In at the deep end: Range Rover L322
Peter Hitchcock transformed his faulty L322 into this feisty off-roader, using ingenuity and home-made parts - and without drowning in debt...
What's the Story?
It was a textbook case of an L322 to avoid - but to resourceful Yorkshireman Peter Hitchcock, a seasoned off-roader with 30 years' experience, it fitted the bill perfectly.
A couple of years ago he began looking for something a bit different from the standard 4x4s he'd owned previously. After a few weeks of scanning the 'for sale' ads, he found this 2002 4.4-litre V8 Range Rover.
'It was just the spec I wanted, a Vogue petrol with LRP, but it came with an engine warning light on and a bad first-to-second gearchange,' he explains. To top it all off, the paperwork had been 'lost', so no one in his right mind would even consider buying it.
Instead of running a mile, though, Peter turned this to his advantage, parting with only £4600 for his new project, a little over half its normal value.
His bravery paid off, the engine fault was solved for £47 with a lambda sensor replacement, and after putting up with the iffy gearbox for 10,000 miles, Peter found a recently rebuilt used box for sale for £550, solving another issue. Peter also set about the LPG system - which also hadn't been working well when he bought it - replacing a few parts and tuning it properly. It now runs faultlessly. Having done all the work himself, he ended up with a smooth-running L322 for relatively little outlay.
There were a few more jobs to do before venturing off-road. He removed the viscous fan and installed twin electric ones from a Jaguar X-Type, controlled via a Kenlowe adjustable thermostat with interior cut-off switch for wading. Lastly, all electrical connections were waterproofed with spray-on Corrosion X.
Peter's first greenlaning forays in the L322 didn't meet his expectations, however. 'It doesn't have very good articulation, it's heavy, it does only 8mpg off-road, and it had 19in wheels that meant off-road tyres cost a fortune - if you could get them!' Not a promising start.
It didn't put him off, though, and he launched into modifying the L322 18 months ago, pulling bits apart to see how they work and spending evenings reading the manual to get to grips with makes the L322 tick.
He fitted a twin-compressor to air-suspension set-up to reduce the load on the original, single unit. Peter then reset the springs to give a higher ride height, using a Gap Diagnostics IIDTool. He also managed to find a set of 255/55 R19 Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tyres, as used on the G4 challenges.
Then Peter made one of the finds of the project - a complete three-piece G4 Challenge-spec skid plate kit for scrap value, an astonishing one tenth of its retail value.
The L322 was now ready for serious off-roading. Well, almost. 'One of its first trips involved me not obeying the first rule of wading - checking the depth first. We went in with no snorkel and found the depth was well over the bonnet! The car stopped and before we could get rescued there was a foot of water inside. Incredibly, once we got it out, it restarted and got us back home - 220 miles away.'
Once home, he started stripping the whole interior and removing all the ECUs. He left the Range Rover with a dehumidifier running in it for a week. The only casualty was the radio unit.
To avoid a repeat, he adapted a Discovery 4 raised air intake to fit. Fitting a snorkel to a third-generation Range Rover isn't easy, because no one makes one - hence the need to adapt that D4 fitment.
Our Favourite Bit?
It seems Peter's Range Rover refuses to die. Since its dunking, it has effortlessly followed Defenders on the wet, rocky tracks of South Wales, The Lake District, North and South Yorkshire and Norfolk.
Peter only spent £2000 on parts and did all the work himself, proving L322 ownership doesn't have to cost the earth. When asked why he takes an L322 off-road, he has a stock answer. 'I couldn't afford a Defender to do the same thing!'
And the verdict from LRO's Jerome Andre?
This is the first seriously modified L322 I've encountered - and I'm very glad it's so well built. Besides adding tough-as-nails protection, Peter has kept the overall lines of the majestic Range Rover, so it still looks fantastic while sporting heavy-duty gear and offering more hardcore off-roading capabilities.
The electronics and tough construction make for very good traction and the Hill Descent Control is a great bonus. Driving over every obstacle at Yarwell's off-road site as though they weren't there was exhilarating, especially in the comfort of heated Oxford leather seats. The uber-smooth 4.4-litre V8 is a real pleasure, but Peter's special exhaust modification makes it roar like a US 'big block'. It's an awesome machine - thumbs-up from me!
Where can I read more?
Read the full story in the Spring 2016 issue of LRO. Current and back issues are available to download on digital devices here. Or order a printed issue by calling 01858 438884. Please note, we only hold stocks of the last three back issues.
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