A decade ago, the de rigueur Land Rover engine conversion involved junking your tired old 2.5-litre normally aspirated diesel for a 300Tdi. Buoyed by the big improvement in performance, you may have got carried away and dreamed of fitting a Td5… or, hey, what about the new Td6 from the L322 Range Rover?
As it turned out, a few adventurous owners did go on to fit Td5s, but nobody was brave enough to try the same with Td6.
At least, that’s what we’ve always believed to be the case. But get this – not only has French LRO reader Emmanuel Reynaud converted his 1996 Range Rover P38 to Td6 power, he did it as far back as 2003. And it has more than proved itself as a viable conversion – Emmanuel has taken it on expeditions to North Africa every year since.
Emmanuel knows his Land Rovers and was well-placed to do this conversion: he has more than 10 years’ workshop experience under his belt, first with a franchised dealer then running his own independent business, Land Technology, near Bordeaux.
The vehicle that Emmanuel used for his ground-breaking conversion is a 1996-vintage P38 2.5 diesel. The previous owner had spent a small fortune sorting out all its faults – but when the
engine blew, that was the last straw. He just wanted rid of it, so Emmanuel took advantage of the low asking price to bag himself a cheap project vehicle.
The most straightforward thing to do would have been to fit a like-for-like replacement – another BMW straight-six diesel. But Emmanuel needed only to compare the vital stats between that and the new Td6 motor fitted in the recently launched L322 Range Rover: 134bhp against 174bhp, and 199lb ft against 288lb ft. That settled it!
The search for the necessary components got under way. As well as the engine itself, Emmanuel needed the gearbox to go with it. Luckily, the size and weight of both these are very close to the P38 equivalents, so fitting them was surprisingly straightforward. Some custom engine mounts had to be fabricated, and a slimmer sump pan was fashioned out of P38 and L322 parts (the front axle would have been too close to the Td6’s sump).
While Emmanuel set about reconfiguring the various ECUs, he ordered a specially milled aluminium plate and steel shaft to mate the automatic gearbox to the P38 transfer box. Because the transfer box stays in place, the propshafts can also stay put, as can the axle internals.
Sorting out the electrics was a lot more complicated, but Emmanuel became something of an electrical specialist during his many years spent working with Land Rovers.
He used the engine control unit and gearbox computer from the L322, and kept the P38’s electrics to handle everyday operations such as lighting, powered windows and ABS monitoring. To get all the electrical functions to communicate with each other, Emmanuel fitted a CAN-Bus unit.
The job took about 30 days (spread over six months) but Emmanuel reckons he could do it inside a week if he were to take on such a conversion again. Not that he’s thinking of doing so, mind – he undertook this project purely for the challenge.
If you own or have ever driven a diesel Range Rover P38, you would feel the difference within seconds of pulling away in this one. It feels a lot livelier, due in no small part to the 50 per cent extra torque. And Emmanuel reckons fuel consumption is slightly lower: he averages 25.7mpg at a constant 80mph on the French and Spanish motorways he uses on his regular jaunts to and from Morocco. That’s a decent return.
Emmanuel and his wife Nathalie spend at least four weeks a year travelling in Morocco, preferring the relatively uncomplicated Td6-engined P38 to the more complex Range Rover L322 Vogue 4.4 V8 and Discovery 3 TDV6 they also own. It seems to be an effective strategy: the P38 has never once let them down although a Rovacom diagnostic kit always comes along, just in case.
There are good reasons for this long-term reliability. Emmanuel knows all there is to know about the vehicle, having stripped it right down while carrying out the engine conversion. Anything he came across that he felt could benefit from being overhauled was duly overhauled.
The end result is a 1996 P38 that’s as close to a brand-new car as you can get (and it would look even more brand-new if Emmanuel and Nathalie didn’t drive it off-road and across deserts as often as they do).
The front of the cabin is basically as it was when it came off the production line 17 years ago: the indispensable Garmin 276C GPS and an ABS switch are the only really obvious embellishments. But have a look in the back and you’ll see that some fairly radical alterations have taken place.
The rear seats have been replaced by home-made lockers and drawers to house all the expedition kit. They surround a Waeco 12v fridge and a 50-litre water tank linked to a pump feeding a shower. How about that for overlanding luxury?
The spare wheel lives in the back, two feet above where it originally did. Its previous home is now used for non-urgent spare parts, and is easily accessible from the tailgate. Even when fully laden, there’s still room for lots of luggage and the ground tent.
This is one beautifully modified second-generation Range Rover and a real credit to its skilled and enthusiastic owner.
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