Campbell Bolwell built his first fibreglass sports car in his parents’ garage when he was 16 years old. In 1962 Campbell transformed his hobby of building special sports cars into a business. The following 50+ years is a compelling story of entrepreneurial spirit and raw Aussie initiative, innovation and adaptability. Importantly, Campbell’s dream led to the formation of the composites industry in Australia, with Campbell Bolwell acknowledged as a founding father of an enabling new industry in Australia.
The company’s early success led to Bolwell’s prominence as a quality composites manufacturer and laid the foundation of Bolwell’s reputation for effective design solutions in the creative application of composite materials and as a transport innovator.
Developing hands-on skills in fibreglass moulds and moulding techniques his first commercial model, the Bolwell Mk. 4, sold over 200 units and is testimony to entrepreneurial flair and dedication to a dream. By the time Bolwell Cars began its diversification into other fibreglass products, the five different commercial models produced had earned Bolwell a unique place in Australian automotive history. By the time the last Bolwell vehicle was delivered more than 800 units were sold, with registration figures showing up to 200 Bolwells still on the road. Many more remain in the workshops of enthusiasts, waiting for alterations or even to be finished for the first time. Details on the Bolwelll car club can be found at this link: http://bolwellcarclub.com.au/history.html
Today, Bolwell’s advanced manufacturing technologies and world-class designs have been instrumental in creating opportunities both domestically and offshore. It has led to an involvement in the high-growth emerging economies of Australia’s near neighbours in projects which range from basic infrastructural to transport, marine and commercial applications.
Bolwell was an early adaptor of carbon fibre, developing and releasing the first car in the southern hemisphere (and the second in the world) with a carbon fibre composite monocoque shell and tub. This technology has been adapted in the Bolwell Edge – the fully moulded composites-based touring caravan with lightweight, aerodynamic properties.
Traditional industries have well established education and training courses that annually feed industry with graduates that ultimately form an industry workforce. As a relatively new industry, Australia did not have apprenticeship, undergraduate or post graduate education programs until the last few years. To that end, the advancement of the Australian composites industry has, to date, largely relied on the self-learning and entrepreneurial spirit of its founding fathers of which Campbell Bolwell is one. Every person employed by Campbell over the 50 years was taught the material science of composites technology by Campbell. Today, there are approximately 180 firms in the composites industry in Victoria, many of which employ Bolwell trained personnel.
The Bolwell team has for many years been called on to advise and steward the formation of a number of international advanced composites ventures. The Canadian wind turbine blades industry is one that owes its development to the skills and knowledge of Campbell Bolwell who was called upon in 2000-2005 to relocate to Ontario to set-up this industry that still thrives today.
Campbell Bolwell has been an active member of the Frankston Rotary club for 50 years. He is a founding member of Composites Australia Inc, the industry association representing the interests of the national composites industry.
For many years Campbell was a guest lecturer for RMIT and has mentored many designed students.
Campbell is also a published author. His book ‘Designer, Creator, Manager’ published by Longman Professional, 1992 has been distributed throughout Australia and has been used as recommended reading for design students. He has conducted several seminar tours through Southeast Asia teaching and expounding on the design philosophies discussed in his book.
It is difficult to quantify the 50 years of innovation, investment (both human capital and financial) and trial and error in materials and processes, persistence, mentoring, determination and vision of Campbell Bolwell in the confines of this artcle. The journey from experimenting with chicken wire and early resins in his parent’s garage to developing a carbon fibre composite monocoque shell and tub is extreme.
Suffice to say, that Campbell is the tide that raised all boats in the Australian advanced composites industry.