JLR acquires off-road Land Rover tuner Bowler

by Rachel Burgess, Autocar UK 18 Dec 2019


The Defender Challenge by Bowler

Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations arm has acquired Bowler, the off-road Land Rover tuner, securing its future following administration. 

Bowler rose to fame tuning Land Rover models and specialises in off-road performance cars and competition cars for rally-raid events. 

In 2012, Bowler formed a brand partnership with JLR which led to the creation of the Defender Challenge by Bowler rally series in 2014 to 2016.

JLR, which bought Bowler for an undisclosed sum, said the all-terrain specialist has expertise in “all-terrain vehicle dynamics, low-volume production techniques, and proving the durability of components under extreme conditions”, all of which is “highly sought-after”.

It added that SVO is a “fast-growing business that amplifies the key attributes of Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles to create distinctive world-class products – including SV, Vehicle Personalisation and Classic”. Bowler, as a fourth business unit, is “a natural fit”, said the firm.

JLR SVO boss Michael van der Sande told Autocar UK that there was a two-part plan for Bowler. The first is to stabilise the business for six months to a year “giving it the organisation and investment it needs,” said van der Sande.

Land Rover Defender by Bowler

The business, which is based in Belper, Derbyshire, will remain at this location. The day-to-day team of 26 staff will remain, but "some people will no longer be involved," said a spokesman gave the change in shareholders.

In the meantime, JLR will develop plans for the business, but van der Sande disclosed no more details beyond the fact that it will become bigger. 

Bowler’s latest Defender-bodied rally raider has a chassis of rare brilliance. If you could get used out of it, competitive or otherwise, it’ll blow your mind

The likelihood is that the Bowler name will be used on Land Rover models as extreme, off-road variants. 

“We think it’s a cool company that shows there’s a great deal you can do with Land Rovers,” commented van der Sande.

The purchase will be seen by many as a shrewd move from Jaguar Land Rover, given its long-standing objection to Land Rover tuners taking business away. A number of tuning and styling firms exist predominantly for Land Rover models, including Overfinch, Twisted and Kahn.

In 2017, Land Rover’s design director Gerry McGovern vowed to put third-party styling houses and tuners out of business by creating better variants of the brand’s models through the company’s own Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division. However, Bowler is somewhat of a niche firm given its all-terrain and rally expertise, an area on which JLR will be keen to capitalise.

In an official statement announcing the acquisition today, van der Sande said: “For almost 35 years the Bowler name has stood for innovation and success, with a reputation forged by its participation in the world’s toughest off-road motorsport competitions. It’s exciting that we’re now in a position to participate in and lead the Bowler brand’s future as part of Jaguar Land Rover. 

“At Special Vehicle Operations we are all eager to start working with our new colleagues at Bowler. Adding the Bowler team’s skills and experience to those of SV, Vehicle Personalisation and Classic is a key step in our strategy to create an exciting and diverse portfolio of products and businesses within Special Vehicle Operations. 

“Our immediate focus is on ensuring continuity of support for Bowler employees and customers during this transition to Jaguar Land Rover.” 

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