P38  -  4,6 HSE

Updated 01/13/12




(new photos + updated info)

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By Ronny Staberg - Ludvika, Sweden

The story of my Range Rover 4,6 HSE 1997 that has developed into an off-road project.



Back ground
The Range Rover model P38 is by many considered as mainly an on-road vehicle, a sort of luxury cruising limo with excellent comfort. True, but many forget about the off-road capability Land Rover has designed into this car.

I bought my first Land Rover, Range Rover, in 2006 with my mind set to use it as a second car for the family since it is a very practical car for daily use. Especially in winter time and also as a great car for towing the caravan.
This car is a Range Rover 4,6 HSE 1997 - "Arden edition", which means it is almost fully equipped with all the standard features plus extra leather trim and built in navigation system.
The car was in very good condition and is living up to the saying "Ride in style", even though it has long mileage. This car soon became the family's favorite.

Just 2 weeks after the purchase of the car my friend who is very keen on off-roading managed to convince me to bring my car to an off-road meeting in south of Sweden (4 wheel drive jamboree - High Chapparal). As I used the car off-road I was immediately "sold" on this kind of adventures.
Ever since then and as I have attended several other off-road events my mind has slowly grown to further improve this great car for off-road use.

Start of the project
My goal has been to utilize the car's original feature with the air spring leveling system. This in order to keep it as good as possible for on-road every day use, but at the same time make it as a potent off-roader.

So from there I started making up plans and got also in contact with Christer Wilsby at RedneckRangies in Stockholm who have much experience in off-roading and he has among other off-road cars also a Range Rover P38 that he has made some improvements of. During 2006 the discussion kept on and I finally decided on my project.

The goal was to try to keep the car looking  as "original" as possible for on-road use, but also to add features to make it really good for off-road use.
The result became that for every day use I have the standard wheels mounted and using the car in "highway mode" (low level), which makes it look and perform as a standard Range P38, while going to off-road meetings I just change tires and install the winch and I then have a really good off-road car. 

Miktec and RedneckRangies in Stockholm are the companies who have helped out with most of the installations on the car.

These are the modifications (so far):

  • Tyres
    I realized that one of the best improvements would be some really good tires. To get good ground clearance I would like to get as big tires as possible that could fit the car. Unfortunately the Range Rover has quite narrow wheel wells so I soon understood that really big tires should not fit with full flexibility and steering. After have searched the internet and read at rangerovers.net about tire sizes that should fit the car without any major modifications I purchased the "Maxxis Mudzilla 31" x 11,5" fitted to 16" x 8,5" heavy duty CW rims. Bigger wheels would fit but would require cutting the inner wheel wells or the fenders.
    The offset of the rims made the tires additional width to go level with the inside of the original tire. The "drawback" was that the wheels and tires extends ~55mm to the outside of the wheels. The wheels fits though perfectly even in "Highway mode" (Low ride height).
    These tires I use mostly for off-road adventures, while the standard wheels are for everyday use.
    (However, after increasing ride height I believe 32 or maybe 33" would be possible to fit without modifying the car.)
    - The standard tires are Pirelli Scorpion 255/55-18 on original "Ferrari" wheels.
    - Winter tires are Cooper Discoverer M+S 245/60-17 on alloy wheels. These tires works really well both on- and off-road in winter conditions.

    Update April 2010:
    During the past years I have come to love and hate the Mudzilla tyres, they are great offroad but not good at all onroad. So I have been looking for some tyres that are a better combination on- and offroad. The Mudzillas were 31" diameter and I wanted something bigger too.
    Based on all information I have found 32" are the biggest to fit without more modifications than higher suspension. Some seem also to have fitted 33" but as I have understood some more modifications are needed.
    I have been looking at BF Goodrich KM2 285/75-16 (~33") but also the
    Parnelli Jones - Dirt Grip 285/75-16 (34"). I have had my eyes on the Dirt Grips for a long time as they seem to be a very good allround type and based on the thread pattern they look very competent in various type of conditions. I decided to go with the Dirt Grips and do whatever necessary to fit them.
    As I received the tyres I realized they were much bigger than the Mudzillas. In order to make them fit I had to further extend the ride height at all settings with 25mm (~1"), I had also to remove the rear mudflaps. The front tyres still rubbed severely at Low and Normal EAS setting so to make the tyres to work I had to modify the inner fenders, cut the front spoiler, and then to actually modify the wheel arch by cutting the arch. 
    The tyres works really good in all types of conditions, especially when lowered tyre pressure (~1,0 bar). It seems like the tyres will work with even lower pressure, I will try 0,7 or 0,5 bar. In snow the tyres performed outstanding. I am really happy with them.

  • Differentials
    Originally, Land Rover has installed an electronic traction control (TC) to improve the traction in very slippery terrain, this system use the ABS system to break the wheel that is spinning in order to transfer power to the wheel with grip. This system is standard in the rear axel on 1995-1998 model and became also standard on the front axel from model year 1999.
    I found this system was working quite well in the terrain but I wanted to increase the traction even further. Wilsby had installed "TrueTrack" limited slip differentials in his P38 and was very happy how they worked.
    So I decided to install these limited slip differentials in both rear and front axel.
    The result using them in the snow, mud and terrain is just simply great. The wheels are pulling like a locked differential but the car is still very maneuverable. The good things with these are that they are like "fit and forget", after installation you use the car the same as before and the limited slip differentials are at work all the time, on- or off-road. In my opinion they even improve the on-road characteristics at winter condition.

  • Protections
    I discovered during my off-road adventures that protections for the differential housings are very important. I was lucky the times I hit rocks with my front diff that nothing broke, I just ended up with a small dent on the housing cover.
    There seems though to be a big problem to find any off-road accessories for the Range Rover P38, during my search on internet and also mailing several Land Rover accessory companies world wide I just found out no one had any differential protections for the P38. Www.OPP.se helped me to find a protection for the rear axel. Wilsby yet again came to the rescue and presented the front axel protection found at a company called Southdown. The front axel protection is actually much more than just a diff protection, it rather protects the whole axel and steering rods.

  • Air-springs
    Since my air-springs had became very old with lots of dry cracks I decided to have them replaced. Wilsby have contacts with Arnott Industries who makes after market air-springs for the P38. He informed that "Arnott Generation III" springs had been developed to increase the spring travel with 3-4"! They had also managed to solve the problem with the standard springs, which suffer from a "reversed" suspension characteristics where the spring is soft when the car is in "highway mode" (low setting) while being more hard when in off-road mode. Just the opposite what you really would like it to be.
    These new Arnott Gen III is the answer to solve the problem, so I had those installed as a replacement of my standard air-springs.
    To be able to fully utilize the extended spring travel the original shock absorbers was replaced with long travel Bilstein 7100.

  • Increased height
    With those new air-springs installed I decided to increase the ride height, which was done electronically by reprogramming the air-spring computer (EAS). A height increase of ~25-100 mm (1"-4") depending on ride mode (Highway-Normal-Offroad).
    The result with new springs and shock absorbers is that even though the car is higher than before the road handling has improved while yet being soft when in off-road height.

  • Potentiometer linkage
    Due to the modifications of the suspension system with the increased travel we have had to extend the potentiometer arms. During extreme flex at the dropping wheel there will also be a sideway force on the linkage arm that will cause stresses on the linkage and cause it to break.
    I have further modified the potentiometer arm and installed a linkage that will allow sideway forces. (More information on the "Journal" page.)

  • Winch
    A winch had been on the whish list for a long time but some problems had to be over-come.
    - In Sweden we have a mandatory annual car check-up (Bilprovning) and it is very difficult to get a car passed with outer modifications like a winch installed due to pedestrian safety. For trucks it is easier, therefore most off-road cars in Sweden are registered as light trucks, which gives them more flexibility to install add-on's.
    Since my car is registered as a car we decided to install a detachable winch. A 4,2 tons winch on a bracket system attached to the frame of the car is installed, with all the attachment system behind the license plate. So without the winch it can not be seen any traces at all of the winch mount. The installation time is less than 5 minutes.

    Here are some more pictures of the installation as I have got several requests and questions of the winch installation.


  • Recovery points
    Additional recovery points has been installed so now there are double towing rings at front and rear.


  • Manual air recovery system (M.A.R.S.)
    As a back-up in case of a problem in the air suspension system I have installed manual filling valves. If a fault in the EAS system I then have the possibility to manually fill the air suspensions individually via the fill valves located in the engine compartment.
    The kit comes from CarrollRovers.


  • Roof rack
    A Thule roof rack is used for carrying the spare off-road tire. 4 lights installed makes it even look good :-)


  • Rock slides
    Miktec in Stockholm made an own design of rock slides to protect the body. They have at several times proved to be very good to have.


  • Other
    CB-radio installed (radio: MAAS DX5000, antenna: Sirio 5000, amp. Zetagi B300P), PARROT-3400 bluetooth handsfree stereo integration for the mobile phone, a DVD entertainment system for the rear seat passengers.

My wife pose with the car

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