1974 Bolwell Nagari Convertible Mk VIII
This Series 8 Bolwell Nagari came to George May some thirty-four years ago. In fact he rebuilt it from a wreck. A young George put so many new parts into the car that it might have been easier to start from scratch. Since then it has never been in an accident, has never had a respray, and has never been driven in the rain.
“The soft top is there but I’ve never fitted it. I just couldn’t bring myself to drill holes into the tops of those lovely rear quarters.” This is a rare car, but this doesn’t mean he hasn’t tested it’s limits as a sports car. As his professional knowledge increased, building some dozen Cobra kit cars for clients, George soon came to realise that this elegant machine had some shortcomings. First to go was the Borg Warner live rear axle, replaced by a Jaguar IRS. Just like the Cobra replicas. After that the front end was reengineered with George’s own tubular wishbones to fix the scrub radius, raised stub axles on HQ uprights, new steering arms to remove the bump steer, and bigger brakes. Oh, and there was an assault on unsprung weight. This was the easy bit. George is adamant that the really difficult job was, at fifty years of age, going back to university to become a qualified engineer, so that he could have the knowledge to design, and approve, his own modifications.
“I’M ALMOST SEVENTY NOW, AND TO BE COMPLETELY HONEST, IT FRIGHTENS ME A LITTLE BIT THESE DAYS."
“All that maths…God it was hard. Hardest thing I’ve ever had to learn.”
One senses it is also the achievement that he is most proud of. It is apparent that George is the sort of guy that likes to learn. His first trade qualification was as a Fitter and Turner, enough skills for most, and especially handy when he was building Cobra replicas for a living, but at thirty-seven George decided that he needed to be a qualified mechanic as well.
“We were fitting LPG gas conversions to the Cobras. It was the easiest way to get the old style carburettor V8s to pass the emission tests. To do that I needed to be a qualified Mechanic.”
With the Bolwell now dynamically as good as it looked, it was time for some cream on the cake. More power! And as a bonus less weight. Getting to this point had only taken a mere twenty years. The cast iron headed V8 was removed and given a new home in another Nagari, and it’s place filled with 347 cubic inches of well worked Ford Windsor. George built his own fuel injection system, starting off with what he calls...
“One giant throttle body ” Like all of this cars other modifications, the engine was aimed at making the car a pleasure to drive.
«We could have gone for a big horse power figure, but I wanted big torque. I want to drive it, not brag about it. It has about 340bhp and 470 ft. lb. of torque, and with the alloy heads, bell housing, and a few other things I’m guessing it weighs about nine hundred and a few kilos.”
Anyone who has driven a light car with lots of torque will vouch for how difficult it can be to resist the urge to feel that addictive surge. Maybe because of that, George has finally decided to part with his Bolwell.
“I’m almost seventy now, and to be completely honest, it frightens me a little bit these days. It’s time, I’ve enjoyed it.” The deal has been done, and after many years of asking and waiting, Sam Matandos will soon be the car’s new custodian.
“I’ve known him since he was a kid. His dad Bill bought a Mk 7 Nagari coupe for a then thirteen year old Sam, as a father son project. An employee of Bill's went with Sam to drive it home for the first time, got a little carried away with a skid, and crashed it.”
No doubt a bad day for all concerned. The car was left forlorn with a bent chassis. » I didn’t know them then, but a couple of years later they discovered me and my car in my workshop, just down the road from their factory. At first they asked if I could reference my car to create a set of chassis drawings for them.”
George being the practical guy that he is, decided that the time spent drawing a chassis would be better spent building one. “I did that, and they wanted to take it from there….But then I got a call to do more work on it. In the mean time I had moved to Queensland. What ended up happening was, I would fly down there, work on it for a week or so at a time. Each time I would get a stage completed and they would ‘ take it from there '. And then I would get another phone call.”
The car was completed when Sam was eighteen or so. After a few years he and his dad sold it, and as is often the case with these things, Sam had always regretted parting with that car, and now at fortyone he is setting out on his second Bolwell adventure.
ANYONE WHO HAS DRIVEN A LIGHT CAR WITH LOTS OF TORQUE WILL VOUCH FOR HOW DIFFICULT IT CAN BE TO RESIST THE URGE TO FEEL THAT ADDICTIVE SURGE.