Keith’s been using the Range Rover P38 for a few weeks now – for both commuting and as a general hack – and, so far, nothing’s gone wrong. But there are jobs to do…
The funniest aspect of owning a Range Rover P38 is listening to and absorbing all the opinions that people have about these fine cars. After an initial post on Facebook, announcing to the world what the new AROnlinemobile was, the deluge of comments was very interesting to read. Most weren’t complimentary about the P38, such is its reputation for epic unreliability.
James Clark simply said, ‘Brave,’ while our man in the USA, Richard Truett, was less happy: ‘Gag! The worst of the Range Rovers. What an awful misstep, that one.’ My friend in the trade, Robert Jackson, added, ‘At least it’s diesel… Get it chipped to 160-ish, swap some coils into it and enjoy… I really liked mine once sorted.’
This was an interesting suggestion because, thanks to the Overfinch modifications fitted to this car, it allegedly pushes out that sort of power. It wasn’t all negative, though. Valentin Delchambre said, ‘You did well. Diesel P38s need love too,’ while David Rutherford echoed many people’s admiration for the bravery of my latest purchase. ‘That car represents the triumph of hope over experience,’ he said.
You can’t ignore our resident Land Rover owner’s view, though. Brett Nicholson said: ‘A friend who is a Land Rover nut had one. It went wrong so regularly he hated it. Then it was stolen and written off, so he was happy. I saw one two days ago on the freeway. It was sitting at least three inches lower on one side. I overtook it in a stock 1974 Beetle up a steep hill so I assume he was limping it home with failed air suspension.’
The truth is that, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been quietly getting to know the P38 and, after an initial sense of dread over the car’s utterly underwhelming throttle response, it’s been slowly winning me over, piece by piece. Okay, so my reservations about its performance might be rooted in the fact it shares my drive with a Citroen C6, but everyone who’s driven it have also commented on its sluggishness. Funny thing is, I’m used to it now…
As a driver, you can’t knock it at all. The air suspension works as it should (it was overhauled last year), which means it rides well, and handles surprisingly incisively for a car of its size. Compared with the Classic I drove recently, it’s a revelation in terms of dynamics – if only it had the soundtrack to match. All the toys work, too – from the cruise control to the air conditioning, via the seat heaters – making this a viable luxury car. On the commute, it’s returning a little more than 25mpg which, given everything, I’m not unhappy with.
It even has a rearward facing seat in the boot (above), should the need to take more passengers, or a dog overtake me. Actually, I jest, but in my profession, there is a real need for air-sprung cars with rear-facing seats – think photographic tracking shots, and this car suddenly becomes very useful indeed.
In terms of things to fix or general criticisms, the list is surprisingly short – especially as it has recently been fully serviced and received new tyres.
- The car has a pronounced ‘whoosh’ at all speed. I’m told the viscous is okay, but I’d like to check it and, if necessary, replace it with an electrical cooling fan.
- The steering wheel is misaligned. I’d hate that to be anything that leads to unevenly worn tyres.
- Replace smashed passenger mirror.
- Investigate small chip in the windscreen.
- Get the radio display working again.
- Re-gas the air conditioning. It works, but feels weak.
- Attend to a few small scuffs and scratches.
- Replace the broken front bumper.
- Give it a deep wash and spruce up, especially inside.
- Put the original instrument cluster back in.
Given it’s a P38, and I didn’t pay a huge amount for it, I reckon it’s a winner. It’s also a keeper – unless, of course, its ‘reliability’ turns into ‘unreliability’, which could then mean it miraculously transforms into a later L322 Range Rover. Perish the thought…
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.