To the Australian classic car enthusiast, Bolwell is a name synonymous with home-grown fibreglass sports cars usually powered by Holden or Ford powerplants, with other major components sourced from locally-available donor vehicles. The business was started by brothers Campbell and Graeme Bolwell at a factory in Mordialloc in the mid-60s. The Bolwell Mk.4 was their first commercial model and it sold over 200 units. Bolwell Cars went on to create five different commercial models, selling around 800 cars in total and in doing so, etched a place in Australian Automotive history. From sports cars the company then diversified into other fibreglass and composite products such as truck bodies, caravans and the massive blades used on wind turbines.
Bolwell now has a production plant in Thailand as well as one in Mordialloc. The factory we visited in Seaford is called the Research and Development Facility, but it was also referred to as Campbell’s hobby shed where he gets to play with cars.
Sporting Register member Ross McConnell has worked on and off at Bolwell since the early days in Mordialloc, he owns the blue Nagari which is seen occasionally at our Breakfast Club gatherings. His invitation to the Club to visit Bolwell’s Seaford factory was taken up by around 70 members and their friends who were given an introduction to the company and its history by Ross before he handed over to Toby who unveiled the prototype Nagari 500. This is a recent development of the V6-engined Nagari 300. Whilst the 300 utilises a transverse Toyota V6 engine and gearbox assembly, the 500 has a longitudinal Chev LS3 V8 coupled up to an Audi 6-speed transaxle. Because the 500 is still in the development stages and has yet to be presented to the motoring media, we were asked not to photograph it. Although it looks similar to the 300, it is longer and wider with the windscreen being the only part shared between models.
Club members were able to wander around the factory inspecting various moulds and jigs on display as well as a bare 500 bodyshell under construction which gave an insight into how the cars are produced and assembled. It was surprising to discover another link to our club with Graeme Longhurst’s son, Brett, involved in the computer design of the car’s subframes and suspension components through his company Bremar Automation.
At around midday, we thanked Ross and Toby for opening up the shop and providing us with a comprehensive and frank insight into their business, as well as for their hospitality in providing morning tea for many more people than were expected. About twenty members then made their way, via a very convoluted route, to the Café Moto in Carrum for lunch. Malcolm Irwin had reserved us a couple of tables and we all enjoyed a nice meal in good company with interesting décor and excellent service.
Photos by Steve Schmidt and Ross McConnell