Ben Walker’s A45 AMG doesn’t just talk the talk with its show-win­ning looks – it brings the noise and shouts like a Teu­tonic men­tal­ist…

Fast Car - - Contents -

If Lewis Hamil­ton drove an A45 AMG this is what it’d look like. Prob­a­bly.

Ger­many might not be the first coun­try that springs to mind when you think of rock ’n’ roll, as an in­fa­mous ex­change from High Fi­delity neatly sum­marises:

“You wouldn’t be fa­mil­iar with our im­me­di­ate influences, they’re mostly Ger­man.” “Kraftwerk? Falco? Has­sel­hoff?” Nev­er­the­less, they’ve had their mu­si­cal mo­ments as a na­tion. Who doesn’t like a bit of Can, Faust, or Die Toten Hosen? The spirit of scream­ing re­bel­lion is there. You’ve just got to look beyond all of the leder­ho­sen, foam­ing steins, huge sus­pi­cious sausages, and un­nec­es­sary racial stereo­types.

The Bun­desre­pub­lik’s pro­lific gui­tar-band her­itage di­rectly feeds into count­less ar­eas of pop­u­lar cul­ture, not least the de­sign and man­u­fac­ture of au­to­mo­biles. So let’s shoe­horn in a painfully stretched ‘what if’ here, and imag­ine that the Mercedes-benz show­room line-up were a rock band. What would ful­fil each role?

Well, you’d have to have the G-Wa­gen on bass for starters; bass play­ers are rugged and hard­core. The CLS350 Shoot­ing Brake would be the drum­mer – it’s a bit naughty, but also very prac­ti­cal. Gui­tarist? That’d be the GLA45 AMG, si­mul­ta­ne­ously deranged and pre­cise, and unashamedly larger than life. And the front­man? You’re look­ing at it right here across these very pages – the crowd­surf­ing men­tal­ist that is the A45 AMG.

Ev­ery cred­i­ble band needs a wild, noisy lu­natic at the front of the stage, and the shouty A45 ful­fils this role with gusto. If you haven’t driven one of these yet, there’s some­thing that you re­ally need to add to your au­to­mo­tive bucket list: full-bore flat­shift­ing one of these in a tun­nel. The whipcrack ex­plo­sions from the span­gly tailpipes sound like you’re be­ing strafed by Spit­fires. Spit­fires with whips. It’s hi­lar­i­ous.

The A45 re­ally is beau­ti­fully an­ti­so­cial. It’s Johnny Rot­ten. It’s GG Allin. It waves two fin­gers at the tra­di­tional con­cept of the hot hatch. Whereas the blood­line of the orig­i­nal Golf and 205 GTIs, and of course their nu­mer­ous brethren, may have some­what trans­muted over the years from ‘sen­si­ble car that’s quite quick’ to ‘quick car that hap­pens to be quite sen­si­ble’, the A45 AMG takes the con­cept of the 21st-cen­tury hot hatch to an ab­surd and ex­treme car­i­ca­ture.

It has some­where in the re­gion of 380bhp in fac­tory-stan­dard form – the same as an early Lam­borgh­ini Coun­tach – from a four-cylin­der mo­tor. That’s a pretty rock ’n’ roll hatch­back. It’s all about he­do­nis­tic ex­cess.

The Petronas-liver­ied car you see here, lov­ingly cu­rated by Ben Walker, is cur­rently work­ing its way through an in­evitable chap­ter of ev­ery front­man’s story: the part where they’ve burnt them­selves out in a nar­cotic haze af­ter count­less months on the tour bus, been in and out of re­hab, and opted to rein­vent them­selves as a clean­liv­ing, straight-edge up­stand­ing cit­i­zen. Bour­bon and smack make way for quinoa and ar­ti­san min­eral wa­ter. Sport and health­i­ness sud­denly be­come paramount.

So what bet­ter icon for a re­cov­er­ing AMG to as­pire to than the long-stand­ing as­so­ci­a­tion with the Malaysian oil conglomerate Petronas? This is a name that’s been slathered over the Mercedes For­mula One team’s race cars since the 2010 sea­son, and Lewis Hamil­ton cer­tainly seems to be do­ing all right un­der those colours. It ticks a lot of boxes.

This is an in­ter­est­ing ma­noeu­vre for Ben. The tra­jec­tory of his au­to­mo­tive ad­ven­tures essen­tially be­ing a short flat line fol­lowed by a long and steeply raked one. His first car was a bone-stock VW

“It’s beau­ti­fully an­ti­so­cial. It’s Johnny Rot­ten. It’s GG Allin. It waves two fin­gers at the tra­di­tional con­cept of the hot hatch”

Fox, but by the time he was on his third car he was bolt­ing hy­draulic sus­pen­sion to his Mk7 Fiesta Zetec S, win­ning the show and shine at Ford Fair and sit­ting proudly on our very own stand at TRAX. Fol­low­ing that came a 2015 Scirocco, run­ning 370bhp and air-ride and swal­low­ing up about £15k in mods. It’s fair to say that, by this stage, he was very much one of us. So why the shift from Wolfs­burg to Stuttgart?

“I quickly be­come bored and un­happy with the Scirocco,” rea­sons Ben. “An over­pow­ered FWD car is all good fun, un­til it rains. So I started to strip the Scirocco and at the same time look for its re­place­ment – which ended up be­ing the A45. I think com­pared to its ri­vals like the Audi RS3, Ford Fo­cus RS and VW Golf R, it’s a much more ex­cit­ing car all round, as well as be­ing some­thing that isn’t mod­i­fied by many peo­ple.”

With a clear plan of at­tack, the A45 was pur­chased in Fe­bru­ary 2018 from Mercedes Ap­proved, Teesside – a com­pletely stan­dard facelift ex­am­ple, bristling with ex­cit­ing ad­di­tions from the op­tions list in­clud­ing the AMG Per­for­mance ex­haust, aero kit and panoramic roof. And im­pres­sively, the mods were get­ting mapped out way be­fore the keys were in his hand; in fact, three months be­fore he’d even found the car, Ben had bought the 19-inch Ro­ti­form LAS-R wheels and the sus­pen­sion setup, which con­sists of AirREX struts and bags along with Air Lift Per­for­mance 3P management. The man knows what he wants.

“The wheels then had to be ma­chined to fit, which was done by Fix A Wheel,” says Ben. “When I came to fit the sus­pen­sion, the rear ini­tially sat much higher than the front, and I was sure that if the bags were man­u­fac­tured dif­fer­ently the car would go much lower. I con­tacted Indy at The Per­for­mance Com­pany, and within a cou­ple of weeks I was sent a pair of re­de­vel­oped rear bags, free of charge, which made the car sit per­fectly all round.”

One of our favourite el­e­ments of the A45 AMG is the op­tional AMG Per­for­mance ex­haust, as it makes some pretty in­cred­i­ble noises. But al­though Ben’s car came with this op­tion box ticked, it was one of the first things he un­bolted. He had sound rea­son­ing, how­ever: “I’ve al­ways had Mill­tek ex­hausts, and their A45 AMG sys­tem is next-level,” he grins. “MG Auto Mo­tor­sport fit­ted my de­cat down­pipe and non-res­onated, valved cat-back, and the car is equipped with Mill­tek’s Ac­tive Valve Con­trol – a Blue­tooth app that lets you con­trol it and over­ride the stan­dard valve set­tings on the A45.” How cool is that? The car doesn’t sound so much like a straf­ing Spit­fire these days as a Led Zep­pelin drum solo, in a colos­sal sta­dium, with your head be­tween two Mar­shall stacks. It’s in­sane, frankly. Proper recipe for tin­ni­tus.

“Forge Mo­tor­sport have pretty much taken care of the per­for­mance side of the build,” Ben con­tin­ues. “The A45 has the Stage 2 remap, side-mount charge-cooler, cen­tre charge-cooler, air in­take, blow-off valve, strut brace, un­der-chas­sis brace kit, and the new oil catch can, which was de­vel­oped on my car. They fit­ted ev­ery­thing – and it’s now push­ing out 440bhp.”

Yeah, you can’t re­ally ar­gue with that, can you? A hot hatch run­ning the sort of horse­power that was once the sole pre­serve of su­per­cars, along with high-end footwear and the kind of sus­pen­sion that makes it look dev­as­tat­ingly ag­gres­sive on the show­ground as well as pro­vid­ing ul­ti­mate con­trol on fast-road and track driv­ing. This an­gry lit­tle Merc rocks on ev­ery con­ceiv­able strata. But the thing that re­ally pushes it above and beyond is that unique and eye-catch­ing wrap.

“The de­sign is based on the Petronas Mercedes For­mula One cars, along with a Bri­tish GT style liv­ery,” he ex­plains. “I de­signed it my­self, us­ing Forza Hori­zon and Pho­to­shop, then the graph­ics were cut on my plot­ter, and fit­ted with help from my mis­sus and my dad.” It’s an off­beat route to cre­at­ing a cus­tom wrap and the flaw­less ex­e­cu­tion is mir­rored by the qual­ity of the de­sign – it’s a world apart from the art­fully di­shev­elled race-wrap that fea­tured on our cover last month. But it’s ev­ery bit as en­tic­ing.

This wrap, combined with the gleam­ing wheels and on-point stance, is what’s gained Ben en­try into ev­ery pres­ti­gious show

“The de­sign is based on the Petronas Mercedes For­mula One cars, plus a Bri­tish GT-style liv­ery”

hall across the 2018 sea­son. But don’t go think­ing it’s a one-trick show-pony. This thing gets used and used hard.

“I own a van and drive that for work, but I use this car for ev­ery­thing else,” he as­sures us. “It’s bad on fuel, so pretty ex­pen­sive to run, but worth ev­ery penny as it’s such an ex­cit­ing car to be in! I went to Wörthersee, Aus­tria, in this car, where it was driven just like any AMG car is built to do, and on the au­to­bahn it got to 166mph – and that was be­fore it was remapped. And it ex­celled on the twisty-turny roads of the Nass­feld Pass. I also took the car on track at Cas­tle Combe at the Forge Ac­tion Day, and again the A45 was pushed to its very lim­its.”

This shouty lit­tle rock star is a long way from Ben’s roots in that bud­get VW Fox, and he’s al­ready pon­der­ing the fu­ture of the build: op­tion one is to ramp up the power, throw in a load of car­bon and make the en­gine bay all pretty, while op­tion two is to swap the bags for a static H&R setup along with some OZ Rac­ing wheels.

This is a fran­tic lit­tle car with a con­stantly chang­ing outlook; it’s a Jimi Hen­drix solo with a Matt Free­man bassline, with Travis Barker on drums and Bon Scott yelling at any­one who comes near. For­get Falco and Has­sel­hoff, this thing rocks on a whole other level.

Forge Mo­tor­sport Stage 2 remap helps push power to 440bhp 8.5x19-inch Ro­ti­form LAS-R and 225/35 Nankang NS20s

Lewis Hamil­ton would be proud

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