The hills are alive with the sound of money, my friends. Today a 1992 Land Rover Discovery 1 went for a whopping $90,000 on Doug DeMuro’s auction site Cars & Bids, and we’re absolutely slack-jawed at such a mound of cash. This isn’t any ol’ Disco though, it’s a historic icon of an off-roader that was piloted by team America in the 1992 installment of the Camel Trophy rally.
The Camel Trophy was one of the most grueling off-road competitions ever. Part race, part navigation challenge, competitors would shunt 4x4s through rivers and woods in these multi-day outdoor events ostensibly held to promote a cigarette brand. Taking place almost between 1980 and 2000, in rough environments with even rougher climates across the globe, it was an immense test of man and machine. Land Rover’s involvement is quite significant: It was the official vehicle provider through most of the event’s history. The original international rallies were run with Defenders, some Range Rovers were in the mix, then when the Disco was introduced in you started seeing those vehicles dressed in the event’s signature sandy yellow (“Sandglow”) color. Even Freelanders got this treatment when they came out. What’s most interesting about the race is its exclusively for amateurs; people had to apply to be considered, and no pro racers were allowed. It was an event that pitted teams against each other, but also harnessed a sense of “we’re all in this together, let’s all help each other out to reach the finish line.“
The Camel Trophy was the coolest way to market LRs as very off-road capable, diverting attention away from some little reliability foibles here and there. As a lifelong Disco appreciator and recent new owner of a Caspian Blue ’97 model, all of this is incredibly appealing and cool to me. I’ve watched the following video on YouTube at least three times in the past months – yes I’ve become a die-hard LR nerd quite quickly.
When this piece of ultra-rad history popped up, the Car Autance Editorial Slack channel was buzzing with hype between our editor Andrew Collins and I. He had a Disco 1 for a number of years (manual shift!) and we were both pretty intrigued at what this might be worth.
A bit about what made Camel Trophy cars special: diesel engine, manual gearbox, added lighting, a winch, roll cage, snorkel, all the storage and roof rack innovation, capable wheels and tires; that seems to be most of their modifications. Maybe the suspension, cooling, and brakes were modified for competition as well? Otherwise, these cars were remarkably stock. They even had a tan cloth interior, which is awfully like my own Disco’s tan cloth interior. Yes, this instills a very esoteric sense of pride in me.
This sold-on-Cars-and-Bids example looks like it was retired after the 1992 rally, thoroughly hosed off/out, driven around a bit, and then parked. It’s unfortunately developed a lot of rust, its tires are dry-rotted, and overall the rig looks very tired. Though I could definitely see this being enticing to the presumed new owner for its provenance, it was most definitely driven hard and put away wet. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked to find out it rolled off the finish line and was then immediately thrown into storage. But, that almost makes it cooler.
It’s also presumably the highest-price Disco 1 ever sold, unless the Sultan of Brunei has a gold one sitting in storage somewhere. We’re living in wild times of collector cars fetching some impressive prices, and this one is no exception. Though, it must be said that the final, auction-winning price isn’t necessarily the amount of scratch that will get wired to the owner’s bank account before it changes hands. Cars & Bids just hosts the auction and puts buyer and seller in touch with each other, so a “Sold for…” price isn’t necessarily accurate after the fact.
This would be a strange vehicle to buy if you were going to use it, it seems to have a laundry list of needs before it could be deemed road-and-trail-worthy by anyone with even half a sense of reliability and safety. A Land Rover Discovery 1, while cool, is still a cheap truck without famous-event pedigree, so it’d make a lot more sense to buy any other one if you wanted to beat it up. This is an old diesel that’s more than 25 years old, but it’s not a CARB-certified diesel so registering it in California would probably be a pain anyway.
So maybe this will get cleaned up and put display in a collection or museum, never to see a muddy trail ever again. That’d kind of be a shame, but if I had all the money in the world, I’d be inclined to put it on display and just admire it myself. I’d make my own tribute from a much cleaner chassis.