A highlight of Melbourne Design Now is the Bolwell EDGE RV caravan designed by Vaughan Bolwell. It will be on display in the Garden at NGV International. A high-end rough terrain tourer, the EDGE was released in 2010 and its presence in the design component of Melbourne Now will give NGV audiences a rare opportunity to inspect one of the most advanced caravans of its type and an important example of advanced Australian design. Responding to increasing levels of outback tourism in Australia the EDGE is designed to have the strength to navigate Australia’s back roads, to be aerodynamic and travel safely on interstate highways. A hybrid of sorts, the EDGE is part-truck and part-sports car.
In anticipation of the EDGE appearing in Melbourne Now, Simone LeAmon, consultant curator for Melbourne Design Now, spoke to Owen Bolwell, Marketing Director at the Bolwell Group, about the family company and the EDGE.
SL: Owen, can you describe Bolwell Corporation, its origins and set-up?
OB: In the late 1950’s a 15 year-old Campbell Bolwell (my father) bought a 1937 Ford V8 sedan for £50 (around $100). When his brother Graeme took the car for a spin in a forest the panels were so badly damaged that Campbell decided to replace them with moulded fiberglass leading to the development of the first Bolwell Mk1. Little did he know that his experimenting with ‘new technology’ would lead to the Bolwell Corporation. In 1962, Campbell turned his custom sports car hobby into a business. The Bolwell Mk 4 was his first commercial model, selling over 200 units.
While the automotive industry went through some drastic changes in the early 1980s and Bolwell’s sports car business stalled, we had attracted the attention of some industry heavy weights. Impressed with the innovative composites work of the latest Bolwell sports car the ‘Ikara,’ the Managing Director of Kenworth paid Campbell and his business partner Linley a visit. He asked if they’d like to make a hood for their trucks. Thirty-one years and over 30,000 Kenworth trucks later, Bolwell remains one of the most successful original equipment (OE) composite manufacturers in Australia with large multi national clients such as Kenworth, IVECO, Caterpillar and Schneider Electric.And new proprietary products see us establishing ourselves in the Australian caravan market with the EDGE and AIR.
SL: Design is fully integrated within your business with Vaughan Bolwell Director of Design – do you find this drives innovation at Bolwell?
OB: Vaughan has been a part of Bolwell since graduating from RMIT’s Industrial Design program in the 1990s. The amazing thing about Vaughan is that apart from being my brother, he has this ability to take a concept and shape it into something that not only works and looks incredible but also meets a specific manufacturing budget.
Vaughan is able to do this because he has held pretty much every single position at Bolwell including Production Manager, Quality manager, Business Development Manager… the list goes on. He knows the manufacturing process inside out and is a keen advocate of lean manufacturing disciplines in everything he does.
SL: What does it mean to Bolwell to be a part of Melbourne Now?
OB: Simply, it is an honor to have one of our designs exhibited in the NGV. It was unexpected and took us all completely by surprise. I don’t think Vaughan believed me when I told him that his ‘baby’ would be a feature in the Melbourne Now exhibition.
The prestige of participating in the exhibition will help us celebrate Bolwell’s 50 year anniversary. It will be exciting to show-off our company’s talents and skills distilled into one design – the EDGE.
Melbourne Design Now is supported by the Hugh D. T. Williamson Foundation.