Yesterday, Mercedes-Benz revealed Project Geländewagen—its latest design created in collaboration with Virgil Abloh. For this project, the carmaker’s iconic G-Class model was transformed into a conceptual design piece. Completed entirely through virtual workshops, Abloh reinterpreted classic details to imagine a new type of luxury for the future.
While keeping the iconic G-Class silhouette, Abloh chose sanded paintwork. Exterior mirrors and the bumper bar were removed; its body lowered and widened for a sporty impact. The interior is stripped back with a focus on safety. The dashboard has been reduced, now with an analogue speedometer and fuel gauges reminiscent of a classic car. The steering wheel and seats evoke Formula 1 vehicle design, with a safety frame, five-point seat belts, and accent colors of baby blue and bright red.
“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 AblohTM ‘Post-Modern’ Scholarship Fund.”
To learn more about Project Geländewagen, Whitewall spoke with Mercedes-Benz Chief Design Officer, Gorden Wagener.
WHITEWALL: How was this new design with Virgil Abloh was created? What was the design process like?
GORDEN WAGENER: I first met Virgil at the Louis Vuitton building in Paris and I was really inspired by his workspace. It was more of an art studio than what you would expect from a fashion studio, which led us both to start thinking holistically about the project and we immediately started to speak the same language, which is really rare for two designers from two different disciplines. The process was completely collaborative.
A digital approach has also been central to the whole project—apart from the launch event, of course—but also with the actual design. We were able to drive the design forward remotely with virtual workshops, with Virgil dialing into Stuttgart via video conference.
WW: How does this car unify fashion and art with automotive?
GW: Project Geländewagen is a completely conceptual design. It does not drive or have any technical requirements. We were free to have fun with it. Working with a multi-disciplinary designer such as Virgil meant we were able to look at the G’s design from multiple angles and question everything; to create a design sculpture that offers a new interpretation of an iconic Mercedes-Benz design.
WW: What details interpret luxury for the future?
GW: Virgil’s unique take on modern luxury has great synergy with Mercedes-Benz. It is not just about a particular product or one piece of design but building a holistic luxury brand that captures the zeitgeist. Project Geländewagen interprets a new luxury of the future that focusses on extraordinary design—perfection and a glossy finish is substituted with an honest and personal design that has craftsmanship at its heart. The G-Class was the perfect starting point for the collaboration as it is our most iconic model, and only a unique and unmistakable structure that can lend itself to multiple personal interpretations will stand the test of time, and truly define modern luxury.
WW: Abloh is known for his inside-out approach, revealing details that are typically unseen. Are there any of his signature details included in this design?
GW: Reduction was integral to the joint design. We started by completely stripping the G-class down to its essence to understand what makes it truly iconic. Craftmanship takes center stage and the design process becomes key design motifs For example, the paintwork is sanded down to reveal individual welds and joins of the design piece.
WW: Are there any new advancements or materials used in the creation of this G-Class that aren’t used in others?
GW: The hand-sanded paint finish is something you will not see in any of Mercedes-Benz products and truly unique to the project, and Virgil’s influence on the design.
Our basic approach was how far can we push the G-class to make it look like a race car, as whilst the G-Class has had many interpretations to date, to which its design has lent itself naturally—a four-by-four and Landaulet, for example—the most challenging change of aesthetic is the race car. We wanted to create the fun of power, acceleration, and speed. The exterior is kept as clean as possible to emphasize the G-Class’s iconic silhouette, demonstrating its monolithic character.
The distinct personality of the G remains intact, however, and an exaggeration of the tires and spare wheel exude the G’s inimitable charisma. The interior is very much in line with this racing idea. We stripped everything out that is not necessary and put in DTM racing seats, a racing cage in baby blue, DRTs like from an old car, and the dashboard is removed and replaced with a clean, reduced version which celebrates an analog speedometer and fuel gauges, reminiscent of a classic car.