Family runabout – P38
Jon needed a daily driver with room for his wife and three children. Plus P38
Modified for fun off-road and on the beach
‘The P38 is Jon’s mobile office – so bad weather is never an excuse to miss work, in floods or in snow’
You know it’s going to be a great shoot when you receive an email before it that says the following: ‘I’m happy to get it polished and detailed before you take the pics, and equally happy to get it muddy afterwards.’ Spot on. Top chap.
True to his word, as we arrive at the photoshoot location, the P38 is waiting for us gleaming, Jon’s grinning and it’s loaded to the gunnels with excited kids, wriggling dog, kayaks, surfboards, and heavens knows what else. ‘I didn’t know what might be needed, so I just brought everything,’ says Jon.
That’s the beauty of the Range Rover. If you want true adventure or merely a day at the beach, it’s big enough to swallow everything at one gulp and come back for seconds.
But why a P38? It’s a natural progression. Jon describes himself as being heavily into the greenlaning scene and had enjoyed a couple of RR Classics over the years, including one he had bobtailed. Eventually he had to give up his beloved Classic when parenthood beckoned and he bought a Jaguar just before his son was born – a pregnant wife and lifted bobtail with bucket seats were non-compatible. A few years later they were expecting another happy event, which turned out to be even happier than expected, as they found out they were having twins. The Jag had to go as a double buggy would not fit in the boot, so his wife Sally suggested Jon went out and bought something ‘sensible’.
Like all good Land Rover people no further excuse was needed, and Jon got the P38. It started life as a bog-standard 4.6 HSE, but over the years he has adapted it into a weekend toy and mule for carrying bikes to the Quantocks (did we mention he’s a huge downhill mountain bike fan?) and boards to the beach.
Over the last ten years he and it have clocked up many happy miles but inevitably the Range Rover didn’t stay standard for very long. The list of modifications has gradually grown as he refined the standard vehicle into something to suit his busy lifestyle perfectly.
It’s still Jon’s daily driver and he finds that when working with young offenders (his day job) and the YMCA, it’s always a good talking point with the kids – it’s an especially great ice-breaker with the ones that can be hard to engage with. It’s his mobile office, too, as he travels all over Somerset meeting young people who need support.
He’s found it useful in floods on the Somerset Levels and in snow on Exmoor – so bad weather is never an excuse to miss work.
The list of modifications isn’t massive, but it is well considered. To start off, with more than an occasional off-road foray in mind, extra ground clearance was the way to go, so a Terrafirma +2 coil and spring kit and Defender +2 spring spacers have given it enough lift for even a big girl like the P38 to cope with tough terrain. Jon’s also fitted a set of extended brake lines to compensate for the lift.
Bulldog wheel spacers have given a bit of extra space to allow for a set of big Cooper Discoverer STT PRO tyres to live under the arches. And although he’s not planning on banging the Range Rover against anything, it can happen, so protection was on the shopping list. This included a Terrafirma front axle slider, a rear axle guard from the same source and one of their snorkels. Raptor 4x4 came to the aid of the bodywork with a set of its tree/rock sliders and while he was at it Jon bought a Raptor winch bumper and a steering guard to match.
Something we are seeing more and more of is the sort of computer tech we’re all getting used to at home slotted into our Land Rovers. In this case Jon has fitted on-board ipad mapping, meaning he can access all of the functions, from GPS to the internet. Slightly lower tech is a CB radio, for keeping in touch with other members of his local club (Sedgemoor and Levels Adventure 4x4), especially in big spaces like Salisbury plain and also for his work with South West 4x4 Response, his local rescue network. He’s also got a Winchmax electric winch.
While the cavernous interior copes with him, his wife, three children and a dog (albeit a very small one) once they start packing up for an adventure it’s soon crammed. The roof rack is on permanently, the front bars providing dual service for a high-lift jack and a light bar. Once a pair of kayaks are on top, it really is a full house.
Local company Bridgwater Tyres and Exhausts came up with a cracking-looking stainless exhaust with custom mid-box and straightthrough pipe – and it sounds lovely!
If Jon had to start again, I ask, would he have done anything differently? ‘It’s more what I should have done,’ he replies. ‘I need to waterproof the electrics. Encasing them in Tupperware is the plan. And remember to put the lids on for any sort of wading. It really works.’
So what other nuggets can Jon pass on to other P38 owners who are keen to do some modifications? He says finding off-the-shelf parts for modifications can be difficult, but as P38s get older things are starting to appear from the bigger brands like Terrafirma and Raptor 4x4.
Some items can be adapted from Defender and Discovery parts, but most of all he reckons anyone thinking of tricking up a P38 should visit the online forums to see what’s already been done. He notes that Australians suppliers are way ahead of the UK in P38 modification, but adds that postage is awfully expensive...
Jon is refreshingly honest, though, and says it is still very much a learning curve even after ten years of modifying and improving his P38. His best suggestion for other owners is to learn from reading LRO, and throwing ideas around the forums for points in the right direction.
Naturally, Jon’s Range Rover is still a work in progress. The list of jobs to do includes the aforementioned ECU Tupperware-style encasement or possibly re-positioning the electrics out of the way of any possible water ingress. Then there’s fitting a rack-mounted spare wheel or swing-away, if he gets the time. Plus, he’d very much like some extended wheelarches and steel modular wheels.
After spending the day with Jon, I’m pretty sure this list will continue to grow.
Communications Jon has installed hi-tech kit like an ipad for GPS navigation, but has also retained his old-school CB radio. This enables him to keep in touch with members of his local club on off-road adventures in Somerset.
Today it’s kayaks, next weekend mountain bikes...
Jon’s found a wide variety of uses for his high-lift system Sometimes, you just have to cram it all in Learning from others Quite a few of Jon’s ideas are, he admits, thanks to bright sparks on various P38 forums. He’s taken tips from Australian owners, too – he reckons they’re way ahead of the UK in certain aspects of modification.
Verdict I’ve never taken much notice of P38s. Yeah, they’re not bad-looking but they’ve have never floated my Land Rover boat. That is until now. I loved this one – Jon has managed the right package of off-road and luxury, and with the gas conversion there’s enough economy to be able to run it fairly comfortably. Can I have it, with all the beach kit too, please?