Austerity Measures

Originally Published: September 2018 Words: Mike Trott Pictures: Mike Trott
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first featured in the landy, may 2017

Liam Riley bought his Discovery because it was cheap. Since then, he’s turned it into an off-road hero – without ever needing to spend much money on making it what it is… 

Off-roading can be as cheap or expensive a hobby as you want it to be. You can lob on a set of all-terrains and go laning with your mates, or conversely you could modify a vehicle up to the nines and decide you’d like to become the next star of winch challenges.

It really is a personal decision. Most people fall somewhere between the two, of course (whether by accident or design) – which is why no two builds ever come out quite the same.

The problem is that modifying a vehicle can be a bit like opening a can of Pringles. Once you pop, you can’t stop. This is one of the few cases of an advertising slogan turning out to be completely true, as many of us have found to the cost of our waistlines. Finally, you’re left with the shell of an empty can – which will be reminiscent of what your wallet will look like after you’ve exhausted all your pocket money on suspension lifts and so on.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Oh and we’re on about the modifying business, not abstaining from Pringle annihilation – no one has sorted out a solution for stopping half way down the can as of yet.

Anyway, enough of the potato snacks. Liam Riley is a guy who got hold of a Land Rover Discovery 1 for very little money after hearing from a customer that there was one going cheap. Not that there’s such a thing as an expensive Disco 1 these days, unless you venture into the realms of genuine classics
and/or dealers on the lookout for a dopey punter to mug.

Back to Liam, anyway. A small amount of expenditure meant he had the basis for an off-road plaything, and he was very excited about all the different alterations he could make. But before he could truly get stuck in, the Discovery needed a bit of welding. 

Ah, a Discovery needing a bit of welding. How many of those have you come across…?

Sure enough, there wasn’t much left of the vehicle to actually weld to.

‘So I decided the very same night to just cut the back off and make it into a trayback,’ laughs Liam. Probably a wise decision, given his options – and of course taking this route meant less weight, less of an overhang and less rust issues to worry about in the future. Besides, traybacks are cool.

As a result, Liam’s Disco had its chassis shortened by a good couple of feet and a new rear crossmember welded in place. You’ll notice the fuel tank has also been relocated, and that the original has been replaced – the bright orange job now very visible among the rear of the vehicle once fed a generator.

‘It just happened to fit perfectly,’ explains Liam. ‘The sills have also been cut out and replaced with box section for added strength and to act as rock sliders.’

So far, then, Liam’s truck is one built for efficiency. And that doesn’t stop with the chassis, either. Every off-roader loves the 200Tdi engine, and the one in this Disco is the one with which it left the factory. Good mechanical maintenance is the key here, and a boost pin has been fitted just to take the fun element up a notch. ‘I didn’t want to play with it too much,’ Liam adds. ‘I wanted to keep it fairly reliable.’

So traybacking aside, has Liam actually made any significant modifications? Oh yes, don’t you worry about that! Let’s jump to some of the highlights, shall we? The suspension currently boasts +2” lift springs from Britpart, which are mounted using spacers to add the same amount of lift again, along with double-cranked trailing links and radius arms from Adrenalin 4x4.

There’s more, too, with heavy-duty tubular turrets up front, rear dislocation cones and +4” shocks from Pro Comp all-round. The relocation mounts are also from Adrenalin 4x4, as are the 2” dropped shock mounts you’ll find bolted to the chassis at the back.

‘There are a lot of Britpart products on the car,’ says Liam, ‘And some say you buy cheap, you buy twice. But I’ve used the parts and haven’t really had any problems.’

As many of us know, sometimes it’s the people fitting the kit, rather than the kit itself, that causes the problems. Oddly enough, though, no-one ever goes on a forum and rants like a fascist about their own crap workmanship when it all goes pear-shaped. Strange.

Crap workmanship is notable by its absence on the roll cage, which Liam put together himself having found a cheap pipe bender on eBay. It all ties in to the rear of the vehicle – where, in an unusual and very cute touch, the spare wheel carrier is hinged and supported by a pair of gas struts. It all works brilliantly.

The winch turned out to be a brilliant bit of work as well. ‘I picked up the winch bumper for £60,’ explains Liam. ‘And the winch was thrown in because the guy said it didn’t work. I took it and stripped it down, and found that the gears had seized. So I sorted it and put it back together and it’s worked fine ever since.’

The winch in question is a 9000lb Warn Tabor running Dyneema rope. Liam doesn’t regard it as anything special – but it works fine and cost nothing, and that’s special enough for most of us!

You’d think with all this engineering ability and bargain grabbing skill that perhaps this isn’t Liam’s first time building a real off-road weapon. But no.

‘A few years ago I bought a Suzuki SJ and I did it up ready, but just never got round to off-roading it,’ explains Liam. Perhaps deep inside he knew his heart lay with another brand?

‘I’ve had a couple of Land Rovers before, but this is the first one I’ve really spent any time on. I’ve done bits of laning, but at the moment I’m doing a lot of pay-and-plays. It’s just easier to do. It can be quite hard to find the information you need on the lanes that you can and can’t do, whereas with playdays you know you’ve got access all areas.’

We feel sure we can hear the sound of a GLASS executive calling out from the back of
the room and pointing out that the association’s members get free access to the Trailwise database of information on every right of way in the land. But that’s another story. Certainly, if you just want to go off-roading til ya puke, there’s no denying the appeal – and the sense – in paying a few quid for the right to go in as hard as you want on a private site.

‘Throughout the whole of this truck, I wanted to make it the best I could for the least amount of money,’ concludes Liam. Judging by the results, he has spent his money wisely. 

Like all projects, however, this Discovery will never be finished. Though since we took these pictures, it’s been finished as a Disco – because Liam has fitted a tubular Defender front end from RAC Parts, complete with a Defender bonnet and grille.

What’s next? The axles, probably, most likely in the shape of lockers or limited-slip differentials. 

But as is so often the case in the world of Land Rovers, there isn’t just one vehicle on the scene anymore. ‘I’m currently working on a Td5 Discovery with the father-in-law,’ confesses Liam. ’That will be used for laning. Perhaps we’ll use it for an expedition or two as well!’

Well, if you’re going to go travelling, there’s a very good reason why this Discovery is the opposite of what you want. ‘You can’t really get much luggage in a trayback,’ observes Liam, and you won’t hear us disagreeing. Turns out the man is as sharp with his eyes as he is with his money.

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