Home/Regulars/Shed Of The Week/Shed of the Week: Range Rover (P38)

Shed of the Week: Range Rover (P38)

You need brass balls to consider buying a P38 for Β£1300. Fortunately, the forums are full of those...

By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, May 24, 2019

Today, for the first time, the job of writing Shed of the Week is being handed over to PH members. Not because Shed fancies a week off, although he did overindulge in the Aldi red last night, but because the musings and remembrances of many P38-owning PH members will paint a far more vivid picture of what life with this model of Range Rover might be like.

The comments come from the first (and previous to this one, only) time a P38 has appeared in SOTW, just over a year ago. That one - a pre-Thor '97 car - was painted in a particular shade of blue that, you suspect, might have been of interest to a passing male baboon on heat, but not much else. The colour and the heavily caravanned shoot location got most readers running for the hills, but the car did serve a useful purpose as a portal for an outpouring of angst, sadness and scarcely believable (but, you also knew, probably true) anecdotes.

Before we turn it over to you lot, let's look at what the selling garage is saying about the visually more appealing one we've got here. They've incorrectly put it down as a diesel, which would be wishful thinking for any future owner hoping to achieve double-digit mpg figures. They're also offering insured 24-hour test drives, which would be great if the concept of 24 hours of incident-free driving in a P38 didn't fall so obviously into the same category of wishful thinking.

Thing is though, apart from a fixable-looking dent in the nearside rear door and both number plates mounted at a jaunty angle, this 4.0 SE - a 1999 car, which should mean it has the improved 'Thor' engine management and four-wheel traction control systems - does look suspiciously straight. The ad tells you all the bad things it hasn't got - faults, warning lights, rust - and one of the bad things it has got, a sagging headlining, which if nothing else surely confirms that this is a genuine late 1990s Range Rover, one that has done just 125,000 miles and has a clean, fresh MOT with no advisories.

A thick folder of invoices lures you further into the maw of this motoring Moby Dick. Will you venture in? At this point let us turn to the PH massive. Let's start with this comment from Sleepera6, which sets a nicely understated tone for what's to come. We'll then move into a selection of other posts. Dip in and out to get a bittersweet taste of potential P38 ownership.

'I got lucky with mine. The only issues in nearly 16 years of ownership being air suspension, headliner, battery failures, coolant leak, oil leak, washer leak, electric windows.... not too bad for 16 years and P38 standards.' (Sleepera6)

'My wife had a 4.0 V8 a few years ago. Lovely thing to drive when it was working properly. We suffered the porous block issue, the self-destructing gearbox issue, the failing flex-plate issue and the utterly cataclysmic fuel consumption issue. We took it off road a few times - it averaged 3mpg while doing it..... it gave about 15mpg in normal driving conditions. When the flex plate failed for the third time in as many years, we sold it for spares and repairs. We still missed it though.... (Nigel O)

'My 4.6 was oddly reliable, if you take into account everything that didn't work. Like the heated seat driver's side, any sort of heating on the passenger side due to knackered blend motors - a common fault. Never did much more than 10mpg, and single figures when towing. I don't miss it.' (Tyre Smoke)

'I had a 4.6 P38. In the last few weeks before I sold it I managed an average 9 mpg just pootling round town and doing a few school runs. The purchase price is the least of your worries buying one of these as a shed.' (Spookly)

'I've had a 2.5 DHSE and a 4.6. The 2.5 felt underpowered but still managed to pull along once it got there. The 4.6 drank fuel for a laugh but was surprisingly nippy. One of mine had coil springs, the other had the air suspension, which was forever adjusting itself in traffic.' (Psycosis)

'Ah the P38. The RR everyone who hasn't owned/driven one likes to knock. I've owned mine fro 10 years and around 80,000 miles. It's a 4.6 with LPG and does around 14-16 on LPG, so that is an approximate equivalent of high 20s on petrol. Does help that it is the later Thor set up. Very little has gone wrong. Discs/pads last about 45K, 1 set of air bags, one set of shox. Tyres seem to last forever, about 60K at the last look. The transmission had to be rebuilt, but that wasn't helped by the GF chucking it into reverse while going forward (and writing off the Vectra behind). Heater blend motors can be replaced easily if you know how. Otherwise usual stuff, a couple of batteries and an alternator. I've towed with it regularly, including a trailer + fork lift a couple of times. It is always a delight to drive. It is getting a bit shonky around the edges, saggy headlining etc. It cost about £4500 to buy 10 years ago, so I think I would rather spend a few grand on it rather than braving L322 ownership.' (V8 FOU)

'I had one. When I took it in for an MOT with 92k on the clock, fella says, have the airbags gone yet? Noooooo, I quizzingly replied, why? Oh, they will at around 100k. 7 months later, they did.' (Mikal83)

'Got mine in November last year for £1550. It did (a) break down on the way home, recovered; (b) break down two weeks later, recovered. Since then it's done about 7k miles, is doing another 1000 miles this weekend, and will be towing a caravan to Spa in a few weeks. Parts that have failed: front and rear diff, caused by excessive use while viscous coupling was on its way out. Its cost me about £2300 in total including some workshop work (viscous coupling is mounted to the transfer box, I am not lifting that in.) If you are mechanically handy these are good cars and parts can be got cheaply.' (Chasingracecars)

'My mate bought a 2.5 Dse a few years ago. It had nearly 200k on it, and was still on air. Was slow, wallowed in the corners and it was brilliant. His wasn't far from shed budget.' (AJM)

'I had one in 2016. Cost me a grand for 1997 4.6 V8 converted to direct injection LPG with the spare wheel well tank. Absolutely loved the thing. It had a few common issues, one of which was NOT the air suspension, luckily. Worked an absolute treat. And then it spat a liner. Sold it for £850 so only lost £150 in about 9 months. Oh, apart from the hundreds and hundreds it cost me in fuel. Even on LPG! Averaged 11mpg.' (MikeDrop)

'Good friend runs one as a daily, insisting it is on the cusp of classicness. It seems to spend the summer in a garage as regular as clockwork for various repairs (none of which appear to be cheap or easy to identify). He loves it.' (Rumblestripe)

'I bought one of these in 2005 and used it as main car until 2010 and still have it 13 years later. It has been sitting in my paddock un-driven for the last 5 years as I have not quite got round to doing anything with it. Current issues: engine overheats, radio broken, passenger electric window mechanism broken, A/C broken, heated seats broken, headlining sagging, brakes not working, central locking broken. It does get started and run up once or twice a year and the children like to play in it like a sort of automotive Wendy House.' (Pontypool)

'I bought a '95 (I think) 4.0 V8 P38 back in 2008ish, loved the thing. Filled it up with kids, dogs and mountain bikes and it went anywhere it was pointed. Said goodbye to it in 2010 when the air suspension went mad, the back end dropped onto the bumpers and it wouldn't budge. Rose-tinted glasses say I'd happily have another one tomorrow.' (P9DH)

'As long as you are handy with a spanner, own a Range Rover dealership, are handy with a wrench, have a local pawn shop nearby, and are handy with a bigger spanner you got from the local pawn shop in exchange for the wedding ring you will be fine.' (Gandahar)

'I paid £48500 for a brand new Range Rover Vogue in 2000. In 5 years I did c.60k miles in it and it was dreadful. I would guess it was, as an average, in the dealer 5 times a year. The most common fault was the air suspension. I cannot even recall how many times I'd get to the car and it was dropped to one side, to the front or back. Speedo packed up twice, electric windows had a mind of their own. It ate differentials and had fuse box, central locking and lots of other electrical issues.' (7795)

'Horrible,unreliable piles of crap, not to mention that stupid thing you have to do with the key if the alarm messes up (turn it like a safe combination). I've had a couple of Classics and I've had L322s but wouldn't touch a P38 with a barge pole. An early petrol L322 would be worth the extra outlay as they're miles nicer to drive and much more reliable on the whole (except for typical air suspension stuff and common niggles).' (Walter Sobchak)

'For a long time I avoided P38s, believing the (untrue) hype about the reliability. Last year I lashed out £205 on a sight-unseen 4.6 which had been languishing in a field for a few years. Once I cleaned it off and threw a set of tyres and brakes at it, it passed its MOT with no advisories and I've been using it ever since. We're now 25,000 miles up and the only thing its cost me in spares is one sidelamp bulb. Its officially the most reliable car I've had.' (2woody)

'The P38 was about the most comfortable car I've ever driven (including later RR, S-class and Bentley Arnage), provided you didn't try to hustle it, but I could never quite get over the expectation of the next electrical glitch or bit of trim falling off.' (Equus)

'Mine's 17 years old and doing fine, on road and off road. Things wear out on old cars and need replacing. The bits that fail in the suspension are rubber bits that wear out (bags, seals in the pump and valveblock etc). Air bags are about £50 each and you don't need any special tools to replace them. The pump can be rebuilt for about £15 and the valveblock for about £40. My 4.6 V8 has just ticked over 118K miles and all the liners are still where they're supposed to be and it does 21mpg on a run, averages around 17mpg. I love these cars, they're fantastic and not nearly as unreliable as people would have you believe.' (DStanley1809)

'You have no idea how little you need a Range Rover until you've owned one.' (406dogvan)

There it is then. Don't say we didn't warn you. Tempting though, isn't it? Aaaargh.

Find your next car