Police have launched an investigation straddling the Irish border into a dissident republican attempt to kill an officer.
A “sophisticated” bomb was placed under the man’s vehicle and discovered at Shandon Park Golf Club in east Belfast on Saturday. He was left badly shaken.
Detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) want to trace a Dublin-registered green Skoda Octavia and are working with their counterparts in the Republic.
They said if the device had exploded it would have caused death or serious injury.
Assistant chief constable George Clarke said: “We are extraordinarily fortunate that we are not talking about the murder of a police officer, of members of his family or members of the public passing a bomb that has been planted recklessly, cruelly and viciously under his motor car.
“The attempt to murder a police officer is an attempt to murder a public servant.
“I cannot understand what cause is advanced by attempting to murder a man who day in, day out seeks to serve his community.”
The club, with at least 70 people present, was evacuated after staff were alerted on Saturday afternoon.
Police want dashcam footage or other information about two vehicles which may have been seen by members of the public in the area between 10pm on Friday and 7.30am on Saturday.
They include the Skoda and a Northern Ireland-registered silver Saab.
The officer who discovered the device was in the habit of checking his vehicle.
Mr Clarke spoke to him on Sunday morning and said: “He is obviously shaken by the fact that people chose to attempt to murder him and were reckless in what they would have done to him and his family.
“He is upset. I think like many professional police officers he does not understand why people want to murder public servants for being in the public service.
“We will do our best to support him and to ensure that he is helped through what will be a very difficult and very traumatic time in the days to come.”
Families and children were at the golf club.
Mr Clarke said: “There were people out enjoying their Saturday afternoon while other people were attempting to inflict murder and misery on a man who served the community.”
Detective superintendent Sean Wright, head of the terrorism investigation unit, said the “unstable” device was brought through a busy urban area.
Mr Wright said: “This was a viable device, it contained explosives. It was designed to kill.
“It was deployed in order to kill and maim and the officer is extremely fortunate that it did not go off as intended.”
The main line of inquiry focuses on violent dissident republicans.
Mr Clarke said police had been under severe threat from anti-peace process renegades for a decade and were vigilant to the threat.
He added: “The officer and his family were at risk by this reckless, cruel and above all cowardly attack.”
Detectives are keeping an open mind about where the device was deployed.
Investigators urged anyone in the Shandon Park area before the attack to come forward with information.
MP David Davis said: “The people of Northern Ireland want no return to the cruelty and violence of the past and simply want to live their lives in peace.
“They will want no part in the brutality of this attempted murder.”