Carter at workbench

Every Labor Day weekend for the past decade, BMW's only manufacturing plant in the US throws a massive celebration for the roadsters they have built. As the 10th anniversary approached, it was time to create something extraordinary for the Saturday Night Dinner Auction benefitting the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Jewelers modeling wax

This project starts out with a piece of medium hardness carving wax. Well, not this entire slab.

What is it

Just a small enough chunk to fit on a US quarter. Some initial rough filing gets the prominent lines down.

Canon EF-S 60mm Macro Lens

Wheelwell locations are determined and marks are made into the material.

Accurate wheelwell placement is critical

With all the major features carefully revealed, it's time to continue adding details. Wheelwells get deepened. Areas where the wax gets carved thinner turn a bit translucent and lighter.

Underside gets cut away without disturbing wheelwell nubs

Front airdam, foglamp recesses, rocker panel curves... easy to see when shot by a 60mm macro lens, but no cakewalk while carving with the naked eye. When used, a workbench visor only provides a measly 1½x magnification.

Target details are reached at this point

Positioning nubs from the wheelwell are cut away and four tiny wheels are hand-lathed for a careful fit. Side window gets recessed to bring out the fillet window.

Carved link fits as planned

Carving phase is mostly complete when there's not much else to do but add some underside detail. Structure on the right should become apparent later. Did I mention how challenging it is to hand carve details at this size?

Silicone mold for investment casting

Wax model is then used to create a casting mold. The mold is unforgiving in the details it picks up, thus all the attention paid earlier.

Top up in 14k gold

The mold is used in the lost-wax casting process to create a 14k yellow gold version of the wax model. Wheels are cast in 14k white gold to simulate alloy wheels.

Top down in 14k gold

A top-down version is derived from the original model and also cast into 14k gold. There's still plenty of work to do. At the top of that to-do list is remove casting sprues from all pieces.

Pre-assembly check

Just double-checking to make sure pieces fit. And they do. Now to finish & polish all pieces before final assembly.

All roadsters look pretty after a clean and polish

An assembled miniature roadster with rolling wheels microwelded to gold axles.

Hooking up the roadsters

Links underneath connecting the cars.

A few more roadsters are cast, finished, and assembled.

Whimsical convoy
Homecoming Roadster Bracelet
Presentation is key

A bracelet this special deserves an appropriate display

Soft materials used inside case will prevent scratching the bracelet

An already-stylish bracelet case was refurbished with soft materials to depict a scenic environment. Folliage was hand-crafted from cotton yarn. A stitched yellow divider line completes the look.

Bracelet modeled

Homecoming Roadster Bracelet proudly modeled.

That evening, with Dr Burkhard Goeshel from BMW's board of directors and Chris Bangle of BMW DesignWorks looking on, the bracelet shot out the gates with a $1000 bid. Arms waved wildly in the air... $1500, $2000, $2500, $2600, $2800... many in the audience have drooled and dreamt over the bracelet days prior to tonight. It's time to test the limits of desire.... $3000, $3200... "$3250"? Increments in 100's, please...

Photo courtesy Doug and Eileen

...$3500? $3800.. $4000. Wow. $4300? $5000!!

$5100, $5200, $5400, $5500. $5700? $5900... is $5900 final? C'mon folks, surely we can make it an even $6000.. Yes, the box is included (audience laughs)... so with the box, $6000 for this exquisite bracelet? SOLD for $6000 to the Make-A-Wish charity!

Lucky winner on the right. Photo courtesy z3bigdaddy.com

Julie W. of Georgia wins the highly coveted bracelet.

Signed by dignitaries

Bracelet resized to fit Julie & signed by BMW dignitaries.

roadster clasp

And what of the two links removed to size down the bracelet? Some wrangling at the workbench transforms them into a clever clasp. With a few wheels intentionally oversized in the wheel well to act as a friction brake, pushing the top-up white gold roadster toward the back serves to clamp down the chain. Pushing both roadsters even allows the clasp to slide.

roadster lariat

Whimsical lariat accompanies the bracelet.