Rally-spec Bowler Land Rover Defender 90 revealed

The Bowler Defender Challenge is based on the Defender 90 'shorty' and turns everything up to 11.

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Mike Costello
Mike Costello
Comparisons Editor
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Famed in-house Land Rover tuner Bowler has revealed a jump-ready version of the new Defender, and announced a one-make rally championship to support it.

The Bowler Defender Challenge is based on the Defender 90 ‘shorty’ and comes with high-speed 4×4 add-ons including a full roll cage, modified underbody, raised suspension, “rally-spec” 18-inch wheels, and column-mounted paddles.

There’s no V8 engine, but rather the 221kW and 400Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol used in the Defender P300. This saves weight.

Until recently, 35-year old Bowler was an independent tuner that modified original Defenders under a brand partnership active from 2012.

But Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) bought the company in 2019 and placed it within the Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division.

These awesome rally Defenders have been built to run in their own competition called the Bowler Defender Challenge series, comprising seven events around the UK from 2022.

There are 12 entries available for the one-make series, with each team competing in identical Bowler-prepared Defenders. Combined, the cost of a rally car as well as entry into the 2022 series kicks off at at £99,500 (about $A190,000).

The series is open to veteran competitors and those with no competition experience alike, since the company will help train up those who fall into the latter category to get the requisite license.

“The development of the new Bowler Defender Challenge rally car perfectly illustrates the mutual benefits of Bowler joining Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations,” said JLR SVO managing director Michael van der Sande.

“Our technical support married to Bowler’s legendary rally expertise has turned the extraordinarily capable Defender into a purposeful competition machine.

“The Bowler Defender Challenge will prove the Defender’s durability through some of the toughest conditions, while providing an exciting and accessible entry point into all-terrain motorsport for a new generation of Bowler and Land Rover customers.”

Bowler Defender Challenge add-ons in detail:

Body and chassis

  • Monocoque bracing
  • Full internal roll cage
  • Spare wheel mount integrated to roll cage
  • Extra front recovery points
  • “Rally-spec” gearbox cross member
  • Stiffened gearbox mounts
  • Strengthened engine mounts
  • Braced front and rear subframes
  • Front suspension turret brace
  • Rear turret brace
  • Strengthened radiator mounts
  • Adapted chassis and subframe mounts

Performance

  • Auxiliary radiators removed and cooling system redesigned
  • Increased transmission cooling capacity
  • Bowler Sports exhaust system
  • Bowler 18-inch wheels with more strength
  • All-terrain tyres
  • Bespoke suspension design with modified subframes, new springs and unique turrets for increased stiffness
  • Bespoke Fox dampers
  • Race steering wheel with quick release boss
  • Side air intake covers
  • High level air intake
  • Front upper wishbone revised to reflect new ride height geometry

Electrical

  • ECU system integration with race box
  • ABS/DSC – rally control modifications
  • New integrated wiring harness for new components
  • New rally-spec fascia
  • Navigator control unit for lights/washer/horn
  • Rally system integration with JLR safety systems
  • Adapted body control unit

Regulatory

  • High-level rear marker lights
  • Windows replaced with polycarbonate
  • Race sports seats with specific race seat mounts
  • Six-point race harness
  • Integrated and hand-held fire suppression
  • Electrical cut-off switches – internal and external
  • Complete removal of all airbag systems

Design

  • Front bumper adapted to take new underbody protection
  • Bowler front grille with increased air flow
  • Rear roof spoiler with extended profile
  • Front and rear wing shields to meet new underbody protection
  • Wheel arch extensions utilising accessory fitment
  • Door lowers – protection pieces on shortened doors

Rally Function

  • Additional bonnet-mounted windscreen washers
  • Front driving lights for increased night driving illumination
  • Rally-spec mud flaps
  • Full underbody protection system – 6mm aluminium reinforced design
  • New gear shift position – optimised to sports seats
  • Column-mounted gear shift paddles – unique to Bowler
  • Passenger foot rest
  • Rear door manual release mechanism
  • Wheel arch lines – increased strength to meet rally requirements

“The previous Defender Challenge powered by Bowler Motorsport was an incredible success,” said Bowler general manager Calum McKechnie.

“So we are delighted to announce the new Bowler Defender Challenge, launch the series and provide this amazing opportunity to experience Bowler in its natural environment.

“Using the team’s unique skills, knowledge and experience, developed over years of challenge and rally raid competition, has resulted in a formidable competition vehicle that will be exciting and rewarding to drive.”

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Mike Costello
Mike Costello
Mike Costello is the Comparisons Editor at CarExpert.
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