30 September 2023
Nigel Wilkinson, a machine shop section leader from Peterborough, talks us through his project...
How long have you owned it?
I acquired my Range Rover in January 2007 when it became my daily driver.
What made you want to buy this particular Land Rover?
I was looking for something to tow a caravan and this came up with an LPG conversion. Having already owned a Range Rover Classic in the past, I decided to try the second generation. Although it looked in a sorry state, I saw potential in it to turn it into a beautiful vehicle.
What’s the story so far?
It was my daily driver for many years until the engine block cracked in July 2012, when I took it off the road. It sat on my drive for five years looking sorry for itself as I didn’t have the time to do anything with it because I was teaching.
After changing jobs in 2017 I decided to create the vehicle of my dreams. I chose to do it in two halves – the first area to tackle was the rear end as that looked the worst. Everything was removed from the gearbox back and the underbody and chassis were stripped back to bare metal, treated and coated in rubberised rust encapsulator. The rear axle was stripped bare, sand blasted, coated and fully rebuilt with new bearings in the differential and hubs along with new seals throughout. Then I did the same with the front end.
The gearboxes were then removed, stripped and rebuilt with new bearings, seals and clutch plates, and a new drive chain went into the transfer ’box. The engine bay was stripped bare and resprayed in the original colour (Willow Green). The interior was completely stripped and the car was sent off to Nene Overland for a doors-off, glass-out full body respray, while the engine was entrusted to RPI Engineering, where Ian Thurtell and his team rebuilt and upgraded it to Stage 3 specification.
Once back from paint, the interior had additional sound-deadening added before putting the fully cleaned carpets back in. The seats were then stripped back and fully re-dyed and sealed. All other leather interior trims pieces received the same treatment. Nothing in this restoration has been left untouched.
What has been the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was getting the engine to run once installed. On turning the key absolutely nothing happened, not even a click from the starter…
That took a few months to sort, with the problem being a combination of things. Eventually after thinking it was the alarm and the XYZ switch, a friend offered to come round and have a look and spotted an issue straight away – I’d wired the starter motor up wrong!
I had attached the earth lead to the open braided connector thinking that was earth, when it wasn’t. Once I had moved it to the chassis, it fired up on the first turn of the key. That was an ecstatic moment to hear the noise of the V8 through the custom exhaust system.
Any other issues?
Although the P38 isn’t known for rusting badly, I did find that the rear nearside body mount was badly corroded so had to fabricate up a cone-shaped repair to weld in, which was a bit tricky.
Nigel now loves his new engine (after he finally got it to start)
Tell us more about that V8...
It now has an RPI 4.6 Stage 3 engine with top hat liners, Stage 3 heads, Piper Stormer camshaft, ported intake system with ported and shortened trumpets and modified fuel injectors for better spray pattern. The engine has been dynamically balanced, and the ECU chipped by Tornado.
How long has it taken?
I have been working on it for the past five years and eight months. I didn’t put a timescale on to finish it, as in my opinion when you do that and the deadline you set yourself looms you start to rush and cut corners. It will be finished when its finished, hopefully this year.
What jobs are next on the list?
I’m currently working on the front bumper, getting that prepped for paint. Plus, I need to source another rear bumper. There’s also the headlining to redo as I wasn’t happy with the first attempt, which will pretty much complete the interior bar fitting the door cards once all the electrics have been tried and tested. Mechanically, there’s just the brakes to finish.
What are your plans for it?
Once finished I plan to enjoy it and, once the engine is run-in, head off for a few road trips. I would also like to display it at Land Rover shows and take it along to some local car shows.
Who has helped with the project?
The majority has been done by myself. My son, Mathew, helped install the engine and gearboxes as it was a two-man job.
I also need to mention Dean Harley who helped with getting the engine running, as it would have taken me a lot longer to realise my mistake without him.
Any advice for anyone doing similar?
As I said earlier, don’t put a timescale on it, otherwise you will end up rushing to meet it when things don’t go to plan – and some things will, trust me!
Also take plenty of photos for reference. They are great to look back on and see how something went together or where it came from, as over a long period of time you can’t remember everything.
I’ve taken before and after pictures as I’m creating a scrapbook of the project to be able to look back on but also share with others. Finally, if you can afford to, get a Nanocom as they’re really useful for setting up. It will pay for itself as an invaluable tool to have.
How can LRM readers follow the progress of your P38?
I do regular updates on the Facebook group ‘Range Rover P38 Owners Club Hints Tips and Banter’.
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