The year is 1992. The man? Karl Lagerfeld. A tireless workaholic, artist, photographer and fashion icon of maisons Chanel, Fendi and of his own name, sketched out the initial drafts of what would become his very own personalised BMW.
A fully optioned BMW 750iL in two-tone paint, black at the bottom and silver on top, separated by a fine green line. Inside, the interior trim panels were made from the fabric of Karl Lagerfeld’s Goyard briefcase. And in the front passenger seat, which was Lagerfeld’s favourite place to sit, a fax machine was installed in the glovebox.
While customised BMWs are now readily available to those with the means, it was this project with the German Fashion titan that kickstarted the BMW Individual programme. It was born not just out of a response to a continuing trend of customers wanting to make an individual statement with their cars, but also as an expression of BMW’s commitment and passion for creating special automobiles.
Its mission? To turn individual customer requests into reality. The only restrictions? Apart from one’s bank balance, these special vehicles had to comply with or exceed BMW quality standards, and must not have an adverse effect on safety.
Though special commissions form the basis of BMW Individual Manufaktur customising facility, it also offers specially curated cars for discerning customers and aficionados of the brand. These vehicles showcase carefully matched individual compositions, enabling particularly convenient personalisation, a service now available for almost every BMW model.
With the release of the one-off BMW Individual M850i ‘Night Sky’, it seems the sky is no longer the limit for the skilled artisans.
Presented during an intense meteor shower in early 2019, the M850i Night Sky was created in collaboration with researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics Garching, Munich.
The ‘Night Sky’ draws inspiration from celestial bodies, and incorporates meteoritic materials on selected control surfaces, as well as showcases illuminated constellations of stars on the centre console and in the surface design of the sportscar’s trim finishers, seat backrests, brake discs and exterior add-on parts.
Taking reference from a structure that only occurs in natural form on extra-terrestrial objects, the distinctive Widmanstätten surface pattern of meteorites was woven into the design of the Night Sky's interior and exterior panels.
This strictly geometric structure is the result of the metal alloy cooling down in an extremely slow process that cannot be reproduced on Earth, thus giving it an otherworldly signature.
The unique pattern was first observed back in the early 19th century by a number of people, including Austrian scientist Alois von Beckh Widmanstätten, after whom it is named.
This celestial theme continues on the centre console armrests, with a design inspired by the glittering heavens: LED units illuminate their surface, and produce the effect of a star-studded sky in between the front seats.
On the exterior, a special paint finish is applied to the Night Sky that combines two colour tones to achieve a dark brilliance of immense depth.
With the release of this very special celestial 8 Series to showcase BMW Individual Manufaktur's ongoing push in the world of automotive customisation, it does feel rather poetic that the fashion titan who received the very first such customised car in 1992 once said, “I’m very much down to earth, just not this earth.”
STORY Louis Soon