For almost 25 years, AMG has been known as the performance division of Mercedes. But to think of it as a small engineering department within a massive corporation could not be further from the truth. In its almost 50-year history, it has built some of the most incredible performance cars that have ever left Germany, and it has been doing so long before it was under the wing of the mighty Mercedes-Benz.
Like BMW’s relationship with Alpina, AMG enjoyed a strong working relationship with Mercedes for decades as an independent tuner until the signing of a cooperation agreement in 1990. Previously, the relationship had been beneficial for both companies. Mercedes’ prestige of performance remained intact thanks to AMG’s fantastic reputation for quality and performance, and its Mercedes connection kept AMG at the forefront of the performance tuning community.
The company became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz in 2005, and in addition to building the best Mercedes models available today, it is also developing engines for the Pagani supercar maker, as well as Aston Martin.
From building cars one at a time in a small workshop to the unfathomable resources of Mercedes-Benz, here are 10 cars that helped transform AMG from the small-market tuner to one of the most advanced performance divisions in the world.
1971 6.8 SEL “Red Pig”
For a brand as worthy as Mercedes-Benz, one would not think it would be convenient for some tuners of the secondary market to remove one of its executive cars, calling it “The Red Pig”, and competing with much smaller and lighter Alfa offers. Romeo and BMW. But that’s what AMG did in 1971, and it turned the world of European racing upside down.
Taking the big 6.3-liter Merc engine and increasing its displacement to 6.8, the Red Pig finished second in the prestigious 24 Hours of Spa and became famous overnight. With a maximum speed of 142 miles per hour and a time from zero to zero of 6.3 seconds, the Red Pig became famous as “the fastest sedan in the world” and was more than enough to get the attention of Mercedes.
1974 300SL AMG
AMG’s next high-profile conversion would be considered sacrilege today, but at that time, its bold 300SL AMG was only part of the march of progress. Starting with a Gullwing 1957 300SL from a customer, the company gutted and updated almost every aspect of the automobile, a process that took 12 full months to do. AMG replaced the iconic six in-line car with the 4.5-liter V8 of a 450SE sedan, altered almost all body panels and installed an interior of a contemporary SL roadster. Showing that it is not afraid to rewrite history, AMG modernized an additional 11 300 SL between 1996 and 2006.
1984 190E AMG
In the early 1980s, the German Touring Cup Series (DTM) was heating up, and Mercedes wanted to enter its new 190E sedan. Unfortunately for AMG, Mercedes called the British synth Cosworth to build his entry, 190E 2.3-16. But Mercedes’ race ban in the 1960s was still in force, making the cars available to private DTM teams, including AMG. In 1987, the engine had been extended to 2.5 liters, and the “AMG Power Pack” was available to give the car 30 additional horsepower. Between the cars adjusted by Cosworth and the AMG models, BMW saw the writing on the wall and took advantage of its Motorsport division to build a competitor. Your answer? The original BMW M3.
1986 W124 “The hammer”
By the mid-1980s, automobiles and AMG engine modifications had grown so much that the tuner began to be treated as if it were its own manufacturer. The business was booming, and the company opened a second workshop to keep up with customer demand. Like the Red Pig 15 years earlier, AMG revolutionized the high-performance car world in 1986 when it introduced a 385-horsepower, 5.6-liter V8 in a Mercedes-Benz E-Class conservator, creating a car known simply as The Hammer.
With a top speed of 190 miles per hour and a time from zero to 60 in the low range of five seconds, The Hammer could race with the wildest supercars that the 80s had to offer, and turned AMG into one of the tuners of the highest profile in the world. Before The Hammer, the company still largely built single cars and small lots for individual customers. In 1990, it had signed an agreement with Mercedes-Benz and was ready to enter the global market.
1993 C36 AMG
Now that he had the engineering power of Mercedes-Benz behind him, AMG went to work on the creation of the C36, his first mass market car. Introduced globally in 1993, the C36 AMG based on C-Class was Mercedes’ official response to the BMW E36 M3, and it was an impressive effort. The six tuned in line was good for 276 horsepower, 36 more than the M3. The C36 also signaled the return of a performance model to the Mercedes lineup, something it had not had in decades. But the most impressive thing about the C36 is that it marked the arrival of AMG as a world power of performance: between 1993 and 1996, an impressive 5,400 C36 were built.
1998 SL73 AMG
Although the C36 was a global sales success, there were still many low-production AMG models that flew below the radar. Case in point is the rare SL73 AMG. Despite looking almost identical to the more civilized SL-Class roadsters, the SL73 filled a massive 7.3-liter V12 capable of 525 horsepower. Only 85 were built, but that does not mean that people are not paying attention. Engineer Horatio Pagani loved the SL73 engine so much that AMG built it for its now legendary supercar, the Pagani Zonda.
1997 Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR
After a few years back in the performance game, Mercedes was ready for the big moment and asked for help from AMG. With his sights set on the international GT competition, he started with a CLK coupe and ended up with a car like no other. With the construction of carbon fiber and aluminum, as well as a V12 engine of 612 horsepower and 6.9 liters, the CLK GTR corridor, legal on the street, had a top speed of 198 miles per hour. With dazzling speed and state-of-the-art technology, Mercedes’ first modern supercar was not cheap. In 1998, it entered the Guinness World Records as the most expensive car in the world, with a price of $ 1,573,000.
2003 G55 AMG
AMG has long been famous for its ability to extract performance from almost all Mercedes models, and when the G55 hit showrooms in 2003, it proved how crazy it could be. Starting with the legendary Mercedes G-Series truck, which began life as a military vehicle in 1979, AMG added a better suspension, larger brakes and a 5.4-liter V8 with 500 horsepower.
The result was a two-and-a-half-tonne truck with more power than a Ferrari 360 Stradale that could go from zero to 60 in the low five-second range. More than a decade later, the AMG G Series is still in production, like the G63 and G65 models. These trucks look almost exactly the same as the G55, except that the G65 has a V12 of 6.0 liters and 612 horsepower.
2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
The SLS AMG was a remarkable car for many reasons. Not only do its gull-wing doors and rounded tail evoke the classic Mercedes 300SL of the 50s, and its 6.3-liter V8 produces an astonishing 563 horsepower, it was also AMG’s first clean sheet design for a Mercedes production model. In its four-year production (it has just been replaced by the Mercedes-AMG GT 2016), the SLS helped to firmly establish Mercedes as a true competitor of Ferrari and Porsche, and proved that the gullwing doors look great in any time
2016 Mercedes-AMG GT3
Based on the new Mercedes-AMG GT, the GT3 has its sights set on the Porsche 911 GT3. Like the outgoing Mercedes GT3 model, the car retains its 6.2-liter V8, but its aluminum and carbon fiber construction helped it lose weight to become a bigger threat to the lighter Porsche. Like the CLK GTR, the GT3 has been designed primarily as a racer, but its unique front fascia and aggressive look have proved so popular that Mercedes will offer a legal version of the street sometime after 2016.
The history of AMG is strangely cyclical: it started when two former Mercedes engineers settled in a small garage after their previous company discontinued their motor sports division in the mid-1960s, and became the catalyst for the incredible return of Mercedes. performance almost 30 years later. Today, the name AMG is synonymous with top-level performance and innovation. For almost 50 years, it has been at the forefront of German performance. With next-generation cars like the GT3, it looks like AMG will be at the top for a long time.