Founded in the 1950's by Campbell Bolwell and his two brothers, Winston and Graeme, with the idea of building low volume high performance sports cars. Each brother developed their own design through the 1960's, in the main using parts salvaged from pre and post World War II wrecks. Bolwell then grew from hobby-car manufacturer to serious kit-car manufacturer with the release of the Mk. IV, and in the process gained an ever growing following of loyal devotees, who liked the idea of choosing their own mechanicals.
Bolwell released the Mk. VII, for the first time the purchaser being able to choose to have the car assembled by the factory. The high point came in 1969
with the release of the Mk. VIII Nagari, many design innovations being incorporated following Graeme Bolwell's return from a working holiday in the UK, much of his time being spent with Lotus
- although the use of the Ford 302 or 351ci V8's added considerably to the allure.
Australian Design Rules
It was the tough ADRs that put Bolwell out of the car manufacturing business in 1974
; the company could not afford to put their low volume cars through the strict tests the regulations demanded and went into the industrial side of the fibreglass business, leaving sports cars as no more than a memory. Although Bolwell was successfully turning out many odd shapes from industrial plastics, Campbell missed the thrill he got from designing, manufacturing and being involved with sports cars. No matter what the problems were with the ADRs, he knew he had to conquer them and return to the side of the fibreglass business he loved.
After many months of hard work having his designs approved by all the right authorities, Bolwell's Ikara was released in late 1979
. He'd completely forgotten the pseudo-Italian lines and the big V8 theme of the Nagari models which put his firm on the map, and had instead come up with an unusual shape which put his smaller engined car in a styling category of its own. It was sold in kit form for an owner to build into a complete road-ready vehicle. Whereas the basic kit, consisting of the tubular chassis, fibre glass body and a few of the fittings, cost just under $5,000, about $8,200 had to be spent on the complete kit of parts before the car could be assembled ready for the motor.
Throughout the development, it was designed for the chassis and body to take any one of a number of transverse engine/transmission units. The only one favoured though is the VW Golf 1600. These excellent four cylinder, four speed units were available from wreckers with reasonably low mileage and could be bought and checked-over for not much more than a thousand dollars. By the time the car was on the road, it would have cost an owner around A$9,500.
Campbell Bolwell saw the future of his car activities in exports. He had successfully promoted the Ikara it in south east Asia and even tried to break into the South American, North American, European and British markets, by offering to either sell the kit, the tooling, or a licence to produce the product. In the end only around 20 Ikara’s were made and sold in Australia before the concept was sold to a company in Greece.