Bowler has long had a good relationship with Land Rover, doing the things the carmaker can’t or hasn’t been interested in doing. Until recently it seemed to have made a decent enough living out of it too.
Bowler’s not like most aftermarket tuners, whose business altering the design of Land Rovers changes their style and attitude in a way Land Rover might not like. Or might envy.
Instead I think Bowler reminded people just how capable Land Rovers are – via cross-country rallying or rally-raiding with cars that contain lots of JLR hardware – and basically did a lot of brand building for the grubby, durable, tough side of Land Rover. It added a welcome bit of hobnail boot to the half-suede brogue you’ll sometimes see at Gaydon.
Recently Autocar has had a go in the Land Rover Defender Challenge, a rally category that's run by Bowler with the manufacturer’s approval, and we’ve extensively driven the Bowler Bulldog, a bespoke car which includes a lot of JLR components and looks like, though really, really isn’t, a Defender.
In both instances we’ve been well impressed by the integrity of professionalism with which Bowler is run, and the depth of bespoke engineering involved, which also runs to Bowler’s aftermarket components to upgrade Land Rovers, or its good business of modifying and restoring older Land Rovers too.
To that end it’s easy to see how Bowler can fit within Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations. But I hope it doesn’t lose its independent, pioneering spirit after it’s integrated.