The rare Aussie sports car that starred in a Hong Kong action movie

Bolwell Ikara in Hong Kong Rosa movie

The Bolwell Car Company

Allow me introduce you to Bolwell, a low production sports and kit car manufacturer from Australia most known for producing the stunning Mk VIII Nagari in the early 1970s.

Bolwell started out as - and still is - a composite material manufacturing company who produced fibreglass components for other car manufacturers before moving into producing their own vehicles in the 1960s. Headed by company creator and automotive enthusiast Campbell Bolwell, these cars not only had beautiful, sleek, flowing (actually 'Nagari' means flow in Australian Aboriginal language) designs but were popular among track enthusiasts, many being powered by Holden or Ford V8 engines.

The Mk9 Ikara

Produced in 1980 as a kit car, the Ikara (or Mk9) was quite a departure from previous Bolwells. Not only did the design reflect the blockyness of the early 80s and emphasised function over form, but the engine was a transverse 1.6lt, 4 cylinder from a VW Mk1 Golf, mounted in the rear.

The Ikara project aimed to create a more affordable and accessible sports car, targeting a broader audience than the company's previous offerings. Despite its affordability, it retained performance-oriented features like a tubular steel chassis, roll bar, disc brakes, and a lightweight fiberglass body. One can't help but wonder how a 1.8L fuel-injected engine from the Golf GTi would have affected its performance.

The Ikara has always been thought of as more of a public relationships exercise or taste test than a dedicated attempt to mass-market the car. At the end of 1980 only 12 cars were produced, according to most sources.

The Hong Kong Ikara

Bolwell Ikara in Highly Strung vidoe clip

 

Mysteriously, one of the 12 Ikaras appeared in the 1986 Hong Kong comedy action film 'Rosa' (or to give it its full Chinese name "Supernaturally brave artillery sequel"). Rosa is a buddy-cop movie, where two elite police officers track down a rogue cop who has become the cities biggest drug dealer. The yellow Ikara seems to be driven by the film's mafioso-type antagonist.

The car appears again in the 'Highly Strung' music video for the British new-wave band Spandau Ballet. This clip was also shot in Hong Kong, earlier in 1984.

30 years later in 2015, the same car again seems to have been sighted again by car photographer Daryl Chapman . I reached out to him to asking if he knew anything about this car, but alas he had only seen it once.

Bolwell Ikara shot by Darly Chapman in Hong Kong in 2015

Image used with permission from owner.

So the question is how did this rare and obscure Australian car end up five and half thousand kilometers away in Hong Kong? I spent a good amount of time reading articles, emailing car clubs both in Australia and Hong Kong, and Googling and re-Googling.

Eventually my peristant emailing paid off and I received a reply from an employee of the Bolwell Car Company, who had very kindly spoken to Mr. Campbell Bolwell himself. And the answer is quite obvious and simple: In 1980 a Hong Kong resident ordered an Ikara kit to be shipped to them, and they seem to have been enjoying it ever since. As for how it ended up being a film star, well, that I'm still working on.

If you have any information you'd like to share about this car and its story, please leave a comment below.



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