Bolwell Mk. VII
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4
The Bolwell MK VII marked the start of something big. It was a sleek, fastback coupe that maintained the Holden components theme with more than a hint of Ferrari styling. Like the Lotus Elan, it had a backbone chassis, formed by folded sheet metal. The rear axle was held in place by trailing arms and radius rods, with coil springs and telescopic dampers. The top speed broke the 200 kmh (125mph) limit and was an exciting car to drive.
During a six year period (1967-1972), 400 units received registration plates, making Bolwell Australia's fifth largest vehicle manufacturer. It was still predominantly manufactured in kit form, but a number of complete cars were also built by the factory. Just before the model hit the market, Graeme left for a working holiday in the U.K. where he spent five months working for Colin Chapman
at the Lotus factory in Cheshunt, just north of London.
Lotus at that time was making track winning cars from Le Mans to Silverstone and even formula one. Graeme took a keen interest in the new Lotus developments, as well as the competition. He saw the possibilities of combining European elegance with the Australian grunt of a large V8 engine. But it was also the small things that he wanted in the new Bolwell. MkVII's already used folding steel hinges for the bonnet, but Graeme was amazed to see that Lotus glass cast ferrules into the body work, with bonnets and boots anchored to them. You guessed it, the Mk VIII would soon follow.
Sports Car World January 1967 Report
SPORTS CAR WORLD has a soft spot for anything in the Australian motoring scene when it is a locally-built special. We have seen a lot of good Australian specials in 10 years of magazines - and almost all of them have slowly faded away. But the era of the special is gradually being revived - in a quite different way from the specials built five and 10 years ago.
These days specials are big business for professional builders - rather than backyard hobbies for enthusiastic amateurs. The factory specials are fully-assembled or completely-knocked-down (to use the terminology of the big manufacturers). The cars are almost exclusively built of new or completely reconditioned parts. Bought fully assembled from the factory they cost about the same as an ordinary production sports car, but excel in appearance, individuality and (often) speed and performance.
In this way Australia now has a small emergent industry of professional coachbuilders that is growing at a fantastic rate. Take Bolwell for example. Only a few years old, this Melbourne firm is already turning out a polished, individual and handsome product. Its new Mark 7, pictured here under construction, is a rakish combination of E-type and Toyota 2000 GT. Orders have been filled for a production run of at least 100 this year, though Bolwell feels 150 will be needed.
The car has a lot to recommend it. In its ultimate form it is equipped with X2 Holden engine, gearbox and suspension, which with the extremely light overall weight should run the car over 110 mph. We will be testing one soon and expect a top speed of nearer 120 mph and a standing quarter mile time of around the 16 second mark. Our car, among other things, will most likely feature perforated seats, with air boxes a la Ford GT. It will have a lot of nice touches like magnesium alloy wheels
, luxurious trim, full instrumentation and tinted gass.
You could buy it in the form we test it for around the $4000 mark. Impressed? You should be. As far as we are concerned this is an important milestone in the Australian sporting scene. Not merely because of the appearance and performance of this car but because of the complicated manufacturing structure which surrounds the project and the Bolwell company. These are the points which single out this company for a solid future and mark its importance to the Australian automotive industry.
The car appears in a wide variety of forms
- Catering to every pocket from $900 (basic unit, no mechanicals) to $4000 (completely assembled and equipped car).
- The options list would do credit to Ford. It includes everything from power-assisted mechanical functions (by permission of GMH) to tinted, laminated or Ferspex screens, special tyres, shock absorbers, wheels, upholstery, trim and so on.
- The advance design projects for the company are at least three years ahead. (In other words the moulds for the 1968 car have already been cast.)
- There is a complex special hire purchase scheme which the company has organised for easy finance for buyers.
The whole concept of the car revolves around its practicability. Based on Holden components (Falcon also would be suitable) you will of course be able to take your Bolwell anywhere round Australia and get rapid service and parts. This all adds up to a very realistic way of sporting motoring. And don't forget the Bolwell is still a rare road runner. Wait and see.
Text and Images courtesy Bolwell Car Club: www.bolwellcarclub.com.au