The Dakar Rally is back in vogue, it seems. The arrival of the incredibly cool Porsche 911 Dakar serves as a reminder that there’s an appetite out there for ferociously fast off-road supercars inspired by the cross-country event, as will the impending Lamborghini Huracan Sterrato.
And who could blame them? Supercars today are getting ever wider and lower, where a trip over a speed bump is riddled with fear that you’ll rip the splitter off. That all goes out the window with these new rugged racers. With that said, how many 911 Dakars or Huracan Sterratos do you think will ever venture off the beaten path? Less than five per cent, I bet, and it’s all because it’ll mess with the resale value and cost a fortune if anything breaks. But don’t worry, I’ve got an alternative. A big, brawny, V8-engined alternative that isn’t just inspired by the Dakar – it’s done time there.
Okay, so not actually in Dakar. The rally hasn’t visited the country since 2007. But this Bowler Wildcat was tearing through the countrysides of Peru, Chile and Argentine in the 2013 running of the event. Run by Race2Recover, a team of British ex-servicemen, the squad became the first amputee team to complete the gruelling rally and managed to bag a 12th place finish overall. A truly remarkable achievement. So not only has the Wildcat proved itself in a straight fight, but it’s created motorsport history in the process and, thankfully, is still wearing its Dakar livery as a remind of its achievements.
Details of Bowler Wildcats of this generation are scarce, given that they’re often upgraded once they're in the hands of a pro rally team. What we know about this example is that it’s powered by a 4.0-litre naturally aspirated Jaguar V8, though we don’t have a power output. The general consensus is that these produced upwards of 300hp, but given that it’s been heavily modified for competitive rallying it may very well develop more than that. Here’s hoping. The motor’s connected up to a six-speed sequential gearbox – sending power across both axles, of course – while Quaife limited-slip diffs maximise traction. Bringing all 1,800kg to a stop is done courtesy of heavy-duty Alcon brakes at each corner.
But this isn’t just a tuned-up Defender; it’s tailor made for the challenges of cross-country racing. For instance, there’s an armoured rear prop shaft, reinforced axles plucked from a Land Rover Discovery 2, tougher suspension bushing from SuperPro and a beefed-up radiator by Allysport. That’s just scratching the surface, and will surely grab the attention of off-road enthusiasts, as will all the rally kit inside. There are countless displays, relaying everything from tyre pressure to axle temps, along with a full digital cockpit by Ecumaster. And while there are zero luxuries on the inside, at least you can access all the buttons and switches while wearing racing gloves. Can’t say that about the 911 Dakar, can you?
Whether it’s ready to race isn’t mentioned, but the harnesses and seats all meet the current FIA standards if you fancy continuing this Wildcat’s legacy. There’s a lot of car here, and it could be yours for £84,975. It’s a darn sight cheaper than the upcoming crop of Dakar-inspired supercars, and it’s practically begging to be driven off-road at pace. And whether it’s your cup of tea or not, it’s good to be talking about the Dakar Rally again. Long may it continue.
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