by Stephen de Vries 3,331 views0


The striking design of Land Rover’s Discovery was the result of countless hours spent experimenting with ideas and materials, a few of which are fairly surprising. Discover how office chairs, virtual dogs and even The Queen Mary had a hand in the design of the versatile SUV.


Clay Modelling Tools

Despite the many advances and uses of technology in the development of the Discovery, there is a stage in which the old ways still serve best and that’s where clay comes in.

While on-screen 3D models of the new vehicle give designers a great virtual impression of the vehicle, it is still no replacement for the greatest lens of all – the human eye. A full-size model is therefore created by using refined modelling clay.

Land Rover Chief Designer, Andy Wheel, said:

“I’ve simply never known a design that has looked right as soon as it has emerged from that milling machine.” 

To get the perfect design, modelers work with the highly malleable clay, altering details by fractions of a millimetre or degree to get the sharp edges or curves desired by the design team.


Office Chairs

Seven full-size seats are a key feature in the Discovery, but fitting them into the vehicle was a design challenge. Unlike most designs, the planning for this ingenious feature didn’t begin with a blank sheet of paper, but with an empty area of office floor.

Using props, Land Rover engineers began to layout possible seating configurations using office chairs.

Fitting seven full-size adult seats into a car less than 15.5 feet long was a minor miracle, but one that started with a simple brainstorm. While a few people may have been deprived of their seats for a short while, they will know it was worth it when they sit in the Discovery for the first time.


The Queen Mary

In a great testament to a ‘think outside of the box’ mentality, Land Rover graduate engineers turned to famous steam liner, The Queen Mary, for inspiration.

Continually looking for ways to improve the vehicles, the team behind the Discovery wanted to make it more practical and versatile than ever before and that included improving the car’s performance in a critical area.

The Discovery has a wade depth of 900mm, more than any other Land Rover vehicle, and this is possible thanks to a new air intake system.

Unlike previous models, the versatile SUV doesn’t need to breathe through the grille, and instead inhales all the air it needs through what’s referred to as the ‘Queen Mary Funnel’.

This 5mm gap is where the hood meets the front fenders and is the highest useable opening in the car. After vigorous testing in the arctic and a wind tunnel, to name but a few, this new intake was deemed fit for purpose, giving the Discovery more off-road driving capability than ever before.


Lab Car

When the Range Rover Evoque was launched an artist created a full-size wireframe as part of the tease and the reveal at Geneva Motorshow. Behind the scenes at Land Rover, the creation of similar full-size models has been going on for years.

These models, known as Lab Cars, are used to create a working model of the internal dimensions of the cabin, meaning engineers have the ability to assemble and test new systems that will be installed in the new vehicle, long before the prototypes are built.

The Discover Lab Car was used to test complex components such as Intelligent Seat Fold, the innovative 7 seat system featured in the Discovery, and make any necessary adjustments long before the vehicle was finalised.



The Land Rover development team always take great care in ensuring vehicles are spacious enough for everyone on board, and that consideration isn’t limited only to people who travel in the vehicle, man’s best friend gets a look in too.

While working on an earlier model of Discovery the team behind the car design listed things that owners would likely carry in their vehicle, and if they have one at home, were asked to measure it. The dimensions of everything they captured, from dogs to surf boards, were then used to create a Computer Aided Design (CAD) model of each item so it could be virtually tested.

Justin Cole, a Senior Engineer at Land Rover, had a 30kg Labrador called Sam who became the model for the CAD Dog. Being a popular breed, Sam’s computer-generated model was used to test that there was a comfortable amount of space, sitting and standing, for any dog going along for the ride.


Kids Toys

A ‘value’ of Discovery design is knowing that the vehicle is as happy in the country as it is in the city, much like the people on board. This is why being able to keep everything you want to store in the vehicle out of sight is so important.

The Discovery is the most versatile Land Rover yet and has ingenious storage solutions throughout. What better way to test their capacity than with kids’ toys?

Invited to help with the testing, a Land Rover employee brought in her two boys who were armed with all the things they would take on a long car ride. After arriving they quickly jumped into the full-size mock-up of the vehicle’s cabin and began finding places for everything they had brought with them.

With a storage box in the main central armrest, an ingenious storage compartment behind the air conditioning and up to 15 USB ports across the three rows, the boys were soon satisfied that all of their belongings were safely stored and even happier that they could charge their electronics on the go.



As with any new Land Rover vehicle, the Discovery had to be vigorously tested both off-road and on-road. This necessity does, however, provide a challenge for the design team who work hard at keeping the design of any new vehicle under wraps, preserving the ‘wow’ moment of the official reveal.

Three stages of camouflage cover the vehicle. The first being prototypes, which wear panels of an old model shape to disguise the new model, the second being heavy camouflage, and the third and final is light camouflage, which is just a film covering on the final shape of the vehicle.

Creating a pattern for this film covering has become somewhat of a hobby for the design team who have previously taken inspiration from ‘dazzle graphics’ of early battleships and even human beings when creating graphics that help keep the carefully crafted design a secret. For one the Discovery’s schemes, the team took an image of a barcode and distorted it.

Chief Engineer, Alex Heslop, said of this final camouflage:

“The barcode disguise is just a film applied to the real panels. The shape of the car is unaffected. You’re looking at the finished car, but the camouflage is brilliant at stopping you seeing it.”


Notes to editors:

About Gerry McGovern

As Design Director and Chief Creative Officer for Land Rover, award-winning Gerry McGovern creates some of the world’s most distinctive and desirable vehicles and is recognised as one of the world’s leading automotive designers.

He and his team are in the process of creating an entire new generation of Land Rovers, redefining the brand and building on established heritage to make the product range relevant to the 21st Century. 

McGovern’s passion for design stretches far beyond the automotive industry; he is an authority on modern architecture and furniture as well as a collector of contemporary art. He has sat on many panels judging design, presented at numerous prominent international automotive and business events and represents the company on a global level.