Remember that scrappy little kid Charlie who went to the Wonka candy factory, escorted by Gene Wilder & a motley group of other candy-crazed brats? Yeah, well, that's a pretty close thumbnail sketch of my recent visit to BMW's Designworks here in Southern California. (Part One of this entry features my drive up to Designworks, which was equally spectacular)
There we were, a gaggle of design/car dorks (a MM term of endearment) invited to peek inside the inner sanctum of one of our most revered auto brands. BMW's goal, not unlike Willie Wonka's, was to keep us excited about the brand (check), ensure we appreciated the work that goes into these incredible cars (check) and possibly to keep one freakishly intelligent car blogger at bay because her stalking was getting to be a little much (not a chance, boys).
So we enter the building and much to my surprise, Gene Wilder in this case is played by an incredibly friendly, handsome, well dressed Metrosexual who will be our guide through this ride through the Pleasuredome. I'd love to tell you that the building itself was a Gehry-inspired, Pritzker winning experimental space, but truth be told, it was a crappy non-descript building in the center of a sterile office park– think Office Space. But that's where the lack of inspiration stopped dead in its tracks.
After we turn off all of our cell phones, iPads & Google glasses, we are allowed to pass through the frosted glass and into Wonderland. There we explored the interiors department– custom leather anyone? the interactive technology division– the BMW of the future will do everything but wipe your butt & then on to the Designworks project displays– yeah, yeah, yeah– show me the cars. Then, behind some enormous, more industrial doors, we walk through what looks like an empty airplane hanger and into the room with the CNC machine. There, a huge and equally hilarious, fully-tatted bearded dude is operating this incredible machine that's routing out either a new 7 series or an upcoming Bentley– they wouldn't tell us.
Then they politely asked us to scrape our bits of brain matter off of their spotless floor and move onto the gallery where we'll get a recap & "special demonstration." As visions of parting gifts and smoking tires danced in my head, I am instead shown to this:
A real-live clay modeler demonstrating how they still carve these babies out by hand during the design process. They explain that it is this human touch that helps them create nuances that the other car companies miss– (you'll be happy to know that I refrained from all 5 series GT jokes). Then, like a tragic end to a fantastic day they take back my badge..wah!