Bolwell Mk IX 'Ikara'


I love New Wave music. 

Being born in the early '80s, I'm sure I was exposed to a lot of it in passing, whether through a grocery store's PA system or as the soundtrack to countless TV shows and commercials that I watched as a kid.

A few days ago, @TimLambert7 on Twitter asked if I'd heard of the Bolwell Mk VIII 'Nagari', a pretty, fully-assembled V8-powered two-door coupe that grew from a series of kit cars made in Australia. The answer was, "I haven't," so I decided to do a bit more reading on the car…and instead ended up becoming enamoured with this later Bolwell kit car instead.

Introduced in 1979, you may immediately dismiss it as a silly-looking curiosity, but at least in my travels I haven't come across a more New Wave car than the Ikara. There's something strange about its lines; it's both wedgy like a late '70s sports car and square like the most '80s designs. About a week ago, I featured the 1979 Toyota CX-80 concept, a small hatchback that correctly foreshadowed many of the trends that would become popular during the next decade. Put an Ikara next to the CX-80 in a garage and to most they'd look like siblings.

At least in my mind, the Ikara seems to be one of the earliest indications of what people would be driving in the '80s. That it came from a small automaker in Australia is a bit unexpected.

Even for Bolwell, the car was a departure. The company earned a following in the style we expect from the Land Down Under: V8 engines and rear-drive. For the Ikara, the company went to a mid-engined, space frame design with fibreglass bodywork on top. Behind the seats is a 4-cylinder 1,600-cc motor from the Volkswagen Golf.

Thanks to the amazing Ikara owner behind, there's lots of information online about the car, but most importantly, the story behind why it was created: designer Campbell Bolwell wanted a no-compromises driver's car, a model that he felt was lacking on the market. To that end, the Ikara doesn't even have doors…

Fully-independent suspension, disc brakes, weight of just 600 kg (1322 lbs.), custom lightweight Simmons alloy wheels, and other well-chosen components ensured that the car may (or may not) live up to the promise of its shape. Zero-to-100 km/h (62 mph) was a quoted 11 seconds, with a top speed of just 163 km/h (101 mph).

That said, I've included a period road test from Australia—it's not exactly Top Gear, but at least the reviewer finds time to present an extensive list of things he'd change about the car. Let's see a 'buff book' reviewer try that with a new car!

Arriving neatly back at music, one of the 12 Ikaras built was featured in what has to be the most '80s music video ever filmed, "Highly Strung" by New Wave act Spandau Ballet. (Where do you think I got that sweet .gif at the top of this story?) It seems as though the Hong Kong-delivered example was a minor star, also appearing in the 1986 movie Rosa, where its jerk driver drove over a man's soccer ball.