Bolwell Nagari: Super athletes from Down Under

Hans Neubert, work
Bolwell Nagari
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' Let's have some Bolwell Moments ', says Steve in his relaxed, Australian way. And hands the inconspicuous, small ignition key over as if it were just a kid's candy. The red Bolwell N agari of the entrepreneur from Adelaide stands crouched and aggressive at the side of the road. But before 290 hp to 925 kg are released in a few moments, it is necessary to thread through the narrow door gap into the even narrower interior. And immediately afterwards to find space for your feet - unfortunately exactly where three tiny pedals are already squabbling about every millimeter. Once the door is closed, the rest of the body can no longer move either. It pinches and pinches in all corners.

Extreme: 5.7 liter V8 with 290 hp in the 925 kilo flounder

Is the Bolwell Nagari to blame for Lack of space? Or the driver, after all the Australian barbecues? No matter. It is too late to diet now. The bright hum of the starter is the last earthly noise in the ears, then the inferno breaks out: tremors. Thunder. Roar. 5,751 cubic centimeters in eight cylinders, apparently only roughly the same size, ignite an elemental force that otherwise only volcanic eruptions or tectonic plate shifts can bring about.

The uncouth shaking of the engine seems to push the little Bolwell Nagari to its limits even while idling. Is there lava bubbling under the hood? Better not to look at all. Reluctantly, the first gear engages, the servo-free steering braces itself against almost any attempt at movement. Let's go. And now, at the latest, all the cute metaphors fail that one could create beforehand for an experience of this kind. No, this is not an electric shock kangaroo, nor is an Australian reef shark in a bloodlust.

Bolwell’s story

This is simply a brutally bulging Ford 351 Cleveland V8 that does what it wants with the 1.11 meter low and four meter short fiberglass body. The Bolwell Nagari shoots off like a fighter jet on the catapult of an aircraft carrier, nails the brainthe driver relentlessly on the much too short headrest and does not provide the tunnel vision feared by jet pilots because a fraction of a second later, at 5,000 rpm, the next gear has to be engaged. It's not easy: the untrained left hand stirs the stubborn Ford toploader gearbox. Steve in the passenger seat grins knowingly. Finally, the second is in. The infernal orgy of acceleration is repeated, no more sedate. The V8 digs deep into the ears, the asphalt begins right under the bum, and just above the head there is only a thin layer of fiberglass to protect against the burning Australian sun.

The road ends on the horizon, the Bolwell Nagari sucks it up as greedily as the gas from the tank. After a little more than 5 seconds, the small red pointer on the speedometer wipes past the 100. That's it. Another 10 km /h more, and the South Australia police should take 279 dollars from us. So it's high time to take a deep breath, slip into fourth gear, and chat with Steve about the history of Bolwell while cruising.

When it comes to Australia, Europeans think of koalas, red rocks or sun creams, whose high protective factors almost act like printing errors. They hardly think of Australian car brands. No wonder, because they are about as numerous as Arctic swimwear manufacturers. Admittedly, there is the small series manufacturer Elfin. And Holden, a GM brand that in the past was often content with transplanting thick V8 engines into honest Opel bodies. It's a shame, because from an automotive point of view there were once promising approaches on the underside of our planet.

Bolwell brothers at work

The Bolwell brothers began building racing cars they designed themselves in Melbourne in the late 1950s. The first works were quickly followed by constructions such as the Mk 4, a kit car for a full 169 Australian dollars. However, you had to bring your own engine. The breakthrough came in 1966 with the Bolwell Mk 7, which was based on Holden components. More than 400 were sold, but calls for more performance soon arose. Campbell Bolwell and his brother Graeme, fresh from a year of apprenticeship at Lotus, then created the Nagari.

The basis: Ford technology and a steel chassis in a Y-shape. Its wide front fork was initially equipped with the Ford 302 Windsor V8, later examples like the car shown here also with the Ford 351 Cleveland. A light fiberglass body was slipped over the chassis and the two parts were connected with ten massive bolts. There were also details like the taillights of the Aston Martin DBS. By 1974, twelve employees built around 127 Bolwell Nagari, around 13 of them as convertibles.

Even Campbell Bolwell cannot confirm today whether these numbers are exact. Whether a coupé or a convertible, the Nagari had a power-to-weight ratio that wasn't just thatwas superior to most contemporary sports cars. But also its own chassis: the front axle with its steering on the Austin 1800 CC was prone to impact and still causes constant outbreaks today, including sweat. The rear axle with its diagonal thrust struts was no less delicate. 'A pain in the neck to drive' is how John Low, President of the Bolwell Car Club South Australia, describes the ride in the Bolwell Nagari.

Nevertheless, there was a lot to get out of the car: The Bolwell Nagari won the Australian Sportscar Championship in 1973, with seven wins in nine races as well as a second and a third place. The competition immediately had the regulations changed. The list price was also sporty: for 6,200 Australian dollars, a Porsche 911 was included in 1971. But other things soon really stood in the way of the Nagari's success: Drastically tightened licensing laws led to bankruptcy in 1975.

Glass fiber artists from Australia bring successors

Campbell Bolwell used his knowledge in the processing of Fiber optics and turned to the construction of boats, truck cabs and children's flight simulators. Brother Graeme temporarily got out completely. The car dreams were buried - apart from the unconventionally styled Ikara at the end of the 70s. But around 40 years after the Nagari, the Bolwell brothers are again working on a new sports car. The New Nagari was presented at the Melbourne Motor Show and the Sydney International Motor Show in 2008 and is powered by a supercharged Toyota V6 - the body is of course made of GRP again.

Chassis number 13 has been left out

Back to the original Nagari, the undisputed ruler on the winding country roads through the picturesque Barossa Valley. Steve is starting to sweat. Maybe because he suspects that you shouldn't give the wheel of this car lightly. But above all because the engine and the Australian sun mercilessly heat up the passenger compartment. Air conditioner? 'No, mate. I'm sorry.' It feels like 50 degrees in the footwell that isn't. And easily trump the 30 degree drift angle that can be achieved in manageable curves despite the grippy, hand-carved racing tires and despite Steve's frown. With every explosive intermediate sprint, with every short, sideways shift and every small correction to the directly translated steering, it becomes even more understandable that Campbell Bolwell once omitted chassis number 13. However, this clever advance in matters of passive safety was not as successful as hoped - there were plenty of accidents. The car was just stronger than the driving skills of many owners.

Still: If it weren't too tight for a hat in here, you'd have to pull it off at the end of this trip. TheBolwell Nagari develops a fascination that one can hardly ignore. Wherever people walk around upside down without falling off the ground, there are also automotive wonders.


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