byways Britain has to offer!

Speaking of exploring, he wouldn’t mind a vacation at some point. Needless to say, his Land Rover would come too. ‘Taking the Disco to Iceland at some point, I’d love that. Maybe for like a three-week holiday. Hopefully we can sort it out when we’ve got a bit more time.’

That might sound like a tall order in a truck with so many miles under it, but Mark has the tools and the skills to keep it going no matter what. And it’s about as ready as it will ever be – Mark doesn’t have many adjustments lined up in the future. A cage would be one, but he’s ruled that out because of the extra weight – and being a boy with a toy, he says it would encourage him to try things that he shouldn’t. ‘I don’t always know my limits!’ he confesses. 

Something he certainly does know, however, is how to run an old Disco. And here’s a pearl of wisdom you won’t hear from any Hooray Henrys in loadsamoney Range Rover Sports: ‘If you mix a little bit of two-stroke oil in with the diesel, it lubricates the engine that little bit more. It reduces smoke because it burns that much quicker, there’s less friction in the parts and I’ve been getting up to 40mpg and 600 miles per tank.’

That’s a clever one, to be sure, and it’s been all over the forums for a while, but Mark’s the first off-roader we’ve come across with experience of using the technique. He’s also the first Discovery owner we’ve met to have tried something altogether less common – dealing with the inevitable rust you get on old Discoverys by fetching off the 200Tdi body and craning on a 300 shell to replace it.

Bought from a local scrapyard, the new body came from what was originally a Japanese-market Disco. It was, says Mark, immaculate – though of course it didn’t it, being from the wrong car. 

Not a problem, when you deal with a problem the Burston way. Which is to drive home from work on Friday afternoon (bear in mind that this can be anything up to about 300 miles), lift the old body off by bedtime, work like a nutter all weekend long and finish the job in time for tea and medals on Sunday night. 

Things the new body didn’t have include the bonnet you see in our pictures. Not a common sight, this… in fact, it’s so uncommon that if you’ve seen one before, it’s because you’ve met Mark already. ‘I’ve recently had the new custom bonnet added to finish her off,’ he says. ‘Chris Higgins made it, at grpmylandy.com. I’ve had loads of positive comments on how it looks, and Chris is looking at producing them on a wider scale.’ The words ‘supply’ and ‘demand’ come to mind… as do others like ‘hot’ and ‘cakes’. The man’s going to do very well out of these.

As this illustrates, the image matters to Mark. His vehicles are street machines to him, and that applies just as much to the Disco as to his old GT500. And just as that particular eyeball-peeler of a car was about go as well as show, his off-road warrior is the real thing. Will it still be with him by the time its millionth mile clocks up? You’d be mad to bet against it.

‘A thank you to MM4x4 for all my parts and all the help and advice,’ says Mark, ‘to Chris Higgins for my bonnet and to all my friends and family – Mark Hodgkiss, Ray Timbrell, Jamie Warner, Kai and Jade Burston, Adam Drake and Ian Lison for all the welding. Chris Maitland, Warner Lewis for my electrics and of course, my wife, Tracey Burston for putting up with all the late nights and weekends, the mess and the oil that I manage to get everywhere. One life, live it!’

From us, a special mention must go to the team behind Silverdale. Run by Explore Off Road, playdays are regularly held here and it’s a site that any off-roader can relish. Check out their upcoming events at exploreoffroad.com

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