Rally raid legends Bowler to build a hot old Defender for Land Rover

Published: 04 November 2020

► Desert race specialists creating new 4×4 with classic Defender looks
► Powered by 567bhp supercharged 5.0-litre V8
► Available in limited numbers in 2021, priced around £200,000

These images, just released by Land Rover, reveal the look of a rapid road-going remix of the old Defender that’s currently being developed in conjunction with Bowler, the desert racing specialists bought last year by JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations division.

Due to be hand-built in limited numbers at Bowler’s HQ in Belper, Derbyshire, it uses JLR’s 567bhp 5.0-litre supercharged petrol V8, and comes kitted out with four sports seats and a rollcage. Expect to pay around £200,000 when the order books open next year, with initial sales targeted at the UK and Ireland in right-hand drive. 

It’s code-named CSP 575. That’s 575, as in the output in metric horsepower of the V8, and CSP for Cross Sector Platform. A simple and very adaptable ladder-frame chassis with modular spaceframe attached, CSP underpins the Bulldog, the model Bowler launched in 2016, which can be specified in competition or road-legal forms.

CSP 575 is the first Bowler developed since SVO assumed control, so of course its use of the shape of the Defender 110 Station Wagon is with JLR’s complete blessing. There’s a point being made here, after Ineos found itself having to persuade a court that its Grenadier was sufficiently different from the old Defender. 

The similarity of the Bowler and the classic Landie is not just a resemblance: the aluminium body panels are the same as those used in the last-generation 110, which went out of production in 2016.

Inside, there’s air-con, but not many of the comfort, convenience or infotainment features that form part of 2020’s new-generation Defender. This is a much more hardcore and road-focused creation – unlike the highly versatile new Defender – with 567bhp and all-wheel drive promising ferocious acceleration. 

Bowler was founded 35 years ago by the late Drew Bowler – desert racer and engineer – who created the Defender-based Tomcat, then the Wildcat, and evolved into a company that makes, modifies and maintains 4x4s for serious off-roading, especially desert racing. The new retro road car will be in addition to Bowler’s core rally raid activities, not instead of.

And if it serves as a British-made spoiler to 2022’s Ineos Grenadier – now looking likely to be made in France, not Wales as originally planned – then that suits JLR just fine. For a car that supposedly died more than four years ago, the old Defender is enjoying one hell of an afterlife.

By Colin Overland

CAR's managing editor: wordsmith, critic, purveyor of fine captions