Project Geländewagen is a one-off reinterpretation of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class as a track-spec racecar, and the brand believes the creation is a piece of art. The company will even sell a unique 1:3 scale model for charity at Sotheby's Contemporary Curated auction on October 2. It'll bring an estimated $60,000 to $80,000.
The Project Geländewagen results from a collaboration between Mercedes-Benz Chief Design Officer Gorden Wagener and Louis Vuitton Men’s Artistic Director Virgil Abloh. They came up with the idea of stripping away everything superfluous from a G-Class to create a blank canvas. Somehow, that process resulted in a variant of the SUV looking ready for a touring car race.
Gallery: Mercedes-Benz G-Class Project Gelandewagen
Abloh and Wagener drop the G-Class' ride height and add wider fenders. Mesh coverings adorn the windows. The racing-inspired tires proclaim this is the Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen. The odd texture of the paint comes from sanding some sections by hand, which comes from a desire to eschew perfection.
The cabin is similarly stripped down to the most basic elements. The majority of the interior is white, but the company paints the roll cage light blue. Safety-related items like the seatbelts, door pulls, and some switches are vibrant red. For other sporty elements, there are a Formula-1-style steering wheel and seats from a DTM car.
"With Project Geländewagen we create a unique artwork that showcases future interpretations of luxury and the desire for beauty and the extraordinary. The result is something between reality and future," said Wagener about the creation.
We aren't art critics, but the argument that this vehicle "showcases future interpretations of luxury" is hard to understand on its face because by their very nature racecars prioritize performance over comfort. One analysis could be that the Geländewagen that the traditional meaning of "luxury" is dead. Now, speed is what sells.
Project Geländewagen: a Mercedes-Benz and Virgil Abloh collaboration
Driving luxury forward with innovative design
Stuttgart. On September 8th, Project Geländewagen – the first outcome of a collaboration that is a first of its kind between Mercedes-Benz and Chief Creative Director and Founder of Off-White and Men’s Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton Virgil Abloh – was unveiled via a unique digital launch event. The conceptual design project, led by Mercedes-Benz Chief Design Officer Gorden Wagener and Abloh used the Mercedes-Benz G-Class to explore ways of disrupting future perceptions of luxury. The result is a distinctive manifestation of the G-Class as never seen before. Compelled to support the arts at a critical time, a replica of the design piece will be auctioned as part of Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated, one of the auction house’s most revered series which is defined by the unique perspective of a different influential tastemaker each year, with all proceeds going to a charity that supports international creative communities. Advanced bidding will begin on September 14th, 2020.
Click here to watch the reveal, and explore the collaboration further.
Virgil Abloh says: “My ultimate goal in this project with Mercedes-Benz is inspiring young artists, engineers, designers to question the status quo, in addition to experimenting with my own design abilities,” said Abloh. “For me it’s all about providing opportunities for those coming after me and giving this next generation a foundation for success, both here with Mercedes-Benz and through my own Virgil Abloh™ "Post-Modern" Scholarship Fund.“
“With Project Geländewagen we create a unique artwork that showcases future interpretations of luxury and the desire for beauty and the extraordinary. The result is something between reality and future”, says Gorden Wagener, Mercedes-Benz Chief Design Officer. “The collaboration with Virgil has seen two distinct design philosophies unite, for a one-of-a-kind re-imagination of the G that continues to celebrate the extraordinary at its core.”
“Project Geländewagen perfectly encapsulates Mercedes-Benz’s manifestation of contemporary luxury, pushing creativity and innovative design”, says Bettina Fetzer, Vice President Marketing at Mercedes-Benz AG. “Culture and the arts have always played an important part in both Mercedes-Benz products and the brand, and we are proud to donate all proceeds of the replica auction to support international creative communities to continue their education in the arts.”
From a 4x4 to a Landaulet, the G-Class has had many incarnations to date, but never a race car – until now. The finished design simultaneously never forgets its point of origin, and captures the experience of a racing car. The design process was inspired by Wagener and Abloh owning and experiencing the G-Class first hand and identifying opportunities for maximizing its Mercedes-AMG attitude. Together they considered how to make the viewer look at Mercedes-Benz designs with a fresh perspective, while driving luxury away from a polished and flawless aesthetic to something raw, natural and altogether more honest.
The exterior is kept as clean as possible to emphasize the G-Class’s iconic silhouette, demonstrating its monolithic character. The final design lays its construction methods bare, and celebrates the handcrafted imperfections that make it unique. The paintwork was partially sanded by hand to create a sense of timeless simplicity. Welds are celebrated as key design motifs, as craftsmanship takes center stage. The indicators, outside mirrors and the bumper bar have all been removed and the body of the car is widened and lowered, for a sportier effect. The distinct personality of the G remains intact, however, and an exaggeration of the tyres and spare wheel exude the G’s inimitable charisma.
Inside the art piece, reduction reigns and the racing inspiration is clear; eschewing all clichés of an SUV. All interiors have been stripped back, and the safety frame becomes a central motif. The dashboard is removed and replaced with a clean, reduced version which celebrates an analogue speedometer and fuel gauges, reminiscent of a classic car. This contrasts with the steering wheel and seats, which are more akin to a Formula 1 vehicle. Safety features and key racing elements, such as the safety frame or the 5 point seat belts are highlighted in baby blue and bright red tones. These strong accent colours create a new kind of colour grouping, and contrast against the bare interior.
Through Project Geländewagen, the worlds of fashion, art and automotive are united by one common passion: outstanding luxury design that anticipates future ambitions. Utilizing the craftsmanship and know-how that is unique to Mercedes-Benz’s heritage as the world’s first car manufacturer, Wagener and Abloh’s creation embodies Mercedes-Benz’ innate understanding of the extraordinary, a bold vision for the future of luxury design, and the power to dream.
About Gorden Wagener
Born in Essen, Gorden Wagener is the Chief Design Officer Daimler Group – a position he has held since 2016. After studying Industrial Design at the University of Essen, he honed his skills in Transportation Design at London’s Royal College of Art. He joined Mercedes-Benz over two decades ago, initially working as an exterior designer at Volkswagen, Mazda and GM. In 2008 he was made Director of Daimler’s AG Design unit and since then has been responsible for the design of all cars. Under his leadership, the new design philosophy of sensual purity was devised, which embodies both ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ characteristics and thereby expresses an essential aspect of the brand – the dichotomy between emotion and intelligence. Several models bear Wagener's signature, including the C-, E- and S-Class models, the SUVs GLE and GLC, the Mercedes-AMG GT as well as the company’s smart and commercial vehicles. His groundbreaking work has earned him a number of accolades including an honorary professorship at the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest (2009) and an honorary doctorate at Sofia Technical University (2010).
About Virgil Abloh
Born in Rockford, Illinois, Virgil Abloh is an artist, architect, engineer, creative director, and fashion designer. After earning a degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he completed a master’s degree in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Chicago. At IIT, while studying a design curriculum devised by Mies van der Rohe, Abloh began to craft the principles of his art practice. The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presented a major traveling survey of Abloh’s work in summer 2019 – one of the highest attended exhibitions in the museum’s history. Currently, Abloh is the Chief Creative Director and founder of Off-White and Men’s Artistic Director at Louis Vuitton.