If you want to travel cross-country, you buy a Land Rover: The choice of royalty and the British armed forces for generations. If you want to travel cross-country at very high speed, you buy a Land Rover-based Bowler Wildcat: Not as practical as the standard Land Rover – there’s not enough room for a brace of pheasants, let alone a pair of gun dogs – but it’ll get you across any terrain quicker than almost anything else on four wheels. The only thing is, the Bowler Wildcat costs £50,000 ($100,000) which, unless you’re planning to enter the Paris-Dakar, is a lot of money for a weekend toy.
For about one-third the cost of a Bowler, a small but
expanding engineering business called Rage Motorsport in
Dunstable, UK, will sell you an off-road buggy powered by a
six-speed 180-hp Honda Fireblade motorcycle engine, with a
top speed of over 100 mph. It may not be ready to tackle
desert endurance races like the Bowler, but it can still make
you feel like someone has put the universe on fast-forward.
Rage Motorsport builds multi-terrain, extreme
performance vehicles that make even average drivers – with
bigger than average adrenal glands – feel like driving gods.
They’re exhilarating, hilariously fast and beautifully
engineered. The Land Rover-based Bowler does 0-60 in 4.8
seconds: Quick on the tarmac, let alone ploughing through
sand dunes. The top-of-the-range Rage weighs just 375 kg
and does 0-60 in just 3 seconds, and it’s equally at home on
the racetrack as it is off road. It’s no wonder the orders are
stacking up. To meet demand, the company’s manufacturing
operations are undergoing a major overhaul.
“Up until recently, we’d been subcontracting all of the
major machined parts,” says Sales Director Joe Adams, “but
we got to the point where we had to take stock of the situation
and decide what our business objectives were. If we were
going to grow the product range and the company, we realised
we’d have to take responsibility for all the quality-critical
operations. We couldn’t depend on suppliers any longer.”
Twins Steve and Adam Gentil, who’d been making highperformance
buggies for their own entertainment for around
15 years, started Rage just 4 years ago.
“Someone saw that they were making a world-class
product and suggested that they put them into production,”
says Adams. “Neither of them had any professional
engineering training, but they taught themselves how to
design a balanced, finely tuned chassis and marry it to a highpowered
motorcycle engine. It sounds easy, but building
something safe, fast and very driveable is no mean feat. Some
big automotive companies spend tens of millions to achieve
the same thing.”
Before investing in a Haas TL-25 CNC lathe with subspindle,
and a Haas VF-2 CNC vertical machining centre,
Rage took a careful look at what else was available.
“We looked at machine tool models that were cheaper,
and some that were more expensive than the Haas machines,
but we quickly concluded that we couldn’t do any better than
the cost/specification of the U.S.-built machines,” explains
the company’s co-founder and director, Steve Gentil. “Also,
others had recommended Haas to us – and told us that aftersales
service was second-to-none.”
Installed in June 2006, the two machines have been set to
work producing a wide range of parts for the company’s
increasingly popular and growing range of buggies. Parts
machined include front and rear hubs, uprights, discs, ball
joints and exhaust flanges, to name but a few.
“The exhaust flanges are quite tricky to machine,” says
Gentil. “They’re round on one side and oval on the other. But
complex components are simple to produce using the Haas
machines, even for relative novices.
“These are our first CNC machines; but to be honest, we
needn’t have worried about getting to grips with them. We
taught ourselves to program very quickly, and we were
making parts a day or so after they were installed.
“Operating the machines is like driving a Rage off-road
racing buggy,” laughs Gentil. “They go wherever you point
them, they’re responsive and they won’t let you down.”
Rage machines parts from aluminium, as well as mild,
stainless and chromium steels. Some, such as bearing sets, are
machined to particularly tight tolerances, which, according to
Steve, the Haas machines are more than capable of achieving.
“We work the machines really hard,” he says. “They’re
currently running 24 hours a day to keep up with demand,
but we’ve had few, if any, problems. They’ve given us the
quality and reliability we needed, so I’m pretty sure we’re
going to be investing in more in the very near future.”
Around 10 Rage buggies are built at a time, so batch sizes
vary from 100-off up to 1600-off for items such as small
“Installing our own in-house CNC machining facility
has brought financial benefit, too,” concludes Steve. “Not
only have we gained greater control of our production
schedules, enabling us to be more productive, but we’ve also
cut our piece-part costs in half!”
Rage buggies have already become must-have weekend
toys for hundreds of enthusiasts, who typically claim that it’s
the most fun you can have on four wheels. They’re also fast
becoming the industry standard corporate-entertainment
vehicle, not just for their high fun quotient, but also because
of their inherent reliability.
“More and more hospitality companies are choosing
Rage buggies because they’re a safe investment,” says
Adams. “They’re rugged, with very high standards of buildquality
and engineering. The frames are laser-cut, powdercoated
tubular space frames; they have cross-drilled stainless
discs all round, with two-pot Brembo calipers; and we only
use the best fittings, such as Cobra FIA-approved race seats.”
There’s a road going version – the Road Rage! – currently
in testing, and there’s even talk of a race series or two.
“The eventual aim is to have official approval from the
racing authorities, so we can set up a UK, and eventually a
world-based, series,” says Adams, “perhaps with a purposebuilt
For the time being, though, as word spreads, Rage
Motorsport is enjoying a ride almost as exciting as the one it
sells. If you want the fun of a Bowler Wildcat, but prefer not
to spend your child’s college fund on a two-seater 4×4, Joe
Adams will be happy to take your call.