If you tell someone to think of Frankenstein, they might visualise a large, murky-skinned body made up of parts, with a couple of bolts hanging off it. The classic Hollywood version is easy to imagine – even if it’s not factually correct. Mary Shelley never named the creature in her story – Frankenstein was the name of the doctor who created him.
It’s a similar process to how the Land Rover Discovery I used to own became known as “The Monster” – and it was also a body made up of parts, with the odd bolt hanging off it.
I’d been looking for a Land Rover 4WD when a mechanic friend found this 1996 7-seater Discovery 1, via eBay, in Bundaberg. One Saturday, late in 2013, we drove 4 hours north to look at it. The Disco had a worn manual gearbox, that protested loudly as we took it for a test drive. It also had some rust spots, but great air conditioning and a good 300 Tdi diesel engine, that had had some work done to the head recently. With a promise that the gearbox would be replaced with a reconditioned one at cost, I bought the Disco for $1600.
It still had a couple of days’ Victorian registration on it, and the owner was happy for us to drive it home. So the long trip south began – I drove the mechanic’s Disco home, and he drove mine – keeping the gearbox in 4th gear as much as possible, as it produced the least noise (due to a 1:1 drive ratio in 4th).
On arrival at home, my wife dubbed it “The Monster”, thinking I’d find it a derogatory term. I didn’t think it was monstrous at all – I loved the name and it stuck.
With “The Monster” now at home, plans were hatched to change the 1000kg gearbox ourselves, in my garage. The mechanic would do the work, and I would “assist” (i.e. grab spanners for him). It wasn’t long before we started this monumental job, one weekend.
After many, many bolts were undone, the old gearbox was freed from the vehicle, and hit the floor with a gigantic thud. The reconditioned gearbox was then moved underneath, but was too heavy for us to move up and into place, using jacks, bricks and firewood logs. So, on another day we borrowed a workshop crane, to do the job properly.
After only a little swearing over the unwillingness of the new gearbox to move into place, the job was done and the truck could drive quietly.
However it did wait quite a few months to be finished off enough to pass a roadworthy. Now, I had my own off-road transport- and it was quite capable.
Underneath, the Discovery is very similar to the Land Rover Defender, has constant all-wheel-drive and a centre differential lock to make those low range gears even more grabby with the wheels. The diesel is very economical – while the V8 engine is only economical when compared to, say, a jumbo jet. That’s why they’re even more of a bargain.
Mine suffered all the usual problems of a nearly 20-year-old Disco – rust around the Alpine windows in the roof, peeling clear coat from the bonnet paint, sagging roof lining, sagging seats – even the digital clock barely worked. However the engine kept clattering away happily, and it wasn’t my everyday drive.
After a couple years of ownership, with my wife driving my car each day, I decided that I now wanted a 4WD as my everyday drive, and a more luxurious one at that. So I decided to sell “The Monster” and bought a Range Rover.
It took 10 months, and a lot of price falls, before I found a buyer. I initially thought that a reliable – albeit rusty, ugly and old – diesel 4WD would fetch a lot more than it did. It sold, for slightly more than I paid, to a local man, who was going to take the engine out of it to fix up his own Discovery.
So just like Frankenstein’s monster, my Monster was ending up in pieces.. Although my experience had been more of a Monster Mash, than a graveyard smash.