50 YEARS OF AMG — I

The first part of the story of the leg­endary per­for­mance brand

Car India - - CONTENTS - Story: Jim Gorde Pho­tog­ra­phy: Daim­ler

MERCEDES-BENZ IS ONE OF THE fore­most names in the lux­ury car in­dus­try. Their badge is un­ri­valled in sev­eral coun­tries and is of­ten the go-to brand for those seek­ing their first lux­ury car. How­ever, look at their high-per­for­mance models, and you will no­tice some­thing dif­fer­ent: a suf­fix, which con­tains some slashes, and three let­ters — AMG. Mercedes-Benz have al­ways fol­lowed the mantra of ‘the best or noth­ing’. But what hap­pens when the best in lux­ury gets a heavy dol­lop of sport cred?

AMG an­swer that very ques­tion. For years, they have been tak­ing the most pow­er­ful Mercedes-Benz cars and mak­ing them even more pow­er­ful and much quicker. Their prin­ci­ple of ‘one man, one en­gine’ has re­sulted in hand­made mas­ter­pieces of in­ter­nal com­bus­tion; their at­ten­tion to de­tail out­shone only by the in­cred­i­ble out­puts those en­gines are ca­pa­ble of. Over the years, they have gone from strength to strength, with their fire-breath­ing BiTurbo V8 and V12 en­gines gain­ing not just more fans, but also more cus­tomers. Have you ever won­dered how it all started, though?

Mercedes-Benz are no strangers to rac­ing, hav­ing com­peted in Grand Prix rac­ing since the 1930s with their ‘Sil­ver Ar­rows’ and en­tered what is now known as ‘For­mula 1’ in 1954 with the W196 race car and Juan Manuel Fan­gio, the same Fan­gio who won the For­mula 1 world ti­tle five times. Their first vic­tory was the 1954 French Grand Prix in Reims. Fan­gio, with three other race vic­to­ries, clinched the 1954 world ti­tle as well.

The team’s suc­cess con­tin­ued into the next year. Mercedes de­vel­oped the W196 through­out the 1955 sea­son. They dom­i­nated the sea­son yet again, with Fan­gio tak­ing four race wins with his new team-mate, Stir­ling Moss,

win­ning the Bri­tish Grand Prix. Fan­gio and Moss fin­ished one-two in that year’s cham­pi­onship. How­ever, it was the 1955 dis­as­ter at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on 11 June — the one that killed Mercedes-Benz sports car driver Pierre Levegh and more than 80 spec­ta­tors — that led to the can­cel­la­tions of the French, Ger­man, Span­ish, and Swiss Grands Prix. At the end of the sea­son, the team with­drew from all mo­tor­sport, in­clud­ing For­mula 1.

Fast for­ward 10 years to 1965. Hans Werner Aufrecht, a mo­tor­sport en­thu­si­ast at heart, worked as a dy­namome­ter en­gi­neer test­ing the 300 SE rac­ing en­gines for MercedesBenz. While work­ing on pro­duc­tion en­gines, he came in con­tact with Erhard Melcher, another mo­tor­sport en­thu­si­ast and fel­low en­gi­neer who had just fin­ished col­lege. It was their shared in­ter­est in mo­tor­sport and sheer com­pet­i­tive na­ture that brought them to­gether. Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher formed AMG, recog­nised to­day as one of the most prom­i­nent names in per­for­mance lux­ury and sports cars.

In their free time, Melcher and Aufrecht ser­viced sev­eral rac­ing ex­am­ples of the 300 SE, mod­i­fy­ing the en­gines by fit­ting them with di­rect fuel-in­jec­tion. This was done with­out any real com­mer­cial as­pi­ra­tions, and they ended up work­ing nights and week­ends in Aufrecht’s base­ment and garage in Großas­pach. Once the car was ready, they came clean to Ru­dolf Uh­len­haut who, at that time, was the Mercedes-Benz board mem­ber for de­vel­op­ment. The de­ci­sion came soon enough. If the car turned out to be good, Aufrecht and Melcher would be al­lowed to com­pete. If not, they would be asked to leave the com­pany. How­ever, the car was good. With Man­fred Schiek at the wheel, the 300 SE won six out of eight rounds. Schiek also posthu­mously won the 1965 Ger­man cir­cuit rac­ing cham­pi­onship ti­tle af­ter his fa­tal ac­ci­dent with a rally car.

Ex­tra­or­di­nary as their achieve­ments and acute at­ten­tion to de­tail were, Aufrecht and Melcher quickly earned a rep­u­ta­tion in the rac­ing scene.

In early 1967, Aufrecht and Melcher left their jobs at Daim­ler-Benz and rented work­shop space in a barn in the Swabian town of Burgstall. It was there, on 1 June 1967, that ‘AMG En­gi­neer­ing Of­fice, Con­struc­tion, and Test­ing for the De­vel­op­ment of Rac­ing En­gines’ came into be­ing. The AMG name came from their last names, Aufrecht and Melcher, with Großas­pach be­ing Hans-Werner Aufrecht’s place of birth.

It was at the 24 hours of Spa in 1971 that they tasted their first big suc­cess — a 300 SEL 6.8 AMG, nick­named the ‘Red Sow’, fin­ished first in its class and sec­ond over­all, leav­ing more than a few anx­ious play­ers among a field made up of much smaller cars, but earn­ing a great deal of re­spect from them as well.

Their prin­ci­ple of ‘one man, one en­gine’ has re­sulted in hand-made mas­ter­pieces of in­ter­nal com­bus­tion

Busi­ness had grown sub­stan­tially fol­low­ing their suc­cess as an en­gine builder and sup­plier in mo­tor­sport; so much so that in 1976, AMG had out­grown their Burgstall head­quar­ters and moved to Af­fal­ter­bach. The de­mand for their ex­per­tise in the cre­ation of highly be­spoke, high­per­for­mance Mercedes-Benz cars ex­panded in the process.

In 1986, one of the most iconic AMG models ever, ‘The Ham­mer’, was cre­ated. It was es­sen­tially a W124 300E equipped with a huge Mercedes 5.6-litre V8 sourced from the 560 SEC, tuned by AMG to de­liver 360 PS. That sort of grunt made it ca­pa­ble of 190 mph (306 km/h) — a speed un­heard of at that time — putting it on a com­pletely new plane of per­for­mance for a mid­size sedan. That wasn’t all, though. Cough up more dough and AMG would give you

One of only two 300 SLS (Su­perLight-Sport) cars built in 1957; it made 235 PS

Juan Manuel Fan­gio in the W196 at the 1954 Grand Prix of Europe at the Nür­bur­gring

The 1964 Ar­gen­tine Tour­ing Car Grand Prix, saw a one-two-three vic­tory for Mercedes-Benz

Ewy Ba­ronin von Kor -Rosqvist and Eva-Maria Falk, the fe­male team, fo­cus­ing on the start (in the lead Mercedes-Benz 300 SE W112, start­ing num­ber 609)

The one that made the mark: AMG­tuned 6.8-litre V8 in the ‘Red Sow’, the 300 SEL 6.8 AMG

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