Yesterday I visited Mercedes-Benz World, located in Weybridge, Surrey. It is somewhere I have been before, but as it is always changing, there is always something new to see. The purpose of this blog post is just to highlight the key things I saw, and, as this is a design blog, I’ll be showing the design that impressed and inspired me along the way. I also took the chance to use some basic photo editing techniques, which I think has worked well as I employ a ‘point and shoot’ style when it comes to photography…
The building is as stunning inside as it is outside, with three floors containing a wide variety of Mercedes-Benz cars from many eras and various types of cars, from road to motorsport. The building is home to many interesting pieces of design as this post will show, of which the first piece I will pick out is the typography placed above the shop entrance with key characteristic words, such as ‘Innovation’ and ‘Experience’ that I felt could only really be appreciated from higher up.
Mercedes-Benz World has a stunning display piece called ‘View Suspended II’, which is a Formula 1 car that has been disassembled and suspended by wires from a custom frame. It is a physical three-dimensional version of a exploded diagram, and is a magnificent way of showing how a Formula 1 car works and the effort that goes into even the smallest details. More information about this can be read here.
Mercedes-Benz World also displays a few complete Formula 1 cars. The oldest there is a 1999 championship winning McLaren MP4-14, driven by Mika Hakkinen. This is my favourite F1 car, due to the fact I am a McLaren fan and Hakkinen still is my favourite driver! The livery of black and grey came from the sponsorship deal with West, which I think is very well designed, as were most cigarette sponsor liveries due to the money they injected into the sport. Unfortunately the ban on cigarette advertising in motorsport led to the end of this livery.
The black and grey West livery was replaced by a stunning chrome and ‘Rocket Red’ livery (the red courtesy of title sponsor Vodafone), helping to keep the McLaren cars noticeable in terms of aesthetics. This car here is the 2008 championship winning McLaren MP4-23, driven by Lewis Hamilton. The 2008 cars were at the peak of aerodynamic efficiency, as can be seen with the complex bodywork designed to produce as much downforce with as little drag as possible. From 2009, the rules were changed with the aim of improving overtaking through the reduction of downforce.
An interesting point to note on the nose-cone of this McLaren is the Mercedes badge. From the images I have seen of this car, it looks to be flat silver, but in fact it has an effect that allows it to ‘sparkle’, therefore being more noticeable and catching the light.
Since I last visited Mercedes-Benz World, the use of graphics to celebrate the brand has risen enormously in terms of quality. One example can be seen on the curved wall where the F1 cars are positioned, highlighting the achievements of Mercedes in Formula 1.
I think this piece of graphic design is especially inspiring, as it is the sort of image I would like to create, and think I could create with practice using vector illustration. The diagonal lines and bold transitions suggest the fast, dynamic nature of motorsport.
As part of the current display that is being shown at Mercedes-Benz World, was the appearance of a 1989 Sauber Mercedes C9 Group C prototype car, one of three that raced at Le Mans, finishing 1st, 2nd and 5th. This specific car finished 5th, but got pole position.
Being entered into Group C, the key regulations was that the fuel capacity was no more than 100 litres, and the weight had to be greater than 800kg. Competitors were restricted to only five refuelling stops within a 1000 kilometre distance, meaning speed had to be balanced with economy. Don’t think these cars were slow though, with a top speed on this car of 248mph, which would be achieved on the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans every few minutes. They were so fast, that regulations had to be bought in to slow them down.
As far as I’m aware, this car is still being raced by its owner, featuring in the 2012 Le Mans Classic race, and a sticker on the door also shows it as attending the 2012 Goodwood Festival of Speed, so this is a well travelled car! From the first floor, you also get a great view of the test track and skidpan used by Mercedes-benz World.
Also part of the same exhibition was a Mercedes CLK GTR AMG Roadster, 1 of only 6 produced, (20 coupés were also made) and this one is the only right-hand drive version. Finished in dark grey with a burgundy interior, it strikes a dashing pose on the display stand and marks the era of excess in the 1990’s, with the FIA GT Championship aiming to restrict the speed of the cars by asking for a small batch of production road ready cars to be built. Needless to say, Mercedes, like the other manufacturers decided to go all-out, and build super-cars, instead of limiting the race car. The organisers really should have known better!
It is rare to find well done graphics on road cars, but this is one example. The car is a Mercedes SLR Stirling Moss edition, restricted to a production run of 75, of which this car is number 66. The car marks Sir Stirling Moss’ famous Mille Miglia victory in 1955, where over 1000 miles of Italian roads, Moss averaged nearly 100mph in his Mercedes 300 SLR, reaching 170mph in some sections. This car pays homage to that legendary achievement.
Noticeable throughout the building are the pieces of art that have been commissioned to fill the expansive wall spaces. They range from detailed abstract illustrations, to simple blueprint style drawings. They are very clever in the way they convey information, and I have learnt a few things from these that I will be thinking about when I create my future illustrations.
Mercedes-Benz World is also the flagship Mercedes dealer in the UK, meaning it has a comprehensive range of cars that can be seen, with a chance to sit in many of them, as you would do at a ‘normal’ dealership.
The Mercedes CLS63 AMG below that I pictured outside looks great with the coupé stance, and is practical as well with the four doors. I sat in a lesser spec one inside and was very impressed with the fit and finish. It is certainly a premium vehicle.
There was also a new Mercedes SL63 AMG on display just inside the entrance, in Palladium Silver, with a Bengal Red interior. I think this colour combination works very well, and goes well with the added aggression lent to it by the AMG styling tweaks.
I got a chance to sit in the brand new Mercedes A-Class, which is a total clean sheet design from the old version, being designed to attract a new, younger audience to Mercedes. I think the car will be successful at doing this, although personally I would not buy one. However, it has a few clever design features, most notably the front grille that is on this A-Class in particular, with its ‘floating beads’. From a distance it looks very impressive, and like no other grille style I have seen before. It certainly stands out.
Outside one of the rooms was this lovely Maybach logo, with its classy, understated metal finish contrasting against the vibrant orange finish of the logo. Despite Maybach not producing anymore cars, and Mercedes-Benz closing down as a manufacturer, I expect Mercedes-Benz World to still maintain and look after these cars, especially as they cost £250,000 (at least) when new, and customers expect the very best of service.
With the Brooklands Museum next door, home to classic aeroplanes and vehicles, they have placed a model of Concorde at one of the roundabouts on the perimeter of the site, which is a truly stunning feature to grab the attention of any visitor! I personally am a big fan of Concorde, as it was ahead of its time, with futuristic, elegant design and engineering prowess that enabled it to go supersonic.
On the way home, I stopped by the Bentley and Lamborghini dealer in Sevenoaks, which is a great place to go to spot rare/exclusive cars. While looking through the window at a rather lovely ‘Azure Purple’ Bentley Continental GTC V8, the receptionist came out and told us we (my Dad was with me for the day) could go in and have a look at it in the warmth! A friendly chat later about the car, and we left, being very impressed with the customer service we had received. Some luxury dealerships would act in a very condescending manner, as they are not interested if you do not have the money, so it was nice to be treated with respect, even though we can’t afford a Bentley!
Out the back of the dealer, was a brand-new Lamborghini LP570/4 Superleggera, finished in a light, bright blue. Together with the carbon-fibre front splitter and rear spoiler, it looked very nice, although should I ever be able to afford one, I’ll have a bright green one!
To finish, the other vehicle there that caught my eye was a brand new Aston Martin Vanquish, in black, with a black interior. The use of yellow for the brake callipers and interior stitching provided a lovely contrast to take the edge off the black.