Remember the Bowler Wildcat? Wait, don't answer that, of course you remember the Bowler Wildcat – the tube-framed off-road racer with a V8 heart and a five-year-old's insatiable appetite for dirt. It is no longer made by Bowler, however; Wildcat Automotive has taken over its production – the company has no relation to Bowler Motorsport – and what's more, they've expanded the Wildcat line and begun fettling the Land Rover Defender.
Want to work your way up to Formula One? There are numerous feeder series you can start out with. Same goes for NASCAR, Indy, the World Rally Championship... just about every form of motorsport has its ladder to ascend. But Land Rover and its racing partner Bowler noticed a lack of a clear path up to rally-raid competitions like the Dakar Rally, and so they've teamed up to launch the new Defender Challenge.
The Bowler EXR S is a purpose-built SUV based on Land Rover bones with a 550-horsepower supercharged V8 designed to tackle off-road rallying events like the Paris-Dakar. The Caterham Seven Supersport is a feather-light track day weapon, purposely created to out-hustle just about anything on a winding race circuit. If asked to pick one of the as the fastest around a handling circuit in the UK, the smart money is clearly on the racing Caterham. Right?
Bowler has built a name for itself by constructing some very impressive rally bruisers built on Land Rover platforms. Now the company wants to take to the street with the new EXR-S. The road-legal version is currently undergoing testing, and Chris Harris managed to get his hands on the 550-horsepower creation for a little preview.
They've had a long-distance romance for a while, now their relationship is official: Bowler and Land Rover have signed an agreement that gives LR more presence in the hardcore off-road arena and gives Bowler direct access to parts and engineering. The move isn't all that surprising: last year Bowler took on Steve Haywood, previously a chief engineer at Land Rover, to lead the production of its new vehicle.
With some of the most ferocious high-speed off-road vehicles under its belt, Bowler is no stranger to conquering new territory. But its latest project is something entirely different for the British rally-raid racing firm.