The spe­cial One

The Project One, Mercedes-AMG’s first blind­ingly fast, tech­no­log­i­cally out-of-this-world hy­per­car, is poised to give other ul­tra-rare street rock­ets a run for their money… mil­lions of it

Esquire (UK) - - Contents - By Kevin Sin­tu­muang

Mercedes-AMG’s as­ton­ish­ing Project One leaves all other hy­per­cars stand­ing in its dust

it’s gauche to start with num­bers, but when we're re­fer­ring to a £1.95m hy­per­car, we’re not go­ing to start with the colour of the seat belts, are we? (But we’ll get to that.) So let’s talk num­bers: the Mercedes-AMG Project One, the car­maker’s first foray into the ul­tra-luxe strato­sphere of in­sanely fast hy­per­cars that in­cludes the Bu­gatti Ch­i­ron, As­ton Martin Valkyrie and Pa­gani Zonda, pro­duces a planet-mov­ing 1,000bhp. It can go from 0–124mph in less time than it takes to read this sen­tence. (Six sec­onds.) It’s pow­ered by a 1.6-litre V6 (and four elec­tric mo­tors) that screeches up to 11,000rpm. (Your av­er­age Honda Civic gets up to a mere 5,500rpm. The Fer­rari Su­per­fast, 8,500.) It is a plug-in hy­brid, with an all-elec­tric range of about 15 miles.

But you want real ex­clu­siv­ity? Only 275 ex­am­ples of what is os­ten­si­bly a street le­gal For­mula One car — the first pro­to­type con­tained the same en­gine Lewis Hamil­ton uses — will be made. Mercedes-AMG al­lo­cated 20 for Bri­tain, and 55 to the US where all of them have been spo­ken for. (Just a few buy­ers are women, in case you were won­der­ing which gen­der is still over­com­pen­sat­ing for some­thing.)

As is becoming the norm with hy­per­cars, you couldn’t just write a cheque to buy the Project One. You needed to ap­ply. MercedesBenz re­ceived around 1,100 ap­proaches world­wide. The ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion of who re­ceived the priv­i­lege to plunk down the cost of a very nice Knights­bridge pied-à-terre on a ve­hi­cle came down to AMG CEO To­bias Mo­ers and Di­et­mar Exler, the pres­i­dent and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA.

What sep­a­rated one bil­lion­aire from the next? The things taken into con­sid­er­a­tion were a lot like the cri­te­ria Ford GT buy­ers were sub­ject to when ap­ply­ing to pur­chase the Amer­i­can com­pany’s other­worldly su­per­car: a large so­cial me­dia fol­low­ing helped, as did the sense that you were go­ing to ac­tu­ally drive the car and dis­play it at events as op­posed to flip­ping it or, worse, moth­balling it within your hangar of be­spoke ve­hi­cles. But the ini­tial bar­rier be­fore even be­ing con­sid­ered for Club Project One? You must have owned at least 20 Mercedes-Ben­zes in your life­time.

“It was a very dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tion to have with the cus­tomer who [had] owned 18 Mercedes,” says Heiko Sch­midt, head of AMG North Amer­ica.

Just had to buy that Lexus in ’03, didn’t you?

(Hy­per­car buy­ers, as one can sur­mise, live in a rar­efied world. Sch­midt says AMG poached one of its main li­aisons for Project One cus­tomers from Porsche be­cause of her ex­pe­ri­ence with the clien­tele who pur­chased its pioneer­ing hy­brid hy­per­car, the 918.)

Much of the Project One can be cus­tomised, with the ex­cep­tion of the seat belts, be­cause of safety reg­u­la­tions. (You’ll still be able to choose from a set of colours, how­ever.) De­liv­er­ies aren’t un­til 2019; un­til then, the lucky 275 will be treated to custom seat fit­tings (the two seats are built into the car­bon-fi­bre mono­coque to save weight, but the ped­als will be ad­justable), get a look at their en­gine be­ing hand-as­sem­bled, take rides in proper F1 cars, and re­ceive spe­cial train­ing in how to han­dle a 1,000bhp land rocket. It will be the first con­sumer Mercedes-Benz built in Brack­ley and Brix­worth, England, where the cars for the com­pany’s F1 team are man­u­fac­tured.

Based on num­bers alone, it’s easy to dis­miss the Project One as just another bil­lion­aire’s play­thing, but it’s big­ger than that. For one, its ap­pear­ance is more clas­sic than the an­gry, an­gu­lar look that seems to be the preva­lent de­sign lan­guage for many mil­lion­dol­lar-plus au­to­mo­biles th­ese days, as if one of Michael Bay’s Trans­form­ers were trapped half­way be­tween car and ro­bot. Sure, it has thin, mean eyes and a men­ac­ing shark-ish fin, but it still has curves. It still elic­its that old-school, sen­sual feel­ing of yearn­ing.

“It’s sim­i­lar to Stir­ling Moss’s SLRs in the Fifties,” Gor­den Wa­gener, Mercedes’ chief de­sign of­fi­cer, tells Esquire dur­ing a walk-through of the car, point­ing out how the shoul­der line is at wheel level on both ve­hi­cles. “We didn’t want it to look like a hy­per­car.”

Se­condly, the tech­nol­ogy that drives the Project One won’t sim­ply be for the 0.0001 per cent. The goal, at least ini­tially, is for the in­no­va­tive hy­brid tech that is able to squeeze out enor­mous amounts of power from a rel­a­tively small en­gine to make its way into other Mercedes-Benz sports cars. Al­beit maybe more for the one per cent at first.

It makes you root for th­ese ma­chines, even though most of us will never drive one. For the über­wealthy, hy­per­cars present a bur­geon­ing in­vest­ment op­por­tu­nity. For ev­ery­one else, and the big com­pa­nies that make them, they are an in­vest­ment in keep­ing cars ex­cit­ing to drive un­til the day au­ton­o­mous cars drive us.

Pho­to­graphs by Tuukka Koski

Fast and cu­ri­ous: the Mercedes-AMG Project One emerges from a garage, ea­ger to take to the streets of down­town Los An­ge­les

From left: the Mercedes-Benz star is painted on the hood to avoid air tur­bu­lence and lower the drag ef­fect; sim­i­larly, the head­lights are in­te­grated flush into the front arch; the spare F-style driv­ing po­si­tion is stacked with high-tech mon­i­tors and con­trols

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