I have to admit that I was wrong. As I write this, my P38 is with Avenger 4x4 for yet another emergency operation, so don’t expect this to be a love letter to Land Rover’s vehicle from hell.
Originally bought to prove the LRO hyenas wrong about ownership of Solihull’s unruly child from the decade of Britpop and Brosnan’s Bond, this particular P38 has done everything but. Electrical meltdowns? Mechanical difficulties? Build-quality woes? I’ve suffered them all.
Nothing appears to work. Only three doors function, the interior trim keeps falling off, the catches for the bonnet don’t hold, the immobiliser constantly locks the ignition down, radiator pipes keep splitting under pressure, the engine and gearbox repeatedly overheat, the air suspension and electronics conduct lives of their own, and vibrations over 55mph must be felt to be believed.
This is a pity, as my previous 4.0 V8 second-generation Range Rover was saintly in its heroism. Nothing went wrong, ever. However, after digging into this problematic P38’s history, I uncovered a dark secret.
It was fettled by tuning company Overfinch, famous for implanting monstrous engines into Range Rovers of all generations. Except mine doesn’t have that much-trumpeted 5.7-litre Chevrolet engine in there – merely some extra bits from Overfinch’s old catalogue.
Deep within the oily mess that is the asthmatic BMW 2.5 resides what they called a ‘Diesel Performance Upgrade Chip’ – producing a claimed 28 extra bhp alongside 30lb ft of torque.
Fuel economy was also claimed to be unharmed, but the 12mpg I’m getting would be unhealthy in any P38. The extra power also makes no difference – I’ve been in faster toboggans, going uphill.
The other Overfinch add-on – two extra seats in the boot – is useful, but unless you’re under five feet tall the seatbelts won’t fit. The bitter taste left from trading in a perfectly good Freelander 1 for this bucket of trouble still resides in my mouth.
However, it does have its plus points. Being imported from the car-friendly Mediterranean climate of Malta, there is no corrosion. It also makes a fantastic noise. It’s a handsome brute. It’s also comfier than Fred Goodwin’s retirement fund and has proved itself useful on more occasions than I can mention.
Besides mud-plugging offroad, it’s been a removals van, a photoshoot mule for LRO’s sister mags Classic Car Weekly and Modern Classics, a towcar for workshop writer Martin Domoney, a taxi for Mark Saville... and my daily transport into the bargain.
So, despite its problems, I’m adamant that my P38 isn’t unworthy of the Green Oval. Despite bits falling off and a general sense of doom engulfing all who sail in her, it’s a plucky big number. Besides one crippling immobiliser fault, it’s never actually left me stranded (regardless of various burning smells), in true Land Rover fashion.
It’s bloody good fun too, and hugely charismatic.
Despite the constant electrical fires and issues, I adore it. The reward for suffering those woes is a driving experience to cherish. When behind the wheel the smile is ear to ear – until I have torefuel it. Again.
If it survives until the LRO Peterborough Show in September, pop over to cast your eyes on its magnificence. Offer me a quid and chances are you can take it away with you...
Your chance to win tickets to the LRO show!
Test your knowledge with the LRO.com quiz, brought to you by Footman James, and you’ll get the chance to enter Footman James’ competition to be in with the chance to win a pair of tickets to the LRO show in September.
Take a shot at our quiz here.