A touch of Land Rover history: The 1989 Amphibious Discovery

30 years ago this amphibious Discovery was launched to the public and into the water at the 1990 Cowes Week regatta, which was what had inspired the idea in the first place. It did a great job of grabbing the new off-roader plenty of headlines. Land Rover bought this unusual amphibious Discovery back from a German museum in 2011 to restore it back into working order.

Fully shipshape again, the amphibious Discovery is now part of the Dunsfold Collection of Land Rovers in Surrey. It is a brilliant reminder of just how radical and capable the Discovery was when it was launched 30 years ago.

The story behind the Amphibious Discovery

To grab some headlines 30 years ago, for its all-new 4×4, Land Rover came up with the crazy idea of an amphibious Discovery. The plan seemed simple enough and turning a road-going SUV into a sea-faring vehicle was surprisingly straightforward.

First off, Land Rover had no choice in the body style as only the three-door model was on sale, to begin with – a five-door version didn’t arrive until late 1990.

To make sure the two-tonne machine didn’t sink to the bottom of the sea, huge flotation bags were attached to the front, sides, and rear, which limited the car’s on-road ability due to the extreme width.

The three-door body helped simplify the task of Land Rover’s engineers as it meant there were fewer doors to seal up. They did this by gluing the doors shut while chopping off the roof meant passengers could get in and out, as well as admire the view as the Discovery sailed along.

To start with, the car chosen for this unusual mission had a 3.5-litre V8 petrol engine but this was swapped for a 2.5-litre turbo diesel. The engine bay was waterproofed, along with the underside of the car, while an outboard motor took care of propulsion on the water.

Here she is on Lake Geneva for the 2012 Geneva Motor Show:

What a great story!


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One comment on “A touch of Land Rover history: The 1989 Amphibious Discovery
  1. John says:

    Waterproofed maybe, – but it would not have survive going in salty water for sure – Some idiot drove my Disco MK1 in the sea a few times in its life and it severely rotted the chassis within a couple of years!

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