‘One man one engine’ goes the philosophy at Mercedes AMG. This implies that every engine is built by a single technician from the ground up. Though Mercedes AMG modifies other car components, the engines make the AMG cars stand out.
Sample this- take your regular E-class sedan, plonk in a massive 5.5-litre V8 engine that puts out 577bhp, slap on a 7-speed auto ‘box, couple it with a performance-tuned version of Mercedes’ 4MATIC all-wheel drive system and add on a specially designed front axle courtesy the AMG Ride Control suspension and what do you get? A muscle car that never forgets its manners.AMG started out in 1967 as AMG Motorenbau und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH (AMG Engine Production and Development, Ltd.) which was later shortened to AMG. The firm was founded by Hans-Werner Aufrecht (A) and his partner Erhard Melcher (M). The ‘G’ in AMG comes from Aufrecht’s birthplace Grossaspach.
The company initially focused on building race cars based on the Mercedes 300 SE (the firm recorded their first race win in 1971 at the 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps) before starting to offer high-performance tuning kits to Mercedes-Benz customers. A memorable AMG race car from this era was the ‘Red Pig’ – a modified version of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SE which finished 2nd at the 24-hour race at Spa.
With their skill at developing race cars, AMG could transfer this know-how to Mercedes-Benz customers. A memorable AMG race car from this era was the ‘Red Pig’ – a modified version of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL which won the 24-hour race at Spa. The ’Red Pig’ was known for its voracious appetite for fuel (courtesy its 6.8-litre V8 engine) and tyres.
The initial lot of cars, AMG provided customisations for the Mercedes-Benz R107, C107, Mercedes-Benz W116, Mercedes-Benz W123, Mercedes-Benz W124, Mercedes-Benz W126 Mercedes-Benz R129 and Mercedes-Benz W201 models.
The AMG solution to stock Mercedes-Benz cars was high displacement modified engines, wider tyres coupled with alloy wheels, performance modifications to the chassis (technology transfer from their race going cars) and better biting brakes.Recognition and recall for AMG grew across Europe and the rest of the world and the company came to be known as the premiere Mercedes-Benz tuner in the world. This led to the company opting to move to a larger factory in Affalterbach as an addition to rapidly increasing employee count to meet surging demand. While meeting this demand, AMG never lost sight of its motorsport roots and notched up a win at the European Touring Car Championship at the Nurburgring racing a Mercedes Benz 450SLC.
Engine building is accorded the highest priority at AMG though the company also produces significant modifications to stock Mercedes transmissions and suspensions. Every AMG engine is built at the Affalterbach plant and as explained earlier, the company deploys one mechanic to each engine built. The mechanic’s signature and initials are emblazoned on a metal plate that is bolted onto the engine. The company manufactures about 20,000 engines a year with a V8 engine taking 3 hours to build while a V12 takes a full day. It is understood that AMG employs 50 engine builders at its Affalterbach plant.
A memorable car from the 1980’s was the Mercedes Benz 300 E AMG ‘Hammer’ based on the E-class of that time. Equipped with a 6-litre V8 engine with sophisticated drivetrain and suspension upgrades, the Hammer could hit 100KPH in under 6 seconds and was faster than the Lamborghini Countach. The Hammer was the fastest sedan in the world when it debuted in 1987. It is also one of the rarest AMG cars with only 13 ever built.
In 1993, Daimler Benz and AMG signed an agreement that envisaged close cooperation between the 2 companies allowing the inception of vehicles developed jointly and AMG leveraging Mercedes’ extensive dealer network for better visibility and sales.
With AMG becoming the preferred and the largest tuning specialist after the agreement with Mercedes, a comparison with BMW’s M division may be interesting. Unlike AMG, BMW’s M division started as an in-house division of the company offering performance modifications to the regular BMW line-up (save for 7 & X series). While AMG relied heavily on super or turbo charging for engines, BMW M preferred using naturally aspirated engines until very recently when it started adopting turbo solutions. Transmissions were another area where they differed, AMG preferring automatic ‘boxes while BMW chose to go the manual/semi-auto ‘boxes way. The objective of these companies also differed with M focusing on making solutions only to cars that handle better than stock BMW cars (‘lateral agility’ according to the company). This meant that the BMW X and 7 series were kept out of the purview of the M division. This decision was reversed in 2010 when the X series received ‘M’ iterations. AMG pays attention to better engine performance with relaxed handling. AMG has also developed performance versions of virtually every Mercedes model starting from the C class going up to the G.
The 90’s also saw AMG bagging the prestigious DTM championship (German touring car championship) in 1991, 1992 and 1995.
In 1999, Daimler Chrysler (as the parent company of Mercedes was then known) bought a majority shareholding in AMG and the company was renamed Mercedes AMG. In 2005, Daimler Chrysler increased its shareholding in Mercedes AMG and the company was converted into a fully owned subsidiary of Daimler Chrysler. AMG’s motorsport division was kept out of this deal and was spun off as a different company and incorporated into AMG founder Hans Werner Aufrecht’s new company HWA. HWA works closely with Mercedes developing cars for the German DTM series.
In 2009, AMG-designed and built its first Mercedes-Benz car in the form of the SLS AMG (SLS is short for Sport, Light, Super). The car was build as a successor to the historical 300SL Gullwing though in reality it succeeded Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG was used as the official safety car of Formula 1 in 2010, 2011 and 2012. The SLS received rave reviews universally with Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson labelling it as ‘the greatest car in the world’.
In 2012, the AMG name was added to the Mercedes Petronas Formula 1 team while the Mercedes Formula 1 engine manufacturing operations in England was renamed Mercedes AMG High-Performance Powertrains to reflect the growing influence of AMG in Mercedes’ Formula 1 participations. The move also serves to build more recall for the AMG brand with Mercedes winning the F1 championship in 2014,2015 and 2016.
Image source – Mercedes AMG