Little more than one year since Land Rover rescued Bowler from administration and absorbed it into the Special Vehicle Operation division, it has granted it exclusive rights to use the Defender design for a new high-performance road car. Yes, really. Codenamed CSP 575, it twins JLR's supercharged 5.0-litre V8 with Bowler’s rally-proven CSP high-strength steel chassis, with an aluminium alloy-skinned Defender 110 Station Wagon body on top. The 2021 production run will be limited, with each car costing from around £200,000.
It ain’t cheap, then, but those who know about Bowler’s creations will likely appreciate the engineering prowess on offer. The Belper-based company was started in 1985 and has specialised in the construction of competition-spec Defenders, including the Wildcat and Bulldog (it also built the Range Rover Sport-derived EXR-S from 2007). Bowlers have competed the world over in endurance events, most notably Dakar and Baja. Suffice it to say the firm has earned its share of silverware over the years.
Given the level of expertise, it’s not at all surprising that SVO will have a hands-off approach to the CSP 575’s development. “It’s 100 per cent at Bowler” Michael Van Der Sande, managing director for SVO, told PH. "The only change now is there’s a more organised and formalised way for Bowler to seek technical drawings and so on under licence, as well as active communication between the teams”. Assuming that gives Bowler the freedom to express itself as it has in the past, it ought to bode well for the new model.
Plainly the wider tracks, extended wheel arches and lifted stance of the car in the rendering suggest that this a machine intended to go off road fast, and it ought to have no trouble doing that with its parent's 575hp supercharged V8. There will be some road-spec mod-cons inside, including air conditioning - but the CSP platform is renowned for its ability to take endless punishment, so there's no question that buyers will be accessing the most authentic Bowler experience.
Indeed, Calum McKechnie, general manager at Bowler, told PH that the company will work with its customers to ensure they get the most from their cars. He said the firm has “a history of taking people through a journey so the team has a lot of experience in supporting driver development,” and that he’s expecting many buyers “to take us up on that offer”. The final specification – including how aggressive the final suspension, geometry and even powertrain setup will be – is yet to be decided. Van Der Sande added, “some of the chassis aspects will be adjustable, but we will start by going in with a stable, good handling car’. Either way, he promised that “it’ll go like the clappers”.
Bowler expects to be fully back up and running and producing around a dozen cars per year from the end of 2021, although there’s more than just one low-run model to be excited about here. The CSP 575 project, incredible though it is, is apparently just the beginning. More on what's to follow here.
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