Racing is a ruinously expensive business, but Land Rover seems intent on dialing that back to merely excruciatingly expensive. The Land Rover Defender Bowler may cost nigh-on $150,000, but it’s actually surprisingly good value. Even better, it’s meant to go sideways through the countryside in its own one-make rally series. How thrilling is that?
The rally-ready Defender Bowler starts with the basic four-cylinder Defender 90. Admittedly, more exciting Defender variants exist, but what Bowler did to this thing should blow the Defender V8 into the middle of last week on fun factor. Let’s start with the big expense of every racing car — the roll cage.
As this is a proper race car, it gets a full FIA-spec cage with all the necessary bars and mounts, plus a spare tire mount for good measure. However, while Bowler was in there, it went the extra mile by strengthening the strut towers, the subframes, the engine and gearbox mounts, the radiator mounts, and just more of the unibody in general. A stiff chassis is good because it lets the suspension do all the work, and what a suspension setup this is. While the typical new Defender owner wafts along on a cushion of air, the rally-spec Defender gets revised suspension geometry, new springs, new front upper control arms, and Fox dampers to help it land like a feather without sacrificing too much roll stiffness. Speaking of springs, tire sidewalls actually function as secondary springs, so Bowler went with sensible 18-inch wheels wrapped in BFGoodrich all-terrain tires.
Should you encounter something taller than the clearance of the vehicle on your way down from an epic jump, Bowler’s thought of that. This Defender gets aluminum skid plates six mm thick protecting the entire underbody. Speaking of protection, the front bumper, side cladding, side windows, and wheel arches have all been modified for battle. Speaking of battle, what about power? Surely, the Defender Bowler is quicker than a regular one. Well, not really. It gets a substantially enhanced cooling package, a sports exhaust, and a special drive mode, but that’s about it. This is a good thing because the slower you hurl yourself into the trees, the less it should hurt. Other miscellaneous upgrades include a column-mounted push-pull shift paddle, extra windshield washer jets, beefed-up wheel arch liners, and high-level marker lights for visibility over hills. Neat stuff, but the Defender Bowler only gets cooler from here.
Because the Defender Bowler is based on a standard production car, it comes with navigation, climate control, and license plates. Despite its lack of airbags and five-point harnesses, it’s a full-on car that happens to also be a racing vehicle. Oh, and that’s just one of the model’s perks. Putting money on the Defender Bowler comes with seven rounds of entry into the UK Rally Championship, catering, a race engineer, a race technician, a pit crew, and a mobile workshop to ensure the racing is as close as possible for maximum excitement. If you have more cash than connections in the rallying world, Bowler is happy to hold your hand all the way through the season, for an additional fee, of course. The off-road racing firm can effectively take possession of your Defender, storing, repairing, and transporting it from event to event. Now that’s service.
If I were to hazard a guess, the list of bigger road-legal thrills existing for £118,000 excluding VAT ($148,278.21) will be microscopically small. Any supercar new or used, any GT car, anything else with four wheels and license plates, there’s a better chance than not that it will be duller than firing a Defender at the British countryside going approximately Mach Jesus. If you want in, you’d better act quickly — Land Rover is only selling sixteen spots, and six have already been sold.
(Photo credits: Land Rover)
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