Bangernomics: Meet our Range Rover P38
Don’t listen to those who bash the second-generation Range Rover. Here’s why it’s the best car in the world, despite its well documented flaws
If you’ve ever wanted to experience a true love/hate relationship, buy a Range Rover P38 – although it’s very much love from you, hate from it. A bit like dating the girl from The Exorcist. Send the Rangie’s great bulk off for a health check-up, or simply give it a wash, and you’ll find it displays gratitude by frying one of its electrical circuits or spewing out an engine component. I should know, because I’ve had custody of three different examples.
Therefore, I’m not going to heap unprecedented praise onto Solihull’s unruly child from the decade of Britpop and Brosnan’s Bond. I’m certainly not going to proclaim that these models make for the world’s most reliable cars, nor will you find evidence to support the P38’s standing as a sensible purchase for those on a shoestring. However, what I will maintain is this; pound for pound, it’s the greatest car in the world.
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From the practicality of that massive load space, to comfort levels usually found only within a British Airways First Class cabin, its character and feasibility are matched by no other vehicle. On occasion, when suffering with insomnia, hollow-eyed with exhaustion and unable to sleep in the house, I’ve been known to seek refuge in the P38 rear seats – and have snoozed soundly.
Essentially, it’s four cars rolled into one: an elegant cruiser, an off-road mud-plugger, a van and a practical family wagon. It’s a Jaguar that can tow a boat. It’s a BMW that isn’t afraid of water. It’s a Mercedes you can use to do the skip run. It’s also a bloody nightmare if uncared for.
Enter the 4.0-litre V8 automatic
My first P38 was almost saintly in its heroism. Bought for £1100, it performed flawlessly over a 13-month period, covering 20,000 in serene comfort. Nothing went wrong. Nothing. Sadly, the financial cost of running a 4.0-litre V8 was too much for this hapless student to bear, and we parted ways after I’d recouped my original purchase cost. I cried when the new owner drove away on that morish V8 exhaust note. I didn't speak to anybody for a week, resigned to public transport and this thing called 'walking'.
This led me into a false sense of security when purchasing a second P38 as soon as my bank account allowed. Rather than weep over the V8 fuel bills, I opted to rehome a £1300 2.5 DSE. Running on devil’s fuel, it appears to have been designed by Satan himself, too.
Bring on the diesel!
Although it does astronomical mileage while suffering extreme abuse under my control, I’ve never before owned a car that’s caused me such complex misgivings. The local garage owner currently has his kids in private education and holidays in the Bahamas, while the boss of the nearest petrol station enjoys lighting Cuban cigars with spare £50 notes – all thanks to my P38.
If the repair bills and servicing receipts were gathered together, the folder would be thicker than a Bible. Instead, they are sprayed throughout the house, dropped wherever each Solihull-sponsored nervous breakdown has occurred. In the three years that I’ve kept the golden beast fed and watered, the immobiliser system has collapsed, the engine has undergone more work than Jackie Stallone’s face, and the air-suspension system continually gives me the sweats. I’ve now taken to hiding most warning lights behind masking tape.
Exterminating such maladies hasn’t proven cheap, either – not to mention the crippling insurance cost for a driver under 30 years old. Thusly, nights at the pub, holidays abroad and life’s little luxuries have been sacrificed. Want to keep your youngster off drink, drugs and gambling? Get them a Range Rover…
These factors often leave me questioning my sanity, but the reasons behind the Range Rover’s continued presence on my driveway far outweigh the negatives. While a Land Cruiser may be more reliable and a BMW X5 more chuckable on the Tarmac, they leave you feeling soulless come journey’s end.
Even a short trip in the P38 ushers in an overwhelming sense of occasion. A clichéd statement, perhaps, but it’s 100 percent true. You feel like a king when heading out to get milk, or like a gangster when catching sight of those chunky lines while passing a shop window at night.
On the road, the car’s commanding stance relegates even the gravest city congestion from anxiety inducing to a mere annoyance, and it brings sheer confidence off the beaten track. I’ve taken the diesel Rangie on many an off-road shoot for various motoring titles in my previous role with Land Rover Owner and Classic Car Weekly. Even if certain other writers (whom shall remain nameless) ill-treated the mechanicals when borrowing the keys, the vehicle’s abilities have remained second to none.
Many, more pampered 4x4s would shy away from wading up to the headlamps in water and axle-deep in thick mud, not to mention driving on two wheels over twist-off ramps and through terrain where lesser SUVs have perished and died. The best part? The Range Rover’s four-wheel-drive system and cabin ambience have never once left me anything less than content and relaxed, even as debris and rooster-tails of mud cascade by the windows.
The same tenacity is experienced in every aspect of daily life, from carting around furniture or the dog, to ferrying work colleagues through bad weather. The Rangie always gets me to my destination. Despite the repair bills, it has never once left me stranded in the wilderness to be eaten by wolves. The drivetrain has proven thoroughly dependable, despite hiding a dark secret; it’s got Overfinch bits in there.
Besides the extra rear seats in the boot, the aftermarket customisation specialist gave the engine a going-over back in 2002, when it installed an upgrade chip to boost the diesel by 28bhp. Not quite sure where these horses are, as the thing is still glacial when I put my foot down, but the torque curve is enough to keep me pinned into my seat.
The P38 curse
Many urban legends have been unfairly attached to the P38, with the result that many examples have prematurely succumbed to the oily claw of death. Sure, they were complicated and way ahead of their time when launched in autumn 1994, and therefore destined to be temperamental as time’s onward march beckoned. But with proper servicing, their dependability is fastidiously loyal to both driver and passenger. Especially when you've got a team of folk keeping it healthy for you - mine consists of Ben McDowall of Engine710 alongside Derek Stewart-Brown and Rabb McMillan of Duke's Garage in Lanark.
Therein lies the problem – no one really took care of them on the used car market. Perusing the classifieds, you could once wade through dozens of healthy-looking examples that had been run into the ground, all going for less than £1000. Few people wanted to properly look after such a cheap purchase.
Rather, many owners bought their P38 and ran the engine dry of oil, paid little attention to the electrical system and shrugged off the servicing interval as though it was optional. They’d then sell it on when the first sign of issue presented itself, meaning each subsequent new owner inherited – and compounded – what amounted to mechanical sabotage.
When they took to the online forums and ‘trash talked’ their dilapidated purchase, it wasn’t long before the P38 earned an unrelenting reputation for breaking down more often than Britney Spears. Thanks to the car’s unfair ‘avoid at all costs’ tag, only diehard enthusiasts kept the flame alight for the second-generation Range Rover.
Times have moved on. Now that Range Rover Classics change hands for eye-wateringly large sums of money, many fans of the green oval have turned to the P38 in search of all that Land Rover’s trademark flagship should offer. The market is slowly awakening to the once-berated model’s potential.
Keep scrolling! We're not done yet!
MGB Roadster 1969
1969 MGB Roadster VIN: GHN4U162049G condition: good cylinders: 4 cylinders drive: rwd fuel: gas odometer: 85948 paint color: red size: compact title status: clean transmission: manual type: convertible This 1969 MGB is really a nice, clean, solid car with a lot of new parts. It was purchased in 2002 and the owner installed: new tonneau cover, Pertronix electronic ignitionFor Sale | 21 Jun 2018 | Monticello, IN, USA$ 7,000
Mercedes-Benz 450 SL 1978
1978 Mercedes Benz 450SL VIN: 12048543 condition: good cylinders: 8 cylinders drive: rwd fuel: gas odometer: 135000 paint color: silver size: mid-size title status: clean transmission: automatic type: convertible This 1978 Mercedes Benz 450SL has a lot going for it. It has had a new catalytic converter and pipes installed recently along with a new battery, new, black clotFor Sale | 21 Jun 2018 | Monticello, IN, USA$ 8,995
Mercury Monterey 1956
1956 Mercury Monterey VIN: 56SL123598M condition: excellent cylinders: 8 cylinders drive: rwd fuel: gas odometer: 47980 paint color: white size: full-size title status: clean transmission: automatic type: sedan PRICE REDUCTION! This is probably one of the most interesting and original 1956 Mercury's you will ever find. This 1956 Mercury Monterey Phaeton was one of 80 MercFor Sale | 21 Jun 2018 | Kokomo, IN, USA$ 27,500
Chevy Special Deluxe 1941
1941 Chevy Special Deluxe VIN: AA 257699 condition: good cylinders: 6 cylinders drive: rwd fuel: gas odometer: 109144 paint color: black size: full-size title status: clean transmission: manual type: sedan I'm selling this ALL STEEL 1941 Chevrolet Special Deluxe for a good friend of mine. He has owned it for a little over six years. He painted it himself six years ago. ItFor Sale | 21 Jun 2018 | Lafayette, IN, USA$ 8,500
Cadillac deVille 1976
1976 Cadillac Sedan DeVille VIN: 6D49S6Q270397 condition: like new cylinders: 8 cylinders drive: rwd fuel: gas odometer: 11564 paint color: custom size: full-size title status: clean transmission: automatic type: sedan PRICE REDUCTION! - This 1976 Cadillac Sedan Deville barn find has only 11,564 original miles on it!! It's been sitting up on jack stands since 1994. The cuFor Sale | 21 Jun 2018 | Monticello, IN, USA$ 13,500
Ford Custom Sedan 1940
1940 Ford Custom Sedan VIN: 54519008 condition: excellent cylinders: 8 cylinders drive: rwd fuel: gas odometer: 3232 paint color: custom size: full-size title status: clean transmission: manual type: sedan This a great build that you just don't see too often. This 1940 Ford 2 Door Custom Sedan comes with a very rare, first year, 1957, 345 cu. in. Desoto Hemi engine mounteFor Sale | 21 Jun 2018 | St John, IN, USA$ 34,500
Ferrari 250 GTO 1962
Perhaps the ultimate collector car, Ferrari’s 250 GTO was effectively the final evolution of the marque’s famous 250 model, which debuted in 1953 and ended with the last GTOs in 1964. In total, a mere 36 examples of the 250 GTO were ever produced, all of which have survived. Widely considered the most beautiful Ferrari design, the model was one of the most successful road/racing cars that theAuction | 21 Jun 2018 | Monterey, CA, USA$ POA
DeSoto Firedome 1958
1958 desoto firedome condition: good cylinders: 8 cylinders fuel: gas title status: clean transmission: automatic 1958 DeSoto Firedome Automatic. Push button V8 motor. Runs great All original condition This car could be a daily driver It was a barn find and I do not have time to restore. The car runs and drives great. I am asking $6000.00 or best cash offer Title in hand.For Sale | 21 Jun 2018 | Kokomo, IN, USA$ 6,000
Ford Falcon 1967
1967 Ford Falcon cylinders: 8 cylinders fuel: gas odometer: 8000 paint color: purple size: mid-size title status: clean transmission: automatic For sale 1967 Ford Falcon Futura. beautiful purple paint! 302 5.0 motor with C4 auto trans. 8 inch rear end. ground-up restoration everything newly rebuilt. newer leather upholstery with power leather bucket seats. Super nice car!! SeriouFor Sale | 21 Jun 2018 | Indianapolis, IN, USA$ 16,000
Ford Super Deluxe 1941
1941 Ford fuel: gas title status: clean transmission: manual Beautiful 1941 Ford Super Deluxe Completely restored Custom Interior Manual Transmission Awesome stereo and sound system with lights. If interested contact us ASAPFor Sale | 21 Jun 2018 | Brownsburg, IN, USA$ 18,000
P38: The greatest car in the world
So, the greatest car in the world? It’s certainly not the most economical, nor is it capable of being ignored without things going wrong – often horribly. But keep tabs on maintenance, and you’ve got a practical, comfortable, dependable, luxurious, tough, safe and spacious wagon capable of amazing off-road feats. All for less than £4k, even for the best ones. No other car in the world can successfully undertake all of the above without losing soul or being a disposable ‘white good’.
There’s an ace card up the P38’s sleeve, too; an amazing owners’ club. Granted, the P38's reliability isn't always first-rate and something will always need fixing – but meet fellow club members down the pub, and the hilarity, camaraderie, understanding and tales of experience will have you crying tears of laughter. All while the Nissan Micra Owners’ Club sit in silence with nothing to talk about.
See the P38 in action, with help from 007
Images courtesy of Gillian Carmoodie, Alice MacDonald, Andy McCandlish and Calum Brown
All credit for the 'Bangernomics’ term goes to journalists Steve Cropley and James Ruppert
Classic Cars for Sale
1969 MGB Roadster VIN: GHN4U162049G condition: good cylinders: 4 cylinders drive: rwd fuel: gas odometer: 85948 paint color: red size: compact title status: clean transmission: manual type: convertible This 1969 MGB is really a nice, clean, solid car with a lot of new parts. It was purchased in 2002 and the owner installed: new tonneau cover, Pertronix electronic ignition
1978 Mercedes Benz 450SL VIN: 12048543 condition: good cylinders: 8 cylinders drive: rwd fuel: gas odometer: 135000 paint color: silver size: mid-size title status: clean transmission: automatic type: convertible This 1978 Mercedes Benz 450SL has a lot going for it. It has had a new catalytic converter and pipes installed recently along with a new battery, new, black clot
1956 Mercury Monterey VIN: 56SL123598M condition: excellent cylinders: 8 cylinders drive: rwd fuel: gas odometer: 47980 paint color: white size: full-size title status: clean transmission: automatic type: sedan PRICE REDUCTION! This is probably one of the most interesting and original 1956 Mercury's you will ever find. This 1956 Mercury Monterey Phaeton was one of 80 Merc
1941 Chevy Special Deluxe VIN: AA 257699 condition: good cylinders: 6 cylinders drive: rwd fuel: gas odometer: 109144 paint color: black size: full-size title status: clean transmission: manual type: sedan I'm selling this ALL STEEL 1941 Chevrolet Special Deluxe for a good friend of mine. He has owned it for a little over six years. He painted it himself six years ago. It