Magazine article The Spectator

Discos for a Song

Magazine article The Spectator

Discos for a Song

Article excerpt

I sense a discovery coming on. Not the double helix sort but the one with the capital D. They look like ice-cream vans with windows and they are to the middle classes what green wellies were to the - well, the middle classes.

As with the ubiquitous welly, from the day Discos appeared in 1989 it was clear that they should have existed for ever. They more than met a market; they helped create one. And, again like the green welly, it was at first impossible for me to join in. There needs to be a word for this snobbish self-spite that means that, if everyone else likes it, I mustn't, or not yet, anyway. It was the same with Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. When it was all the rage I didn't deign to open the covers, but when everyone stopped talking about it I read it furtively in the long watches of many long nights, an army radio transmitter and its operator crackling and spluttering beside me. It was the perfect escape. I now wear green wellies because they're as common as grass and I need no longer fear to be taken for what I probably am. Anyway, it's hard to find black ones.

Discoveries, too, have multiplied to the point where I can now risk being seen in one. They've also recently got a lot cheaper and, if the one in your local garage hasn't, tell them it should have. Pretty soon it will have to be.

Of course, there were other reasons for not having had one before. The LandRover quality control that allowed bits to fall off and early gearboxes to disintegrate is still not what it should be, even though much improved. The wallow and roll on corners went on far too long without improvement. The diesel was reliable and economical but sounded agricultural, the V8 petrol was very thirsty, the two-litre petrol sluggish. As for value for money, the competition was offering three-year warranties and bit and pieces like air-conditioning as standard while at Solihull they were still aligning reluctant doors with bits of wood. Discoveries were not as well put together as their design and price demanded and it's hard to find a second-hand one that doesn't creak, rattle and roll. The trouble was, they could sell all they made three times over.

The reason was partly fashion, partly that their plus points are double-plus. They're as spacious and light as a cathedral compared with, say, the Jeep Cherokee. The driving position and interior design make you feel better the moment you get in. They're solid, feel safe, tow well and, like all Land-Rovers, they can do the business off-road. …

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