No backing for electric sports car

A boutique car maker has hit out at the Federal Government's lack of support for small business after it was refused help to develop Australia's first all-electric production sports coupe.

Campbell Bolwell, one of three brothers whose company once ranked among the nation's top 10 car makers, said two bids for federal funding to help it build an environmentally friendly vehicle were refused, forcing the company to look overseas for help.

Seaford-based Bolwell, a company better known for making fibreglass truck bodies, yesterday launched the production version of its petrol-engined Nagari, a modern-day take on a 1970s-era supercar that faded from view after a government crackdown on powerful sports cars effectively shut down the industry overnight.

Mr Bolwell said the company had sought funding from the CSIRO, and also sought access to the Federal Government's $500 million Green Car Innovation Fund.

Money from the innovation fund has helped Ford Australia develop a four-cylinder engine for the locally made Falcon family sedan, and a diesel engine for the Ford Territory soft-roader. It has also helped Holden cement its plans to build the Cruze small sedan in Australia.

''I think it's easier for them to give one of the majors a heap of money and say 'build a hybrid' than actually help the smaller, more innovative engineering side of things,'' Mr Bolwell said.

Instead, Bolwell is now in talks with a Korean company over supplying the components needed to build an electric-powered version of the lightweight two-seat Nagari.

The petrol-engined Nagari is the first car in almost 40 years to wear the Bolwell logo. The $198,000 mid-engined Nagari is quite different to the 1970s-era hairy-chested, V8-powered version of the coupe.

Five years in the making, the modern-day supercar uses an economical, Toyota-sourced 3.5-litre V6 engine.