1997 Range Rover P38 2.5 DSE
Previous offending Land Rovers: 2002 Freelander 1 V6
It doesn’t take long to find Chris Jordan and his family’s abode. Besides the commonplace trail of oil most Land Rover drivers leave in their wake, Chris has his P38 living in the front garden - where his neighbours have things like flowers, water features and white picket fences.
You may look at Chris’s second generation Range Rover and wonder why he opted for what many call ‘the worst Land Rover of all time’, but there is method in his madness. At 6 ft 6 inches, not many cars would accommodate Chris in comfort, with elderly Discoverys and Defenders out of the question due to tight legroom.
Having been subjected to ownership of frail automotive delights including a Lada and several Vauxhalls from hell, Chris decided to purchase a vehicle that wasn’t going to leave him feeling grey or at the side of the A1 in a cloud of smoke. Naturally, to give his motoring life a much-needed injection of class and gratification, Chris started hunting down an offering from Land Rover.
After scouring the adverts in a demented fit of Vauxhall frustration, a tasty Freelander 1 within budget made itself apparent in the classifieds. Except, there was an almighty snag - a V6 was lurking under the bonnet. Besides drinking fuel at a rate likely to leave Oil Sheik’s screaming for the hills, the K-series V6 engine not only ate headgaskets but also enjoyed subjecting owners to the sort of torture that usually violates UN human rights. You want to change the spark plugs? You want to make it to your destination? The K-Series V6 doesn’t think so.
Regardless of all the advice given to him, Chris plunged into Freelander V6 ownership with a grin on his face. He still maintains that it was not only good fun, but managed a whopping 24 miles per gallon and when pushed could shift faster than any hot hatch. However, testing this 0-60mph time of 10.1 seconds with harsh acceleration caused the engine to fail prematurely. After less than a year, the engine ended up chewing the headgasket into a pulp and running itself dry on coolant. As it turns out, while the Freelander was more than capable of short journeys, the one ‘long’ journey to Cambridge from Peterborough was simply too much. Despite an almighty affection for his Freelander V6, Chris had to admit it was time for the metal claw.
Waving goodbye to his baby Land Rover, the urge for another green oval 4x4 was too much to bear.
Enter the P38.
Hunting through Autotrader, a dark green second generation 1997 Range Rover 2.5 DSE caught Chris’s attention and wouldn’t let go. Ever keen to save a few bob, he watched with interest as the price dropped overnight by £200. And then another £200 a few days later. With the asking price now only £1k, Chris snapped it up, although he now admits he could probably have nabbed it for £800 had he waited a day or two more.
Mind you, the P38 was far from pristine. When inspecting the hulking wreck Chris found evidence of an incident involving a wall. The air suspension didn’t work. The air conditioning didn’t work. The heated seats didn’t work. The boot wouldn’t open. The coolant wouldn’t stay in the engine and the engine bay was a mess. What a gem.
Nonetheless, Chris bought it anyway, but it wasn’t long before he had more trouble brewing. Within the first four months the P38 left Chris stranded no less than four times. Covering a 120-mile round trip every day to work was becoming a stressful affair to say the least.
Yet, after spending some time fettling with frayed pipes, it became obvious that the P38 had been run on a shoestring for some time by previous owners, and hadn’t been properly serviced for a number of years.
Further investigation around the car found prophylactics behind the rear lights. ‘Explaining that to the wife was interesting’. Not half.
Lashings of money were then spent on getting the P38 to run properly, with the Land Rover domino effect cursing the mechanicals. As soon as one thing was replaced, something else would explode. Overheating was the main cause of headaches, which has resulted in Chris watching dashboard gauges like a hawk ever since.
However, DIY mechanical skills were developed as eye watering garage bills became something of a financial drain. Recently he replaced the headgasket with success and installed a brand new radiator. The pipes proved an issue, especially the one in the guts of the engine, which took seven hours to deal with. Mind you, there were two tea breaks included. The only thing that goes wrong now is the serviceable parts, so he claims.
The worst job turned out to be dealing with the diesel injectors, which resulted in two months sitting off the road. Then the starter motor went, just as he discovered that there was only one bolt holding it in.
‘The oil and dirt had crafted together some sort of glue to keep it in place. That was a scary moment.’
Chris has always been asked about the reasons he kept the P38 during those dark times on the hard shoulder. Bearing in mind that his family members refuse to drive it through abject fear.
‘Because it’s all fixable! Most cars you can’t get into. It’s also fantastic to drive and I’ve bonded with it. I’ve even given it a name - Bernard.’
‘I’ve helped people move house with Bernard. I’ve driven so many skip runs now that I lose count. I may have only had the P38 18 months, but now that the teething issues are sorted I couldn’t ask of any more from an everyday vehicle.’
Since May 2015, Chris has taken his P38 greenlaning and covered 500 miles a week in gentleman’s club comfort at 70mph, averaging 28 mpg.
Is he going to sell it?
‘Hell no! I may just add another to my life. There’s a tasty one on the LRO fleet, but I hear that it’s in a worse state than mine.’
If only he knew the half of it…
For the full horror story visit myp38a.co.uk
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