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Niche Car Manufacturer Wiesmann Is Back With Something Called “Project Thunderball”

Wiesmannn returns with its retro-chic styling and new drivetrains!

| By Robin Nooy | 8 min read |

Almost every week there’s some new hotshot car company announcing some magical better-than-everything type vehicle. And sadly, in today’s day and age that’s more often about volts and watts instead of controlled explosions and exhaust chatter. I often have mixed emotions about this push for “green” energy, because on one hand I am not convinced it is the perfect answer to cut down on pollution and on the other hand I see the obvious performance benefits available with electrification. Thing is, I am very much for emotion in cars, and the sound a car makes when being thrashed around a track or accelerating at a traffic light to blitz the guy in the car next to it is a huge part of the deal for me. The second is the design of a car, and that’s where I sometimes feel let down by most of the modern EVs. That’s very much not the case with revived car manufacturer Wiesmann though, as they still style their cars like modernized 1960s sportscars and roadsters. And luckily, there’s still room for a V8 engine at Wiesmann!

Wiesmann origins

The story of Wiesmann goes back to 1988 when brothers Martin and Friedhelm Wiesmann founded the eponymous company. The idea was to construct a car that defied everything that had been done before, and while that seems like a bit of a stretch, the cars sure looked different to others on the market at the time. The very first product to emerge carrying the brother’s name was the Wiesmann MF30, launched in 1993 18 years. This was powered by a 3.0-litre straight-six engine with 228 horsepower, supplied by BMW. The MF30 was followed by the MF3, which featured a similar design but came with a different engine. The MF30 was fitted with the iconic BMW engine out of the E46 M3. With 343 horsepower on tap and only 1,180 kilograms to lug around, the MF30 was one quick machine; zero to 100kph was done and dusted in 5 seconds, only to push on to the top speed of 255kph. You can check part 1 of Top Gear’s clip on the Wiesmann MF3 Roadster down below (with part 2 right here).

If you include the MF30, the MF3 roadster was in production for an impressive 18 years. At the 2005 IAA motor show in Frankfurt, Germany, Wiesmann showed a car with a fixed roof for the very first time. This Wiesmann GT MF4 had a reworked chassis carried over from the MF3 which had space for a bigger engine. As such, Wiesmann installed the 4.3 litre V8 which BMW used in the E92 BMW M3 GTS for instance. Power grew to over 367 horsepower and later to well over 400 horsepower, which pushed the GT MF4 close to 300kph in terms of top speed and shaved a couple of tenths off the zero-to-100kph time. An M4 Roadster would be introduced in 2009, with the even more bonkers MF5 being launched around the same time.

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The very exclusive Wiesmann Roadster MF5 V10 and the closed-top GT MF5 V10 had a total production of fewer than 200 cars. Where Wiesmann upped its game from 6 cylinders to 8 when it moved from the MF3/MF30 to the MF4, it once again added two cylinders to the MF5. And yes, that very much means it came with a V10 engine under that gracious front-end. In fact, it was the 5.0-litre V10 engine from the BMW E60 M5, with power increased from 500 as used in the M5 to 555 horsepower in the Wiesmann. This was later replaced by the Twin-Turbo V8 used in various BMWs as the V10’s production was stopped in 2010. The top speed for the V10-powered MF5 was close to 320kph (with the V8 this dropped slightly) while the zero-to-100kph sprint took under 4 seconds to complete. Check out this YouTube clip by Car & Driver on the V8 GT MF5;

A few more variations on the theme set in place by the MF3/MF30 appeared, before the Wiesmann brothers both left the company in 2012. Until then, they produced about 1,600 cars over a 25-year period which is mighty impressive for such a niche brand! A year later the company filed for insolvency as it seemed to be in deep trouble. A restructuring plan was presented to turn things around but was not meant to be. A few months later all the assets were liquidised and that was the end of Wiesmann.

The gecko returns

Now though, the name is back! Under new management following a whole load of legal decisions and changes, Weismann has returned once more. London-based investor Roheen Berry is now the owner of the Wiesmann name and is looking to reinstate it as the prolific speciality car builder it once was. With two very distinct projects coming, one being Project Gecko and the other Project Thunderball, Wiesmann looks set to capitalise on the recent surge in demand for high-powered exclusive vehicles.

Project Gecko, taken from the fact Wiesmann has always used a Gecko as its logo, is set to use a Twin-Turbo V8 and 8-speed gearbox sourced from BMW. The proposed top speed is 320kph and the dash to 100kph is said to take no more than 3.5 seconds. That basically continues where Wiesmann left us with the MF5 cars in terms of performance. Sadly, no details or hints at the car’s styling have been shared yet so there is little more we can tell you. What Wiesmann does share though, is the label “Re-engineering an Icon” which leads me to believe Project Gecko is a massive overhaul of one of the previous cars. Despite the lack of details, the one thing I am happy about is the fact the new management doesn’t go full-electric altogether and still sees a market for petrol engines.

Project Thunderball

The second project announced by Wiesmann, and the one that is very much leading the company’s revival is Project Thunderball. This echoes the styling of the cars we know (and love) from Wiesmann initiated by the MF3/MF30 and perfected with the MF4 and MF5. So in essence we once again have a retro-chic-styled traditional roadster (meaning a soft-top) with a long nose and short rear body. Normally that would be followed by the phrase “engine up front, drive to the rear” but that’s where Project Thunderball shakes things up quite a bit.

Project Thunderball might look like a retouched MF-series car from the outside, but underneath that very attractive exterior sits all-new technology. Electric technology that is, with two electric motors and a battery pack hidden in the chassis. It will also include a 5-mode selective regenerative braking system, harnessing the energy generated under braking to increase the sensation of engine braking you normally get from a petrol-powered car as well as charging up the batteries. The total power output is said to be 500 kilowatts or 680 horsepower, and 1,100nm of torque. Wiesmann also claims a range of 500 kilometres on a full charge thanks to the 800 volts 92kWh battery capacity. The production car is said to weigh less than 1,800 kilos which is quite a bit more than the 1,200 kilos of the MF5s but still moderate compared to other sporty EVs.

Each car will be hand-built in Wiesmann’s factory in Dülmen, Germany and each owner will have vast personalisation options available. The exterior panels are made from carbon fibre, and the Project Thunderball car will feature the clamshell front section we know from previous cars. The front will have the same egg-shaped grill as well, with the vertically aligned dual headlights being taken over from the MF5 (albeit reworked a little). Around the back, a little ducktail spoiler aids traction, with the tail lights protruding from the bodywork on either side. Normally you would find a dual exhaust system tucked underneath the rear bumper but in this case, there’s just an aerodynamic diffuser visible. And although Project Thunderball is presented as a soft-top roadster, for now, a Coupé version is also said to come somewhere down the line.

The interior of the car is finished with all the things you expect in such a unique car. Hand-stitched leather covers the seats, centre console and dash, mixed with carbon fibre elements all around. The small steering wheel looks to be covered in Alcantara, with a digital screen mounted behind it to keep an eye on the most important bits of data when snaking your way around some gorgeous country road or blasting up a Swiss Alpine mountain. It will undoubtedly be a thrilling experience, and I feel the fact that Wiesmann positions this as a grand touring roadster and not some hopped-up hyper-EV is the right way to go. A Wiesmann is not meant to be some hardcore, record-setting track weapon but a rather distinguished car instead. A distinguished car you can cruise along in, and experience to the fullest, instead of having it run wild with you as a passenger hanging on for dear life.

If this has sparked your interest, pun fully intended, Wiesmann is taking orders as of now. The car will start at EUR 300,000 without taxes, with a EUR 3,000 deposit needed to reserve your build slot. Quite a lot of money obviously, but it does get you one of the most unique electric vehicles there is!

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2 responses

  1. As much as i love cars, I’m here for watches not cars… If I wanted to read about cars, I would be on autoblog..

  2. One article in a week is about cars, the rest of this page contains only watch content…
    What the fuck is wrong with you and who said, you need to read it???


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