In the most flattering sense, the Bowler Wildcat is salt in the wound. Bear with us here – it’s based on the great, soon to be late Land Rover Defender, England’s iconic go-anywhere 4×4 that’s been forbidden fruit to us Americans since its 1994-’97 stint as a legal import. Since then, the Defender’s legend has only grown larger, with well-modified trucks changing hands for over $100,000. It’s grown so popular, in fact, that the government cracked down on the number of trucks being illegally imported over here. The government’s case was eventually dismissed, but it just goes to show how desirable England’s answer to the Jeep has become on this side of the Pond.
And while the Feds work to make sure the Defender stays forbidden fruit, keeping us from the Bowler Wildcat is downright sadistic. As fans of Top Gear know, the Wildcat is one of the most exciting and capable off-roaders ever built. For those who are unfamiliar with it, the mad geniuses at Bowler Offroad started with a Defender, ditched the body for a tubular space frame, full roll-cage, lightweight fiberglass body, beefed-up suspension, and a choice of screaming V8 powerplants to make the thing go like stink across some of the most uninhabitable terrain in the world. But when Bowler moved on to the Range Rover Sport-based Nemesis, it sold off the rights of the Wildcat to a new company, Wildcat Automotive Holdings.
But it hasn’t turned the Wildcat into some half-hearted continuation model. Since it struck out on its own in late 2007, it’s been a constant process of evolution. Buyers can choose between the classic off-road version, known as the W1, or the LS1-powered V8 Defender, which is what you might get if Land Rover ever wanted to go toe-to-toe with the Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG. But now, like Land Rover, Wildcat is starting to notice the Defender’s age catching up to it, and it’s begun designing a next-generation model. And even if you’ll probably never be able to own one this side of the 25-year import ban, Wildcat would like your help in making its concept a reality.
Wildcat’s next big trick is the W22, which it hopes to release in 2016. It shares the W1’s spaceframe, and while the company says it was “designed for the current gap in the luxury SUV market,” it’s just a slightly more civilized Wildcat with a sexier body. The W22 will be able to seat four, and go from zero to 60 in under four seconds, all the way up to a limited top speed of 155 miles per hour.
But Wildcat don’t exactly have the resources that Jaguar Land Rover does, and it needs need a little help in making the W22 a reality – about $2.3 million worth of help. In a statement, company CEO Oliver Mitchell said he’s turned down offers from foreign investors, and instead wants to offer 15% equity in the company to public investors instead. The company is profitable, but developing new models is extremely costly, and sinking so much of a company’s resources into R&D is a dicey proposition for such a small company.
If you want to contribute to making the W22 a reality, you only have until August 18. We’re hoping that Wildcat reaches its goal – so far it’s only at 14% of its target, but there has to be people out there who want a modern 4×4 that can blast across the deserts at Baja or Dakar while still seating four in comfort. And remember, just because the Wildcat isn’t street-legal in the U.S., it doesn’t mean you can’t take it way, way off-road…
Follow Derek on Twitter @CS_DerekS
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