0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds … that’s faster than an Aston Martin DBS. No, I’m not talking about a sports car. This is a hard-core off-roader that will obliterate most high-performance machinery in the same way Usain Bolt dispenses his speed over his rivals. It was built in the year 2000, and performance figures from this naturally aspirated engine stand at 223 kW and 398 Nm of torque at a mid-to-low 2600 r/min. It’s built for speed, not small-space 4×4 manoeuvres, and it’s incredibly agile.
So it’s a fast car?
Yes, there are plenty of fast cars around. The Bowler Wildcat, however, is unique in that it can maintain much of its performance figures on just about any terrain you place it. The V8 engine (in either 4.4 or 5.0 litre guise) is thirsty, but extremely powerful.
FUN FACT: the Bowler Wildcat, with all its speed, agility and versatility is – believe it or not – based on the Land Rover Defender. In fact, Land Rover is quite happy to say that they “endorse” the Wildcat, making its pedigree even more attractive.
What is it, exactly?
Bowler Offroad Ltd, which is based in Derbyshire in the UK, makes the Wildcat, the Nemesis and most recently, the EXR – all of which have competed in the Dakar Rally. And, that’s exactly the clue to what these vehicles are – they’re off-road rally vehicles, which have been built with the specific aim of become the “ultimate all-terrain supercar.” There you have it – it’s every off-roader’s dream; the equivalent of a Lamborghini on dirt … and dunes … and in mud … and on snow. It’s the kind of thing we dream of as little kids on the back of the bakkie, or when driving your first 4×4 on that plaaspaadjie at speeds you’d rather not admit to your father you attempted, and got away with. It’s the 4×4 enthusiasts’ version of a Formula 1 car. Well, sort of.
A history lesson
Bowler has been developing off-road racers since the 1980s, and their first successful vehicle was the Arc Spec Prototype. It was built on a converted Land Rover chassis and fitted with a 2200 twin carb engine. The first one sold, in 1986, was built on a Range Rover platform. Then, in 1995, they launched the “Tomcat 100,” which had a longer wheelbase and was the first evidence of the performance and speed orientation of Bowler products. With huge off-road racing success, this developed into the Wildcat 100 in 1997. The Wildcat 100 had the same long wheelbase as the Tomcat, but a tubular chassis. Make the chassis lighter, add a roll cage, restyled body and 2692mm wheelbase (for stability on tough terrain), and the Wildcat 200 we know and love is born.
(Later, the Nemesis and EXR Rally and EXR S followed – see details below the video)
Okay, I want one
Well, unlike the Marauder, Bowlers are sold to the public – at around $80 000 a pop in the US. And, they’re made in right hand drive, so importing one is not completely far fetched. For now, check out their Facebook page here for more pics and videos.
Video: Bowler Wildcat on TopGear UK:
The Wildcat grows up: Meet the EXR Rally
Out with the old and in with the new – while the Wilcat may be the most famous of the Bowler products, meet the EXR. The Bowler was followed by the Nemesis in 2008, and last year this beauty was released. This is the UK company’s newest and spiffiest off-road racer. Read the specs below, and fee free to drool to your heart’s content:
Designed with race experience, and using the latest CAD, the EXR has a hydro-formed base chassis and a MSA approved advanced tubular roll cage. High strength steel tubing is used throughout the roll cage and main braces – making the car both extremely strong and extremely safe, whilst keeping the weight to a minimum (in line with current FIA regulations), and the centre of gravity as low as possible.
The EXR Rally also has the option of having self-powered hydraulic ramps fitted for competition use. These can be used to raise the car in the event of being stuck in soft sand to enable the easy use of sand ladders, and they also enable wheels to be changed safely and quickly without the need for a traditional jack, both on stage and during service.
The body styling has been designed and engineered to reflect and enhance its racing performance. As a result, all of the curves and scoops on the body of the EXR are positioned for a reason – to aid either cooling or aerodynamics. It is considered to be the ‘best’ looking Rally Raid car currently available.
The exterior body panels of the EXR Rally and EXRS are identical –further enhancing the competition nature of the EXRS as a road car. The body of the EXR comprises of a variety of composite materials, each chosen for their performance, strength and weight characteristics. These individual materials are then used in different locations on the vehicle ensuring that the right material is in the right place to maximize strength and performance.
Engine & Transmission
The EXR Rally is proud to be ‘Powered by Land Rover’ and fitted with a 300hp naturally aspirated 5.0 V8 which develops 380 Nm of torque when fitted with restrictors to comply with current FIA regulations. The engine has been tuned to deliver maximum torque over a wide rev range in order to deliver superb off road performance. The engine is mounted in a mid longitudinal position, in order to optimise both balance and stability.
The EXR Rally is fitted with a 6 speed manual gearbox, with the option of a Sadev 6 speed sequential gearbox fitted with a reduction gear, and a Ricardo transfer box giving a 60/40 torque split, limited slip centre differential with over-lock, and limited slip front and rear differentials.
The EXR rally car uses fully independent suspension with geometry that has been designed and modeled to give specific competition handling characteristics. Combining the low centre of gravity, wide track and long wheelbase produces exceptional stability and driver comfort at all speeds, over all terrain.
The EXR rally has 3-way adjustable Donerre dampers, which include their patented fast rebound system, and hydraulic droop and bump stops. These dampers feature remote reservoirs that are positioned to benefit from cool air supplied by the bonnet ventures and side scoops, thus ensuring constant and reliable performance even in desert racing conditions.
Wheels & Brakes
The EXR is supplied with bespoke 18” compomotive motorsport rims that are both extremely strong and light and the Bowler Works team use a bespoke rally raid tyre that has been developed by Kuhmo for racing conditions.
The EXR uses Brembo calipers that grip 330mm ventilated discs with a range of pads available to suit specific uses.
As a competition car, the EXR can be specified with various types of FIA approved race seats, harnesses and intercoms. Additional equipment such as auxiliary lighting (internal and external), navigation systems, sand ladders and additional water storage can be specified to be included in the build of the car.