Written by Kerryn Caulfield, Executive Director, Composites Australia Inc.
Realising the enabling properties of fibreglass Campbell, along with his brothers and friends, subsequently founded a company that would turn out 11 models over 50 years including Australia’s first homegrown performance muscle car. Bolwell’s initial offerings in the early ‘60s were the Mk II which was based on an MG chassis and powered by a tiny but tuneable 1200cc Ford Ten four-cylinder; and the Mk IIIs that ran a Jaguar engine on an Austin-Healey chassis, with fibreglass body. The Mk IV was their first commercially produced car that was made from a space-frame chassis with a Ford 4-cylinder engine (other engines were also used). Fifty kits were sold, mainly roadster bodies, with the gull-winged coupe version accounting for 12 examples.
Sales for the Mk V11, which was built and sold in kit-form between 1967 and 1972, increased to 450 transitioning the company from a backyard business to a serious specialist vehicle manufacturer making Bolwell Australia’s fifth largest vehicle manufacturer of the time. The Bolwell Mk 8 was the first model to receive its own name – the “Nagari”, believed to be an Aboriginal word meaning ‘flowing’. Conceived and mostly produced between 1969 and 1974 as a fully built production car, the Nagari was designed to incorporate coupe or sports body. It was the first of its kind to run a red-blooded V8 and is regarded by many as Australia’s finest homegrown sports car. The Nagari 300, which was released in 2010, featured a carbon/Kevlar tub, and a midmounted Toyota 3.5ltr V6 engine.
Bolwell Cars went on to create five commercial models, 800 cars in total; and in so doing earned a place in Australia’s automotive history. Campbell Bolwell is to this day, still designing and building cars. The Nagari 500 was released in 2019. Also with a carbon/Kevlar Tub, mid mounted Chev LS3 V8 engine and an Audi 6 speed transaxle, compliance of the new Bolwell Nagari 500 was completed in late 2021.
Bolwell is still a family company with co-founders Campbell Bolwell and his high school friend, Linley Hughes, who are company Directors. Today, under the management of Vaughan Bolwell, the company’s advanced manufacturing technologies and world-class designs have been instrumental in creating opportunities both at home and abroad.
Earlier this year, Campbell Bolwell was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to Mechanical Engineering.
The Bolwell Car Club of Australia
Founded in 1968, the Bolwell Car Club of Australia (BCCA) is one of Australia’s oldest one-marque sports car clubs. Founding members united as competitors in motorsport events such as the then annual 6-hour races at Winton and at Hillclimbs including Lakeland and Morwell. Annual National Bolwell car club meetings remain an enthusiastic forum for members to exhibit treasured and restored Bolwell models, from Mark 4 to the Ikara. The Club rents the original fibreglass moulds from Bolwell Corporation for an annual stipend. See https://www.bolwellcarclub.com.au/