The once-proud Mercedes-Benz has suffered a fair few indignities of late, but there is one desecration to make all the others appear moderate and respectful by comparison. 

Yes, you can trust your eyes, photo (c)

It takes quite a lot to make Sensual Purity® appear timid and deliberate. In that sense, the Mercedes Royale (which, legally speaking, is unlikely to be named thus) is a gargantuan achievement.

But what on Earth is it? First of all, it isn’t some particularly elaborate Photoshop hoax. There are numerous accounts vouching for this car’s physical existence. CGI renderings are good these days, but not this good. Secondly, the physically existing Royale obviously poses an attempt at recreating the glamour of Mercedes models from the ’50s and ’60s on the basis of a modern W222-generation S-class.

Karl Wilfert and Friedrich Geiger don’t need to look the other way these days. Paul Bracq does though, so let’s hope none of these snapshots make it to Bordeaux.

Words fail to do this view justice, photo (c)

The Royale’s visual composition specifically consists of stacked chrome bumpers front & rear, a (presumable) W186 grille, upright c-pilars and (SLS-sourced) stacked headlamps, most of which try and tip their metaphorical hat to the Geiger/Bracq designs of the ’60s. Yet, possibly in order to show its unorthodox nature through even small details, the Royale also references the 300SL with its elaborate side vents.

Curiously, the Royale’s rear aspect evokes non-Mercedes and even non-German designs above all else. For, despite aforementioned stacked chrome bumpers and SLS rear lights, the Royale’s derrière carries more than a whiff of Japanese prestige saloon about it. The lack of alignment between the light units and their chrome framing is certainly more early ‘L-Finesse’ than Vertikale Homogenität/Horizonate Affinität.

And that W111-apeing chrome bar across the boot lid also cannot prevent the stern’s square stance from evoking a Toyota Century, rather than any Sonderklasse.

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There are obviously plenty more enchanting details that make this Royale such a sight to behold. We haven’t even touched upon its unique proportions or the delicate use of chrome yet, to name but two. Yet such relatively minor concerns obviously need to make room for the one question that truly matters. And that’s the question of authorship.

So who would be so bold as to create an automobile which so boldly rejects most fundamental aesthetic rules held dear by a majority of people (at least in the western hemisphere)? Who would have the cheek to almost make Sensual Purity® appear sophisticated? Who would dare outgorden the Wagener?

It could only ever be one man:

But of course! photo (c)

Nobody could ever design a car like the Royale with the same sense of ‘casuality’ as Henrik Fisker. Not even Gorden Wagener.

And that’s quite some achievement.


The author of this piece runs an obscure motoring site of his own, which you may or may not choose to visit at

Author: Christopher Butt

car design critic // runs // contributes to The Road Rat magazine // writes a column for Octane France //

10 thoughts on “Schandfleck-Klasse”

  1. Never mind it’s corny ’80s Japanese refs; it’ll probably work in both China and the US — where it’s now facing a high tariff wall. And the Vatican might get one.

    The name? It’s obviously no Bugatti, but its intended buyers will never have heard of that anyway. Nor of the 600 Grand of the 1960s which it, er, “replaces”, if you ignore the recent Maybachs.

    Actually, I quite like the general image, although it has a few too many details. It does at least aim straight at the BMW Rolls, which I guess is the idea. Presumably it has a V12.

  2. It stretches credulity that the ‘Henrik single-handedly designed the Z8, DB9 & Vantage, you know’ brigade can square those stylistic highlights with the laughable dross that has been squeezed out of the man in the white suit’s ‘defy naysayer’s cranium ever since he went solo.

    It can only be explained by one of the following:

    Henrik suffered a nasty bump on the head and simply isn’t the designer he once was.

    Henrik has set his sights on becoming the next Elon Musk and has delegated design to less talented underlings.

    Henrik has been abducted by little green men from outer space and replaced with a delusional alias.

    Henrik is quite simply the most over-rated ‘car designer’ in the known universe.

    It’s multiple choice folks, but only one is the correct answer.

  3. I’ve followed the career of Henrik Fisker ever since I learned that he was the designer behind the Z8 and the DB9, which was sooo cool when It was first introduced. But after all these years and emotional turmoil the man has caused me I’ve been left with only one question.
    Who is the real designer of the Z8 ?

  4. Thanks Dave.
    Is that the same man I see leaning on the 147 Alfa, if so why doesn’t he have a marble monument in the center of Milano ?

    1. Zapatinas did the 147 as well as the Fiat barchetta, so the monument should not only be marble, but ‘rosso corsa’, too.
      But Zapatinas isn’t only responsible for these, he also did the ‘myopic pig with just not intersecting silly side creases’ generation of Seats and some truly horrible Subarus.
      Maybe it’s just right that there is no monument in Milano.

  5. Well, it had to happen. Someone finally stole the rear backlight of the 1962 Plymouth. That car was lot poison, but 14 year old me thought it nice because it was tiny by comparison to Ford and Chevrolet, and precisely why it didn’t sell to the Giant Economy Size minds of America.

    Add the Plymouth rear window to a (lengthened) bootlid stolen from the 2012 era Lexus ES350, and I happen to like the result. The rest of the car does not match the new Toyota Century, but is better than the Stutz Blackhawk. It’s not overtly awful – modern Lexuses have that title sewn up.

    Since the current DTW crackdown on Sensual Purity® Hot and Cool design and its gravity-induced-sideways-spreading beached-whale look, I have taken to reading Daimler media releases for fun and enjoyment. Wagener is so full of himself, I can imagine him and Fisker sharing a drink together and swapping imaginary stories, each one a bigger whopper than that which preceded it. These people have outsize egos not commonly observed in the ranks of the general proletariat. They would make great master chefs. “But your taste buds have withered! This dish is the masterpiece of my life, m’sieur!”

  6. There is so much wrong with this car – the vertical lamps kill the grille which looks like it is a transplant. No. The whole car is a horror. This is screaming bad taste. A Toyota Century is what you need if you want gravitas in this price class. Nothing else will do, especially not Rolls Royce or Bentley.

  7. A lovely automotive journalism equivalent of the dance of the seven veils – a nightmare beautifully told.

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