Sometimes, the most chance encounters are the most fruitful. Christopher Kippenberger was approached with a proposition—an enticing one at that. The commission was from a longtime fan, and the task was clear: “Build me a truck that you would want for yourself.” This would become the restomod GELÄNDEWAGEN.
This meant starting with something iconic. Something German, something with status, something with history and something that anyone could instantly identify. Enter the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. While the latest models were perfectly capable on and off-road, the majority of them had already been co-opted as suburban appliances. The solution was a classic G-Wagen, restored and modified to meet — and exceed — modern standards.
Any worthwhile project is only as good as its starting point. If you’re planning on putting thousands of hours into a restoration, your best investment would be to spend the same amount of time finding the perfect base. An exhaustive search eventually brought Kippenberger to the corner of Germany that has come to be known as Swabia.
With a fully prepared canvas, Kippenberger applied Swabia’s precise, obsessive, efficient, uncompromising nature, transforming the utilitarian G with a reworked powerplant, refined suspension setup, fire-breathing exhaust and lush interior treatment—all while preserving the original soul.
Kippenberger hated Swabia. He spent his childhood there, cooped up in boarding school. He hated the region, he hated the people and above all, he hated the dialect. It was a type of code, an indicator of a cult-like secret society. It wasn’t until later that it became clear to him what that secret society stood for—it stood for excellence. The dialect was a verbal handshake. If something is being discussed in Swabian, it’s going to turn out right.
Sometimes, being an insider is everything. Being an insider can’t be learned—it can be studied endlessly and imitated respectfully, but the result will always be an approximation. You need to grow up in the culture and you need to live every part of it to be a real insider. Grasping the context of a society and the origins of a mindset, even subconsciously, opens up doors. It gives you insight when the uninitiated are lost. It is an unspoken understanding of why something is the way it is, and the ingenuity to know how to make it better.
It all starts with the Swabian Jura, a mountain range in southwest Germany that has come to define a people. On this plateau, time is measured in inconceivable stretches. When there are fossils underfoot, “millions of years” almost becomes a natural interval. The mystery of the mountains’ underground caves and rivers lend the region a mystical allure. It runs contrary to German rationality and that contrarian nature, in turn, breeds a sense of community—one built around a novel way of thinking, around shared ideals and around a common goal.
Like this secret society of insiders, GELÄNDEWAGEN operates on a transparent, yet exclusive, basis. While access is limited, inquires are always welcomed. GELÄNDEWAGEN is the sum of its parts, and its parts are all Swabian.