Wiesmann Project Thunderball is a hair-parting, leather-cosseting luxury electric convertible supercar with sensational & timeless 50s style.
Wiesmann is launching the first all-electric convertible two-seater sports car, 'Project Thunderball', a bespoke luxury retro styled classic coachbuild on a modern powertrain.
I leapt on a plane to Düsseldorf for the inaugural launch at the Wiesmann factory in Dülmen. The factory itself is straddled by a giant gecko, 15 metres tall and over 110 metres long, the brand logo signifying that the car sticks to the road like a gecko sticks to walls.
The gecko’s head is actually the entrance to the factory and the interior is petrol head heaven. A large hall opens up to a first-floor gallery with a cafeteria overlooking an upper mezzanine filled with historic Wiesmanns and a view of the factory floor below. More historic cars, naked chassis in various build stages, crash test models and concepts are strewn around the production line.
Wiesmann was founded by two brothers, Martin and Friedhelm Wiesmann, in 1988 in Dülmen, Germany. They wanted to create sports cars with a classic British retro look built with modern technology. First came the Wiesmann MF30 (MF for Martin and Friedmann) in 1993, followed by the MF3, MF4 and MF5 in Coupe and convertible versions. All used BMW engines to great effect delivering a famously smooth ride with a vibrant roaring engine sound.
I drove the MF3, MF4 and MF5 all around the smooth open country roads near the factory and the verdict is easy. Wiesmann design the quintessential driver's car. The looks hark back to the pinnacle of classic aesthetics but the performance is all raw power, enabled by modern engineering and technology. But not too much, there is no driverless software, no lane change warning, just unadulterated driving pleasure. 50s film star style fused with the latest state-of-the-art powertrain. The best of both worlds.
In 2012 they developed the Wiesmann Spyder, a gorgeous two-seater with no doors or windscreen and separate tubs for the driver and passenger. A visually alluring and stunning design. However, only one was ever built before they went bust in 2014 and you can see it at the factory, along with many Wiesmanns in different liveries.
The brand was acquired by Roheen Berry for Contec Global in 2016. Berry has been investing in the company since then, developing the all-electric convertible for a global market.
The new electric roadster was designed in partnership with Andreas Kurbos @studiokurbos who has extensive experience in automotive and aviation design. His and Roheen's passion for the car and its future is infectious. As was the enthusiasm and dedication of the engineers and craftsman who took me around the factory.
Roheen Berry combines the dedication of a genuine car fanatic with decades of experience investing. He grew up all over the world, attending Sherwood College in India, and then Kennedy School Harvard. He has been a director of Contec Global since 2007, a company founded by his father in 1984.
Roheen Berry, Owner and CEO of Wiesmann:
“It has been incredibly exciting collaborating with the team at studiokurbos through the entire design process for 'Project Thunderball' and these Three Limited Edition designs. This car is particularly special, not only because of its timeless design and disruptive specifications but also because it firmly anchors this new phase of Wiesmann in the luxury automotive industry and beyond."
He first came across Wiesmann cars when his brother Sahir Berry bought one and Roheen was blown away by its looks and performance. They soon obtained the right-hand drive rights and then bought the company when it became available, retaining its base at the factory in Dülmen. He has plans to improve the location further with a large water feature and to continue the Wiesmann open-door policy of welcoming all visitors. It is well worth the visit, as exciting as the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking and the Bentley factory in Crewe.
Though be warned you may end up with a new electric sports car for 300,000 Euros, but you won't regret it.
The Wiesmann all-electric roadster 'Project Thunderball' fuses the classic retro look of the previous Wiesmann's with modern electric technology. And it is an utterly beautiful car. The bonnet is long and shapely rising over the wheels at the side and sloping down in the middle into a fierce metal egg-shaped grille. Strong rotary wheel arches protrude to accommodate the 21-inch wheels and the narrow fluid waist flows sinuously back into a sizeable 2.2 metre 'derrière'. Rear-wheel drive means this will be more fun than any other electric vehicle yet produced and the whole car seems to be moving even when parked.
In motion it darts forward swiftly and smoothly, both nimble and agile, more akin to a shark than a gecko.
The batteries are housed underneath the front bonnet where the ICE used to be, rather than in the chassis as with most electric cars. The two electric motors are mid-mounted at the back, so the weight distribution is a perfect 50/50.
Opening the bonnet is a joy in itself, as it opens from the windscreen upwards and forwards into a lovely sculptural form. A big plus point of the front batteries is that they can be easily swapped out at the factory and updated as the technology improves. That and the analogue dials, luxurious livery and classic sports styling mean that the car will never be outdated. Theoretically like Trigger's broom (Theseus's Paradox in Only Fools & Horses), it should last forever and still be original.
The 500kW (680hp) electric motors deliver 1,100 Nm of instant torque boosting the car from 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) in just 2.9 seconds and 0-124 mph (0-200 km/h) in 8.9s. Powering the motors is a state-of-the-art, 800-volt, 92 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. This enables an exceptional targeted range of 500 Km (WLTP), alongside the convenience of super-fast charging of up to 300 kW (DC).
Wiesmann craftsmen are experts in the art of coachbuilding. Aluminium, carbon fibre and steel provide a sturdy body and, like the MF series, it is rigid but with a fluid response, delivering immediate feedback through the steering and chassis.
The newly designed Wiesmann grille is both menacing and sporty, whilst serving to air-cool the batteries. A gecko logo on the bonnet now faces up instead of down to represent the new direction of the company.
A small driver's console imparts all the information you need while a larger centre console controls everything else. Both can be easily updated. The Recaro sports seats are comfortable and resplendent in your chosen hand-stitched leather. Seven retro analogue dials feed you all the driving information including battery temperature.
Pleasurable driving is further enhanced by five settings of regenerative braking on the steering wheel paddles. Click the left paddle to decrease the regenerative braking and the right to increase it. A deliberate attempt to mimic the control of a manual gearbox to connect and engage the driver with the car's performance. But of course, the single-speed Hewland gearbox is as fluid as needed if you just want to cruise in comfort.
And at last, a proper key that represents the luxury of the car. A large magnetic metal and leather rectangle that matches your car's livery with a solid metal gecko on top. The key slips snugly into a tailor-made notch in the centre console. As I've harped on about before the key is the only thing you always carry with you and represents the car when you are not actually in it. So it should be as iconic as the car.
What makes Wiesmann special is the craftsmanship, everything is hand-crafted and hand-built, from the aluminium chassis to the bespoke leather seats. You can have any colour of leather from any tanner in the world. The whole process is bespoke. Want to match the leather interior with your Bentley or Rolls Royce? They will use the exact same leather and colour.
To get an idea of their perfectionism, they even used to make their own cable trees which required enormous skill and man-hours, but they started to outsource that as the complexity grew. A wise move, you can sometimes do too much.
'Project Thunderball' was also presented in three unique Limited Edition Design Concepts. One in gold representing the roaring twenties Great Gatsby era, one in matt black clearly channelling Batman and the last in metallic ocean blue, inspired by the Mediterranean Sea and Saint Tropez fashion. I loved the gold one at first and would have been thrilled with the black one, but after a while, the blue exterior with orange leather interior, soft cream canvas accents and high gloss teak was the one that truly captured my heart. It is a sensational combination of colours and textures which would convey a feeling of opulent luxury every time you drove it.
They have sold out of the first delivery of 'Project Thunderball', so you may have to wait until 2024. The combination of superb good looks, great performance, handling and easily updatable technology will pique the interest of car collectors, investors and those that love classic good looks mixed with high tech.
'Project Thunderball' is the most exciting, graceful electric car yet. A convertible masterpiece for those that want the latest modern electric platform and maximum driver pleasure combined with unbeatable classic styling. It's worth buying as a piece of art, the fact that it reaches 62 mph in 2.9 seconds in hair-blowing, leather-cosseted luxury is just a bonus.