‘Gelandewagen’ (and also ‘G-Wagen’) was a reference name to the 4×4 vehicle that Mercedes-Benz launched in 1979 which would evolve into the G-Class in the 21st century. It is also the name of 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.
Conceptual design project
Project Gelandewagen, a 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 SUV 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. Advance bidding will begin on September 14th, 2020.
In support of creative communities
Describing Project Gelandewagen as perfectly encapsulating Mercedes-Benz’s manifestation of contemporary luxury, pushing creativity and innovative design, Bettina Fetzer, Vice-President Marketing at Mercedes-Benz AG, said: “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.”
“With Project Gelandewagen, 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. “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.”
G-Class racing car
From a 4×4 to a Landaulet, the G-Class has had many incarnations to date, but never a racing 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 the brand’s 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 iconic silhouette of the G-Class, 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 centre stage. The indicators, outside mirrors and the bumper bar have all been removed and the body of the car widened and lowered, for a sportier effect. The distinct personality of the G-wagen remains intact, with an exaggeration of the tyres and spare wheel.
Inside the art piece, reduction reigns and the racing inspiration is clear. All interior areas have been stripped back, and the safety frame becomes a central motif. The dashboard is removed and replaced with a clean, reduced version that incorporates 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 racing car. Safety features and key racing elements, such as the safety frame or the 5-point seatbelts 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.