Heavy Metal Alchemy: Visiting Martelleria Blechformtechnik

What if I told you that tucked away in Forstern, a little town within the district of Erding, Bavaria, is where one of the most impressive automotive body shops I have ever seen or heard of resides?

What if I told you that this could be one of the best automotive body shops that currently exists in the world?

What if I told you that the BMW 507 that Elvis owned was rebuilt here and that BMW Group Classic themselves send their cars here to be restored?

What if I told you that this body shop, also builds concepts and prototypes for BMW, Audi and Mercedes?

And what if I told you that this body shop even manufactures body panels for aircraft engines, crafting each piece painstakingly by hand?

Thanks to some fortuitous timing on the day I met up with Mr Nicolas Navarro to take a look at his lovely 2002te, I joined him earlier on a short side trip as he dropped off a (rather impeccable looking) shell for the first customer-ordered build of a Bavarian Econs 2002. This is the prelude to my 2002 drive, this is Martelleria Blechformtechnik.

If you are now experiencing some sort of disbelief from the questions I asked earlier, read on. Because that was exactly how I felt before my serendipitous visit and tour. One part, an extraordinary automotive body shop. Another, a heavy metal master artisan’s studio and workspace.

That master artisan is Mr Martin Deggelmann, his canvases of choice, are sheets of metal and his hands and the various tools and machines neatly located throughout the facility are his paintbrushes.

From rolling works of automotive art to architectural installations and conceptual art pieces, you wouldn’t be able to tell from his quiet demeanour but Mr Deggelmann has done it all and much much much more, because inside that quiet exterior lies a wild imagination that’s constantly churning, constantly creating.

While the non-automotive part of the business is mighty impressive in and of itself, the most impressive aspect of Martelleria is where they revitalise classic machines and make them, at times, even better than when they were new using the very same techniques employed during the years from whence they came.

There is a painstaking amount of work going into each piece of sheet metal. Rolled, hammered and tapped into shape before test fitment and thereafter, repeating it over and over again until everything lines up perfectly.

While this is without a doubt an extremely time-consuming and highly skilled process that some might find overkill, it is an essential part of the restoration work because these cars were all originally hand-built and as such, no two cars will ever have the same exact body panels and tolerances. Even when they do have in their shop the very actual wooden bucks and templates purchased one way or another from the manufacturers themselves.

A single door panel can take hundreds of hours just to put together. Yes, it is also a very expensive process.

Despite the time and funds required, cars from around the world are shipped here to be rebuilt because of Martelleria’s dedicated staff, expertise, attention to detail and eye for perfection.

This “eye for perfection” is of course a figure of speech because while human sight and feel account for a significant part of any rebuild process, there is absolutely no “eyeballing it” when it comes to finishing a car here because, in addition to being highly skilled in the traditional art of metalwork, Martelleria also employs a selection of laser measuring devices and machines that last saw service in the BMW factory.

If there ever comes across a chance where these methods are not quite enough, they are also able to laser scan and 3D print parts when the need arises.

On a particular one-off period racer, Martelleria even recreated an entire section of the automobile based on past journals and photographs, rendering it in 3D before physically printing out a true-to-life scale model from which they crafted the body panels. To say that they are dedicated is an understatement.

This dedication to their craft does also mean a workspace full of desirable cars and during my short visit, I counted no less than three E9 3.0 CSLs, each in a different stage of their build. Such a beautiful shape that even its bare bodyshell can make me weak in the knees.

This original Batmobile was in for only minor work. A brand new bonnet, boot and fitment of that iconic rear wing. Even looking at this very picture fills me with so much yearning for the car. It is so so pretty even when incomplete.

Oh yes, the owner of this CSL also happens to be the owner of the first Bavarian Econs commission I mentioned earlier.

GarageLife goals right there. I know it’s a workshop but I want my house to look exactly like this, along with that CSL.

On a more serious note, if you look up at the walls, you can not only see previous body panels from cars that were here before but also Martelleria’s list of accomplishments and builds neatly lined up just below the Elvis Presley BLVD sign.

Here’s a look at another CSL with its brand new hand-made aluminium bonnet fitted before paint. Straight.

While the CSL is truly an icon, the car that seems to be most synonymous with Martelleria is the aforementioned BMW 507. With one fully completed car waiting in the wings to be picked up (by an owner whom we cannot mention here).

Like many others, I had no idea this shop existed before my visit, which also meant that I had no idea that the Elvis 507’s body was rebuilt by them. If you don’t believe me, take a look at BMW’s very own archival photos and you will spot some familiar backgrounds!

Though when you look at this particular 507’s level of finish, it’d be difficult to remain a sceptic because beautiful doesn’t really begin to describe it, this car is flawless and perfect.

One can dream, right? One can dream.

What about the BMW 2002 shell that we were originally here to drop off? Well, I left this part to the end because this is one for the 2002 nerds.

While you might think this is a fully restored shell that had been acid dipped and electroplated, you’d only be partly right because while yes, it has undergone the full acid and electroplating treatment, this bare shell is a fully original frame with no rust repairs ever made. It was (to me at least), quite unbelievable seeing one this clean.

And indeed, the original car from which this was source was a beautiful low mileage and very clean Golf yellow roundtail. It looked almost brand new.

If you look closely, the only area where rust occurred was below one of the windscreen washer outlets which leaked washer fluid. That particular bit is the only rust spot throughout the entire frame. Pretty wild.

As a point of reference, my own car (and I’m sure many others) looks like swiss cheese around here.

Original fenders and original doors as well. All looking as good as new.

What’s something that’s already so clean doing here? Remember the wide Alpina-Esque pig-cheeks from the Bavarian Econs prototype? Well, this is where it will receive those cheeks but unlike the fibreglass panels from the test car, the ones fitting to this 2002 will be hand-crafted from aluminium. From what we’ve seen, there’s no doubt this 02 is in good hands.

Thank you for reading!

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