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The Customized Journey of a 1998 Land Rover Discovery

Lindsey Fisher May 13, 2024 Feature Stories Braxton Klavis

Ryno’s Purpose-Built ’98 Land Rover Discovery

Taking out your off-road vehicle for a day trip can only be topped by one thing—taking it out for a multi-day adventure. For Ryan “Ryno” Lieberman, owner of Ryno Built Rod & Custom in Carl Junction, Missouri, taking his vehicles on long weekends and vacations near and far are what dreams are made of. But to get to places where not everyone can reach, he needed a capable vehicle with plenty of on-board amenities to make the trip enjoyable and stress free. That’s why he built his 1998 Land Rover Discovery 1 to be the ultimate off-road getaway vehicle.

“In the rear passenger compartment, Ryno took out the Discovery’s rear seats and added a custom dog enclosure, complete with cargo barriers, window guards, and a built-in window fan for his K9 companion.”

Built for the Unbeaten Path

Land Rover’s Discovery platform has long been marketed as a true off-road capable family vehicle, offering plenty of passenger and cargo room, along with more off-road geared suspension systems and wheel and tire packages. But every good thing can be made better, which is exactly what Ryno did to his Land Rover.

“Below the chassis, custom skid plates built by Ryno safeguard the underside of the WARN winch and front of the engine from damage on and off the trail.”

Powering the Discovery is the Rover’s factory 4.0L V-8 engine rebuilt by ReRover, which features reconditioned connecting rods, aftermarket pistons, and a “spicy” camshaft, according to Ryno. The engine was also fitted with a 2.5-inch two-into-one exhaust system from Wyland Muffler, as well as a snorkel for adventures that take the Discovery through deeper water.

Backing the 4.0L engine is a rebuilt stock 4-speed automatic transmission tied to a rebuilt transfer case. Wanting to add more flexibility into the SUV’s drive system, Ryno outfitted the driveshafts with slip joints, giving each the ability to flex while driving over uneven terrain and taking strain off of the U-joints. If you’ve ever suffered with a broken U-joint or driveshaft out on the trail, you can certainly appreciate this upgrade.

Ryno also outfitted the Discovery with Detroit TrueTrac limited-slip differentials both front and rear, along with 5.13 gears at both ends. The Land Rover’s brake system was also upgraded by Ryno, who did away with the truck’s standard anti-lock brake system and added a Wilwood proportioning valve.

To Go More Places

Built to go places in the Ozarks where Ryno’s van can’t go, the first-gen Discovery received a number of suspension upgrades to increase its capabilities once it leaves the pavement. This includes a plethora of components from Ironman 4×4 tied to the SUV’s powdercoated frame in the form of front and rear springs, Foam Cell Pro shocks, and a stabilizer bar.

Put together, the Ironman 4×4 America suspension system gives the Land Rover a 2-inch suspension lift. Below the chassis, custom skid plates built by Ryno safeguard the underside of the WARN winch and front of the engine from damage on and off the trail.

Planting the Discovery to the ground are 16×6.5-inch Wolf heavy-duty steel military-style wheels wrapped in 255/85R16 Toyo Open Country M/T tires with 2 3/4-inch backspacing all the way around. These military-style wheels are as tough as they come and got their claim to fame by being originally fitted to British military TUM “Wolf” and TUL all-terrain vehicles—versions of the Land Rover Defender widely used by the UK defense forces. Now if that’s not a tough wheel, we don’t know what is!

Aesthetic Value

It’s one thing to want your vehicles to be capable off-road, but in looking at Ryno’s builds over the years, there’s no doubt that he also takes pride in having them look good as well. And we certainly can’t argue with the way this Discovery is presented!

“Both front and rear of the Rover are outfitted with ARB bumpers for looks and body protection, while the camel cut wheelwells make for expertly fit wheels and tires.”

Resprayed in factory black, the Discovery is stunning with a satin black hood center and a lower-quarter graphics wrap done by Precision Signs, featuring all of the component manufacturers used in the build. Both front and rear of the Rover are outfitted with ARB bumpers for looks and body protection, while the camel cut wheelwells make for expertly fit wheels and tires. Secondary lights from Heise sit proudly on the custom roof rack above the Discovery’s cab for added illumination as well as out back for reversing visibility. Combined with the upgraded LED headlights, this sets the Rover up nicely for even the darkest of off-road trail riding.

Custom touches like the exhaust exit incorporated into the driver-side rear quarter panel, as well as the custom gullwing quarter window compartments fabricated by Ryno Built expertly conceal the on-board light management, REDARC Manager30 battery management, and stereo system components to push this Discovery to the top of our favorites list.

Of course, if you’re going to spend a few nights off-road, you’ve got to have the proper accommodations, so Ryno added a hard-shell Quick Pitch aluminum rooftop tent to the SUV. This rooftop tent is fully carpeted and features a plush mattress, storage, built-in lights, and power outlet. Ryno topped it off with a solar panel for added charging capabilities and a Quick Pitch weather shade for added protection against the elements.

“… when it comes to rigs both capable of off-roading and supporting a family on overnight adventures, Ryno’s built Discovery 1 is hard to beat.”

All the Amenities

Going all-in, Ryno didn’t stop with the exterior of the Discovery either. He also equally outfitted the interior of the Rover for multi-day off-road adventures—ones that certainly include the dog as well!

Inside, the Discovery features stock front seats that were reupholstered in black suede and vinyl by Jeffery Trujillo. In front of the driver, a MOMO steering wheel has been added, as well as New Vintage USA secondary instrumentation, while the entire interior features surround sound thanks to a full MB Quart/Hifonics sound system with a 7-inch touchscreen head unit in the center of the dash. For better off-the-grid communication, a Midland MXT575 MicroMobile GMRS two-way radio was also added.

In the rear passenger compartment, Ryno took out the Discovery’s rear seats and added a custom dog enclosure, complete with cargo barriers, window guards, and a built-in window fan for his K9 companion. In the back of Rover, a Quick Pitch USA drawer system, as well as an on-board refrigeration unit, were added, outfitting the SUV with added storage optimization, as well as ample cooking and prep surfaces. You’ll also find the Rover’s expertly-contained bank of XS batteries tucked neatly inside the rear door.

The ultimate off-road setup is truly in the eye of the beholder, but when it comes to rigs both capable of off-roading and supporting a family on overnight adventures, Ryno’s built Discovery 1 is hard to beat.

If you’re ever on the trail, or at events like the Big Iron Overland Rally and see this unique rig, we highly recommend giving Ryno a nod and checking it out for yourself. Who knows, maybe it will inspire you to build your own Land Rover overlanding machine?


UPGRADES

1998 Land Rover Discovery 1

Owner: Ryno Lieberman
Carl Junction, MO

Chassis & Suspension: Powder coated frame; Ironman 4×4 America 2-inch suspension lift; Ironman 4×4 America front and rear springs; Ironman 4×4 America Foam Cell Pro shocks front and rear; Ironman 4×4 America stabilizer; Custom skid plates built by owner

Wheels & Tires: 16×6.5-inch heavy duty Wolf steel military-style wheels; 255/85R16 Toyo Open Country M/T tires with 2 3/4-inch backspacing

Engine & Drivetrain: Land Rover 4.0L V8 rebuilt by ReRover; Reconditioned connecting rods; Aftermarket pistons; “Spicy” camshaf; Wyland Muffler 2.5-inch two-into-one exhaust; Snorkle; Rebuilt stock 4-speed automatic transmission; Rebuilt stock transfer case; Slip joints on driveshaft front and rear; Detroit TrueTrac limited-slip differentials front and rear; 5.13 front and rear gears; Deleted anti-lock brakes; Wilwood proportioning valve

Body & Paint: Upgraded LED lighting; ARB bumpers; Camel cut wheel wells for wheel/tire clearance; Heise secondary lighting; Custom gullwing quarter windows built by Ryno Built Rod & Custom; Custom roof rack; Exhaust exit incorporated into the driver’s side rear quarter panel; Resprayed factory black paint; Satin black hood center; Wrap with graphics done by Precision Signs; Quick Pitch aluminum rooftop tent and Weathershade; Rooftop solar panel; WARN 10,000-pound winch with synthetic rope and Factory 55 Ultra Hook

Interior & Stereo: Modified stock seats covered in black suede and vinyl by Jeffery Trujillo; New Vintage USA secondary gauges; MOMO steering wheel; Passenger compartment dog enclosure with window guards, cargo barriers and a built-in window fan; Quick Pitch USA drawer system; Onboard refrigeration unit; MB Quart/ Hifonics sound system with 7-inch touchscreen head unit; Midland MXT575 MicroMobile GMRS two-way radio; REDARC Manager30 battery management system; Viair on-board air compressor; XS Power batteries in rear cargo area


Editor’s Note: A version of this article appeared in TREAD May/June 2024.

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