There's little more British than a muddy Land Rover parked outside a farm. Pay a visit to Overlane Farm in Derbyshire, though, and you might be shocked by what you see. Because it’s home to a production line of super-fast 4x4s that can leave a Porsche eating dust.
Based in the rural idyll of Hazelwood, this farm is the headquarters of Bowler Offroad, a company which takes stock Land Rovers, tears them to pieces, and rebuilds them as off-road sports cars. Since the 1980s, the company has produced three versions of its super-car-cum-off-roader, each more insane than the last, which has ensured that the vehicles are a regular feature in the world-famous Dakar rally.
The latest Bowler to roll off the production line is the Nemesis, and it’s mind-blowing. Just like the best super cars, its 4.4 litre V8 sits right in the middle of its chassis, and though Bowler is coy about numbers, its top speed certainly nudges 150mph. While that might not sound too fast, remember that this thing manages to hit that speed whilst skimming over mud and rocks, or careening over sand dunes. Try doing that in a Ferrari.
If that still doesn’t impress you, its pants-browning 0-60mph time of less than 4 seconds should. For some context, that’s about the same as a Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0, which is a barely street-legal sports car designed for track days. The Nemesis’ acceleration is helped along by the fact that it’s stripped down to the pure essentials: the drive train and custom suspension system sit within a tubular space frame, while a body made of ultra-light, super-strong materials like Twintex and carbon fibre encases the beast. Other than a steering wheel and a pair of seats, there’s little to it. And before you ask, no, there’s no iPod dock.
If all that sounds too good to be true, it gets better. Because while the standard Nemesis is designed only to be used for motor-sport events, Bowler has recently released a road-legal version, called the Nemesis EXR. Based (very) loosely on the Range Rover Sport -- Land Rover’s official performance off-roader -- the EXR can outrun not just any road-legal 4x4, but plenty of super cars, too.
Without the rules and regulations of competition to get in the way, it packs a 6 litre engine and boasts a ridiculous 600 BHP, meaning it manages 0-60 in 3.9s and can zip up to 140 mph. With figures like that, and luggage space to boot, the EXR makes a fairly sensible alternative to a Ferrari or Lamborghini. Sensible is, of course, a relative term: this thing still costs a cool £120,000, so you better get saving if you want to get your hands on one.
That is a snip compared to some further-customised Bowlers that are available, though. Qt Services, for instance, has been tweaking the older Bowler model, Wildcat, to produce the next generation of military vehicles. Dubbed the Supacat, it’s so fast and nimble that it’s perfect for speeding into a conflict zone, getting the job done, and tearing back home across the desert in time for afternoon tea. Especially when you shove a Kongsberg Super Lite remote weapon system -- that’s a motorised automatic machine gun, to you and me --on the roof. Yes, really.
All pretty exciting, huh? Well, wait, I’ve saved the best ‘til last. Because for the past few years, BAE Systems has also been working with Bowler Wildcats --except they’ve made them autonomous. Forget Google’s driverless cars: these things tear around off-road tracks without a driver, avoiding obstacles along the way, at speeds of over 50mph. Now BAE has teamed up with the Mobile Robotics Group at the University of Oxford to take things a step further, and they plan to be able to dump the vehicles anywhere they fancy, without even a GPS signal or Internet connection, and still have them find their way home using all manner of 3D cameras, laser sensors and artificial intelligence systems.
With a rumoured value of £2 million though, you might be best settling for that EXR.
Image Credit: Bowler Offroad