Australia has a long history of producing memorable performance cars, with Holden's Monaro and Torana, Ford's high performance Falcon models and even the Valiant Charger springing to mind. With the demise of Australian vehicle manufacturing those names are destined to become just another part of Australian motoring folklore, but there's another lesser known Aussie performance car, and it didn't come from a major multinational carmaker.
It's the Bolwell, Australia's very own sports car with a history stretching back to 1962. And while Holden, Ford and Toyota might be closing their doors, Bolwell is still going strong producing the latest model of its Nagari, the Nagari 300.
Early kit cars
The Bolwell story started in 1962 when Campbell Bolwell decided to transform his hobby of building fibreglass bodied custom sports cars into a business. The Bolwell Mk 4 was his first attempt, a fibreglass bodied kit car on a spaceframe chassis that came as either a gull-winged coupe or a roadster. It was a bolt-together amalgam of parts from different manufacturers, but it was no less successful for that. The Mk 4 combined good aerodynamics with lightweight and good balance and the backyard builders of the kit car could fit a range of engines and gearboxes. Bolwell sold over 200 of them to motoring enthusiasts around Australia.
A Mark 5 followed in 1964 using mainly Holden components, followed by a mid-engine one-off Mark 6 in 1968. Two years later Bolwell produced its first full production sports car, the Mark 8, or Nagari, an Aboriginal word meaning "flowing". The stylish good looks of this coupe were matched with equally impressive performance from its 5.00L or 5.8L Ford V8 engine. 100 coupes and 18 convertibles were produced over a four-year production run.
The company's flair for stylish designs took something of a detour with the 1979 Mark 9 Ikara. This mid-engine sports car was powered by a 1600cc VW Golf motor. Its design could politely be described as "original". It looked a little like a beach buggy suffering from cosmetic surgery that had somehow gone horribly wrong. Little wonder, then, that Bolwell only sold 12 of them.
Bolwell returned to form in 2009 with the release of the Mark 10 Nagari, also known as the Nagari 300. It's a far cry from its early bolt-together kit car predecessors, but its legacy is evident in its lightweight carbon fibre construction and its sleek design cues reaching back to Bolwell's early days. With a 220kw V6 and an option for a supercharger, the Nagari 300 packs quite a punch, going from 0-100kph in 4.5 seconds.