It wasn’t just the Nissan and Toyota crowd who thought Peter Davis was mad when he bought a 1996 4.6-litre V8 Range Rover P38 – his fellow Oz Land Rover owners questioned his sanity too.
When the engine self-destructed at 150,000 miles, he could hear the calls of ‘I told you so’ rattling along the trails. Buying another P38 the following week cemented their suspicions.
But Peter was smitten with the luxury spec, and was determined to try again with his new 2001 model. With some basic modifications, he reckoned it could be just as good as a Defender for driving off-road – and way more comfortable.
Peter liberated his home-made front and rear bumpers from his old vehicle, having found few off-the-shelf off-road parts available for the P38, and began creating his dream vehicle.
A three-inch Magna Flow exhaust amplifies the already thunderous V8’s roar, while high-intensity discharge headlights and Terrafirma driving lamps soak the dark sand dunes of South Australia in light. Front and rear locking diffs keep the P38 crawling on, regardless of terrain.
Peter has three sets of alloy wheels fitted with different tyres to cover the driving conditions he encounters. Cooper road tyres are for daily use, Mickey Thompson Baja ATZs tick the sand driving box and Simex Extremes are called upon when there’s mud involved. He’s fitted a Superwinch Tiger Shark 9500 winch – but he hasn’t needed it yet.
Peter persevered with the air suspension for as long as he could but, given the battering this P38 sees, it was soon suffering broken sensors and blown airbags. He had converted his previous P38 to coil springs early on and reluctantly they returned for this one.
This may have compromised the on-road ride, but the coil springs improved articulation off it. And it meant that Peter could re-use the redundant air tank as a reservoir for his ARB compressor, storing compressed air for powering tools and inflating tyres.
Peter reckons the P38 is one of the most underrated Land Rovers. If you maintain it properly it can be every bit as reliable as the other models. It may be let down by the air suspension and cooling system; but for him at least, the comfort of the interior and the harmony of the V8 engine more than make up for that.
If you're thinking about buying a Range Rover P38, be sure to read through our buyer's guide first.