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What is AMG?

Chris Kaiser

AMG is more than just a badge. For over fifty years the tuning company has been producing the highest performance Mercedes in the world.

Making Good Cars Great

1965 Mercedes-Benz 300SE - Exact 10 on YouTube.com
1965 Mercedes-Benz 300SE - Exact 10 on YouTube.com

AMG started as a joint project between race car-loving Mercedes engineers Hans-Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher in the mid-1960s. When Mercedes dropped out of racing in 1965, the pair started working on tuning engines on their own time. That same year, a Mercedes 300SE they tuned for racing won ten rounds of the German Touring Car Championship, and word quickly spread that Aufrecht and Melcher were the guys to tune your MB for performance.

In 1967, the pair left Daimler-Benz Development to start tuning Mercedes full-time. The company they founded was dubbed AMG, A for Aufrecht, M for Melcher, and G for Aufrecht hometown of Großaspach. It was the beginning of a 50-plus year legacy of high-end performance cars for the OGs of Mercedes tuning.

The Red Pig

Mercedes-Benz AMG 300 SEL "Red Pig" - media.mbusa.com
Mercedes-Benz AMG 300 SEL "Red Pig" - media.mbusa.com

For their first major racing project, Aufrecht and Melcher took a 1971 Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL and bored out it’s 6.6L V8 to 6.8L and tuned it up from 250hp all the way to 420hp. Of course, the 300 SEL is a weighty four-door sedan, but their efforts in tuning the engine and suspension more than made up for what might otherwise seem an unlikely and ungainly candidate for racing.

At the 1971 24 Hours of Spa race, the car gained the moniker the “Red Pig” for its size and less than sleek looks. But despite the derisive teasing the Red Pig proved incredibly capable in the endurance race, winning its class and taking second overall. It would be just the first of many racing wins for this company. But more than that it set the precedent of AMG as the ultimate sleeper car tuner, taking average-looking sedans and transforming them into tire-smoking, track-shredding monsters.

The Hammer

Mercedes-Benz S124 AMG "Hammer" wagon - media.mbusa.com
Mercedes-Benz S124 AMG "Hammer" wagon - media.mbusa.com

Following the success of the Red Pig, AMG’s business boomed in the 1970s and 80s. Eventually the company grew to the point that they had to move from their small facility in Großaspach to Affalterbach, where the company remains today.

Then, in 1986, AMG caught the automotive world’s attention once again with a souped up sedan. What became known as “The Hammer” was built from a W124. They shoehorned a 5.0L V8 into the car, shaved down a few edges for improved aerodynamics, and added bigger brakes. The result was a saloon capable of hitting 0-60 in just 5 seconds and a top speed of 180 mph. These are things that, in the mid-1980s, a sedan just couldn’t do. That is until AMG got to tinkering.

Into the Fold

Mercedes-Benz C 36 AMG - media.mbusa.com
Mercedes-Benz C 36 AMG - media.mbusa.com

Such achievements impressed Mercedes so much they contracted AMG to work with their racing division in 1988. By 1990, Daimler-Benz officially partnered with them. Mercedes got the street cred of AMG’s performance and AMG was now able to sell its cars at Mercedes dealerships. The first jointly developed car was the C 36 AMG which debuted in 1993. Though it wasn’t the handling car that its direct rival the BMW M3 was, the C 36 AMG did offer 276hp and, for its time, a very impressive straight-line speed.

Racing with MB

Mercedes-Benz CLK DTM AMG Coupe - media.mbusa.com
Mercedes-Benz CLK DTM AMG Coupe - media.mbusa.com

Their work with racecars in the late 1990s and early 2000s lead to 50 DTM victories over a five-year period (Mercedes is also the only team to have won all 10 races in a single DTM season, which they did in 1998). To commemorate their 2004 victory, Mercedes-AMG developed a homologation special of the CLK car they christened the CLK DTM AMG. Only 180 of the cars where produced. It featured a 5.4L supercharged V8 making 574hp and ripping from a stop to 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds.

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In 2005, Mercedes completed its purchase of the company bringing the performance brand officially under the Mercedes banner.

Mercedes-AMG driver Lewis Hamilton - media.mbusa.com
Mercedes-AMG driver Lewis Hamilton - media.mbusa.com

In recent years, Mercedes-AMG have been dominating F1 racing. Along with their driver, Lewis Hamilton (perhaps you’ve heard of him), Mercedes-AMG has claimed the last four F1 championships (2017-2020).

Today’s AMGs

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG G 63 - media.mbusa.com
2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG G 63 - media.mbusa.com

Today, Mercedes offers AMG versions of nearly every vehicle in their lineup from the A 45 AMG hatchback to the AMG G-Wagon. Each AMG engine is hand-built by a single engineer and completed with a signatory plaque baring their name. The power and performance of these vehicles has made the AMG name synonymous with blistering speed and thundering exhaust notes.

Some of our favorite models include the Mercedes-Benz AMG E 63 S wagon, the Mercedes-AMG GT R, and, of course, the AMG G 63 “G-Wagon”. What’s yours? Let us know in the comments!

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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