What can be said about Virgil Abloh that hasn’t already been said? Louis Vuitton’s Miami runway show — which presented the SS22 collection with 10 new looks — became a de facto tribute to Abloh’s life and legacy. Meanwhile, with the blessing of Abloh’s family, Maybach opted to bring its collaborative concept creation — the Project MAYBACH that Abloh worked on alongside Mercedes-Benz chief design officer Gorden Wagener — to Miami’s Rubell Museum on December 1st and 2nd, 2021 for public display.
Unlike Abloh’s freshman collaboration with Mercedes-Benz (a thorough G-Wagon refresh), Project MAYBACH is a true ground-up concept car, and one whose unique and outlandish character speak to the designers broader vision. Almost contradictory in some respects, its long, slender body is a clear callback to the luxury grand tourer. From there, the gloves come off. What if a GT car would be built to go on safari, or take part in the Dakar Rally? A lifted chassis, blocky all-terrain tires, roll bars, and auxiliary driving lights are not part of the typical fare for anything at the pinnacle of luxury automobiles.
That said, there’s also a level of acknowledgement in this design that the Project MAYBACH was penned as not only something to challenge convention, but also as something for those with the means to explore their environment responsibly — relatively speaking. To this day, there’s little in the market that delivers a high performing off-road experience on an all-electric platform, let alone things offered at this level of luxury automaking. If Maybach eventually offers the concept as a commission, we doubt anyone’s going competitive off-roading with it, but nonetheless it’s easy to imagine it dusting its way through the desert, or trekking up some of the logging roads in the Rockies. This theme was clearly echoed when creating the surrounding display installation at the Rubell Museum in Miami, as the space surrounding the car was surrounded by a wilderness camping scene. Prior to its reveal, the Project MAYBACH was covered by its own tent — a clever-yet-literal concept.
In both colour palette and profile, the Project MAYBACH may trigger a whisper of déja vu for those deeply entrenched in the autosphere. Somewhere in and around the mid ’00s a pair of Land Rover fanatics built a project of their own that never came to fruition, known as the Bell Aurens Longnose. In contrast, the Longnose was an exercise in nostalgia and “what ifs” rather than a look into the future of luxury transportation, but the similarity is interesting, nonetheless.
No matter the lens one views Project MAYBACH through, the overall execution of this one-off concept is a remarkable feat, and one we laud Mercedes-Maybach for following through on. As the brand’s competitors continue to flourish, there’s been some questions circulating about the brand’s relevance moving forward. Even if it’s merely a concept, this build stands as a testament to the brand’s ability to break from convention. We know that Maybach has a role in the overall Mercedes electrification strategy, with a production EV coming in 2023. Will we see any of Abloh’s touches trickling down the production line? Only time will tell.
Photography by David Pike and Mercedes-Benz