WIESMANN GT MF4
PH takes a Wiesmann GT MF4 to London's Ace cafe...
Over the years it has become a slightly ironic joke that the British car industry has been largely swallowed up by the Germans. The MINI is now a small BMW, which owns Rolls Royce, and Bentley is now in the hands of the manufacturers of the people’s car, Volkswagen. At least one thing those Deutschlanders will never get their hands on is those glorious sportscars of our past, when the British car industry took on the world, the Austin Healeys, the fifties Jags, the AC Aces, those swooping, handsome shapes will forever be ours. And then along comes the Wiesmann – a car that unashamedly plunders some of the best shapes from the fifties and sixties, blends in some top Bavarian tech, and comes out looking rather good as a result.
It is all clothed in a riot of different curves that look a bit like a lot of things, and a lot like nothing else. Part Healey 3000, part Jag XK120, part Morgan, it is a four-wheeled jig-saw puzzle of classic British motoring. The question is: does it actually work? In the hope of finding out PistonHeads decided to take a Wiesmann GT to one of the iconic spots of fifties and sixties Britain: the Ace Café in North London.
The Ace started off as a transport café serving the North Circular, but after World War II it became a meeting for people who had a love of motorbikes, speed and rock and roll.Famously it was home to ‘record-racing’, where patrons would race to a given point and back before a record finished on the jukebox. These days the café attracts both bikers and car enthusiasts, and hosts meets for anything from hot roads and scooters to TVRs and Ginettas. Hopefully these people would understand where Wiesmann is coming from.
The car almost looks like a hot rod in this environment, but it is certainly a modern interpretation of classic design, rather than retro folly. Everyone has their own ideas on the Wiesmann, although not many can pin down what it reminds them of. ‘It looks like a BMW Z4 on steroids,’ says Paul McNeil, a PistonHeader who is making his way back to his Civic Type-R. ‘But then again the front looks a bit like a Morgan. I’m not sure if the styling works, although I like Cerberas and it has that kind of look, but it’s nowhere as nice.’
At this point McNeil asks me how much the car will cost. ‘Around £110,000,’ I tell him. He looks shocked: ‘It doesn’t look like it’s worth that much. It’s got the look of an old British sports car but if I had that kind of money to spend on a car I’d probably look elsewhere.’Dean Knight, who drives a ZX10 Kawasaki superbike, is more positive about the Wiesmann, calling it a ‘proper sports car’.
The Wiesmann GT4 MF4 is certainly special enough to draw eyes away from the exquisitely detailed bikes that litter the front of the café. Few people seem to be able to walk past the car without grabbing their phones and taking a quick snap. ‘At first I thought it was Bugatti Veyron,’ says Roy Crane, a Mercedes 190 driver, and although it’s not the first thing (or the second things for that matter) that sprung to mind, perhaps he has a point. If you squint a bit. ‘It’s definitely a man’s car, not one for the ladies,’ he says, although conceding the convertible version is much more feminine. This is the kind of car you drive without looking like a fool,’ he adds, ‘the shape definitely works.’
The first thing I will say about the Wiesmann is that it is a tight fit. I’m 6ft 2” and the buckets are so tight that it feels like I am resting on the lumbar supports rather than the seat back. In fact I would go as far to say that it is one of the most uncomfortable cars I have ever sat in. Not a good start. The pedals seem to be offset as well, which means you have to become an amateur contortionist just to try and get comfortable. The handmade leather dashboard looks beautifully made – simple and classic – although there are modern touches everywhere such as the gloriously techy BMW auto ‘box lever that sits in the middle of the cabin.
This is ZF’s latest six-speed auto and yes there are paddles poking out from the small meaty wheel. It is joined to a BMW V8, with 362bhp to shift just 1240kg, meaning this car should be good for 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds (having a power to weight of 297bhp/ton) and a top speed of 174mph. Pulling out on to the North Circular the car’s ride is nuggety but it doesn’t crash over bumps, rather it makes the car feel solid and poised. The glassfibre body covers an epoxy-bonded aluminium tub which feels incredibly stiff, while feel through the leather wheel is exceptional.
Even though it is laden with the latest tech there is something honest about the Wiesmann. It feels raw and exciting, but at the same time manageable and fun. You can either flick through the gears using the quick paddle-shifts or stick it in auto and lazily lope through the traffic. Neil from Wiesmann suggests taking the MF4 to the King’s Road, Chelsea, to get some more opinions but doesn’t want to pay the Congestion Charge when we get there, so we head back to the Ace. The car starts making al oud whining noise on the way back which apparently is the fuel pump because it is running out of petrol.