A picture is worth a thousand words. This is one of the reasons why good photographers go to great lengths to capture the elusive shot that tells the whole story with little or no words.
The moment I laid eyes on MTM’s gleaming, polished aluminum R8 V10 Biturbo at the Geneva Motor Show, I just knew we had to find a location for some “omigod” pictures that would do justice to the hundreds of hours of hard graft that went into its mirror finish.
A couple of weeks after Geneva, and with Northern Europe drenched in unseasonably warm and sunny weather, I made the pilgrimage to MTM’s headquarters in Wettstetten, near Ingolstadt, for the photo shoot and first drive.
The challenge was to find a suitable location nearby. Speaking to a few of the staff at MTM, I quickly established that a nearby industrial park might offer some possibilities.
After only a couple of minutes of driving around the industrial park, I spotted a timber processing plant. With their rough and ready texture, the huge piles of logs were the perfect counterpoint to the glass-smooth aluminum finish of the nuggety R8.
Asking for permission from the plant’s owner threw up a pleasant surprise. It turned out that he was an Audi R8 owner himself, and was delighted to see the spectacular looking MTM car. Handing out reflective jackets, he then took us on a tour of possible locations within his massive yard. We could not have asked for better treatment.
After the R8 had been positioned, I walked around it to ponder some potential overall and detail shots. One of the first things that struck me was the sheer amount of work it obviously took to get the car to this stage.
Audi lovingly assembles its R8 at its Neckarsulm factory, in a labor-intensive process whose leisurely pace is the antithesis of the speed benchmarks normally aimed for in our mass production age.
“We have around 500 man hours in the bodywork alone, around 500 hours in the mechanical modifications and 500 hours in the ECU and CAN-BUS system reprogramming,” said MTM boss Roland Mayer. This must be a record for the longest R8 buildup ever!
“The wet-sanding and polishing process was done by hand as aluminum is too soft for machines to be used,” he continued. “Even so, we did have a few scratches at one point due to some microsand particles in the water.”
“We started with 400-grade sandpaper and progressively moved through 1,000-, 4,000- and 5,000-grades,” Roland explained. “Most people assume that there is a coat of clear lacquer, but in fact it is bare aluminum. No matter how ‘clear’ the lacquer is, it will never deliver as shiny a finish as bare polished aluminum, and also makes it harder to repair small scratches.
“We learned a lot from the polished A8 we did for a client in Dubai five years ago,” he continued. “Its bare aluminum finish has stood up well till today, so we know there are no major issues, at least not in a hot, dry climate with no salt on the roads.”
With an exterior finish as pure and eye-catching as this, the interior trim has to be quite a contrast if it is not to be overwhelmed. “Orange is more modern than red, and is as extrovert as the exterior. The orange leather interior also gives off a warmth and fun factor that balances the cold, hard, technical exterior,” said Roland.
The seats are ultra-light, carbon-fiber backed Recaros, with MTM’s trademark leather trimmed seat cushion style. As a first for MTM, quilted leather replaces the carpet on the floor, and is also used on the bulkhead and door panels. This plush floor covering definitely needs protective mats to keep it from being scuffed.
The adjustable carbon-fiber rear wing is MTM’s own, and can be set all the way from neutral to adding 20 percent more downforce at speed. It is counter-balanced by the carbon-fiber air splitter in front.