The Wiesmann story ended in 2014 with liquidation. It began in 1988 with the launch of the MF30, a rear-wheel drive retro-inspired roadster powered by a 3.0 six-cylinder BMW engine. What occurred in between?
Weisman produced four iterations of their signature theme, variants of the 1950s roadster idea. Idiosyncacy is the name of the game at Dülmen. The bodies stayed much the same while names and engines changed as time went by. The second car, the 1993 MF-3 (confusingly, a smaller number than the predecessor) had a different BMW engine, a BMW M54 with 3.2 litres capacity.
The first series was the MF, coming in two versions with some lesser variants known as the MF 28 and MF 35, each having a different BMW engine and minor trim variations. In 2003 Wiesmann felt it was a good idea to develop the cars with a new series, starting with a closed-top roadster, the GT. They showed this at Geneva.
As you can see, the panel gap topology is somewhat eccentric. The vertical line under the door is not sitting well. The air intakes at the front look jostled. It all could have been aligned with no deleterious effects on performance. The curves on the vent behind the front wheel may have seemed expressive but the car didn’t need such flourishes.
It’s pretty much what a non-designer thinks a sportscar should look like – perhaps they didn’t consider the overall appearance and instead looked at the individual bits which are good enough in isolation but don’t add up.
The later GT cars got a BMW V8 and this unit could hurl the car to about 181 mph. That must have seemed blindingly fast and should the car have crashed, utterly unsurvivable. One is put in mind of TVR – small, light and rather half-baked. I presume each Weismann came with a sheepskin flying jacket and a pair of beige twill trousers.
As if a V8 wasn’t enough, Wiesmann added a BMW V10 of 5.0 litres. That bomb pushed the top speed to 193 miles per hour and knocked half a second off the nought to sixty. While it’s not nothing, it’s not very much either – like adding 50 g to a 2.2 kilo hamburger. Enough is sometimes enough at a lower point.
GTSpirit ran a review of the M5 in 2010: “At 1395kg, it is only 15kg heavier than the coupé and half a ton less than both BMW supersaloons. The MF5 delivers a power-to-weight ratio of 363bhp/ton. The technical setup is combined with a three-way catalytic converter, petrol injection and stainless steel twin exhaust pipes. Stopping power is achieved by massive 374mm front and 370mm rear carbon-composite brakes.”
About 55 of these cars were made, which is probably about as many as the market could handle. As is usual with these cars, you pay for the engine and the laborious yet never very thorough hand-craft. It’s a peculiarity of the class that you pay three times as much for the car as a similarly engined BMW but get an awful lot less in terms of quality.
The idea is that the flamboyant bodywork is enough to make up for the detail inadequacies. What would have saved this car’s bacon is the use of a seasoned industrial designer – perhaps a chap in his 50s who has either tired of a large studio or has been edged sideways by the inevitable upward pressure from younger guns.
The thing with these small companies, as has been shown in all these ‘Far From The Mainstream’ articles, is that proprietors forget to properly style the cars. I suppose they assume that the kind of designer who has worked on mass production will only produce another Mondeo or Astra-type of design. Not necessarily.
They would in all likelihood know how far to push the boat out but not end up with the naïve shapes that critically undermine such flights of fancy. This is where TVR mostly got it right. While a TVR may have looked wild, most of the last crop of cars were the result of an intelligent balance of means of production and intelligent expressiveness: the hand-milled controls and the unusual exterior details.
The overall lesson of these trips to the land of the boutique manufacturer has been a) there’s a reason why cars like the Focus, Golf and Astra sell so well (people need a car like this more than high speed sea monsters), b) the products don’t evolve much and c) the owners are woefully lacking in the self-awareness of their own idiosyncratic taste: a BMW Z8 is pretty much the same formula as the Wiesmann car but the wildness has been tempered with judgement and taste. Had Wiesmann’s cars being as restained as the Focus, they might even be still with us today.