After Mercedes-Benz had officially withdrawn from motor racing in 1955, series-production-like touring cars were the only vehicles in use in the early sixties – for instance the 300 SE from the W 112 series. However, those in charge regarded the approval process, which had been put in place in 1965, as too time-consuming and costly. As such, Mercedes-Benz threatened to disappear entirely from the racing scene. Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher, both working at Mercedes-Benz in Untertürkheim, were unwilling to let that happen and, together with Manfred Schiek, a member of staff from the motor sports department, put together a race-ready 300 SE.
Aufrecht and Melcher fine-tuned the charmingly dubbed "Tail Fin" saloon with a 175-kW/238-hp six-cylinder in-line engine for the racetrack. Success would follow when in 1965 Manfred Schiek immediately walked away with the German Touring Car Championship. Since the Mercedes motor sports department could not offer any extra power, many private drivers were looking for more hp – which only Aufrecht and Melcher could deliver. In 1967, the two set up their own business by founding AMG. The company was based in the Old Mill in Burgstall, north of Stuttgart.
Victories on the racetrack are undoubtedly the best form of advertising and so more and more Mercedes drivers turned to AMG for powerful engines for their road-going vehicles. For the fledgling company, this heralded in an era of refining all Mercedes-Benz models – regardless of whether it was the SL, SLC or S-Class. Initially it was just a question of pure additional power, although modifications to the transmission, suspension and the brakes would soon take centre stage.
With the successor model, the W 114 or the mid-range saloon also known as the /8, AMG moved up a gear from 1968 onwards, offering various output ratings. The 96-kW/130-hp six-cylinder in-line engine on the Mercedes-Benz 250 was "souped up" to 114 kW/155 hp. Another ten hp came from increasing the displacement to 2.8 litres and commissioning additional work on the cylinder head and the exhaust system. The maximum configuration was a 147-kW/200-hp engine with an injection system.
Everyone's talking about AMG: victory at the 24-hour race in 1971
In 1971, the 300 SEL 6.8 AMG notched up a historic class victory and second overall ranking in the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps – AMG became famous overnight. In the same year, the new top-of-the-line model in the Mercedes W 114 series, the 280 CE, made its debut. The 136-kW/185-hp six-cylinder in-line engine with two overhead camshafts took AMG up to 154 kW/210 hp. The saloon's suspension was modified to cope with the increased power: firmer shock absorbers, lowered suspension, negative camber on both axles, wider wheels – plus a differential lock also available as an option. Decor strips with AMG lettering, front spoiler, light-alloy wheels, sports seats and a leather-trimmed sports steering wheel also joined the line-up. The combination of "small car with powerful engine" went down extremely well with AMG customers – and AMG continued to grow. In 1976, AMG already had 40 staff and moved into new premises in Affalterbach.
280 CE 5.0 AMG: the first eight-cylinder unit in its class
A year later the new mid-range model series, the W 123, was launched. AMG's power range was even more compelling, with the six-cylinder engine in the 280 CE now developing a maximum 230 hp. The crowning glory came in 1983 when AMG fitted the five-litre eight-cylinder engine in the 500 SE to the 280 CE. But there was more to come. Thanks to a wealth of innovative features, the V8 was uprated from 231 hp to 279 hp. The result was a discrete mid-range coupé with sports-car-like performance. At the same time, the 280 CE 5.0 AMG was virtually unrivalled since nobody had hitherto dared to combine a high-displacement eight-cylinder engine with a relatively compact body. The courageous vision of AMG founder Hans Werner Aufrecht and the motto "A vehicle like a tailor-made suit" still hold true today – looking back, the 280 CE 5.0 AMG is regarded as the founding father of all powerful eight-cylinder saloons, right through to the current E 63 AMG with its 386-kW/525-hp V8 engine.
300 E 5.6 AMG: first saloon to break the 300-km/h barrier
When the all-new Mercedes-Benz E-Class was launched in December 1984, the power range was barely different from that of its predecessor. The most powerful engine, the three-litre six-cylinder unit in the 300 E, developed 138 kW/188 hp. Yet AMG had the answer for power-hungry Mercedes drivers: increasing the displacement to 3.2 litres and other measures uprated the output to 180 kW/245 hp – the top speed of the 300 E 3.2 AMG was still 262 km/h. But AMG wanted more: 300 km/h. The 300 E 5.6 AMG was designed to exceed this magical speed limit. In 1987, the four-door saloon took part in a head-to-head test organised by German motoring magazine "auto motor sport". The result: 303 km/h, a record for a saloon car. Reverent AMG fans in the US dubbed the mighty four-door saloon with its all-powerful eight-cylinder engine "The Hammer".
The all-new AMG eight-cylinder engine with its copious 265 kW/360 hp of power and 5.6 litres of displacement delivered sports-car-like performance. The V8 also came with an independently developed four-valve technology – another piece of pioneering work from the Affalterbach engine workshops. Incidentally, the 300 E 5.6 AMG reached its top speed with a four-speed automatic transmission – in the most serene, unperturbed, uneventful manner possible. That was quite unprecedented: for the first time, a fully-fledged saloon with enough room for four people, a large boot, hallmark Mercedes comfort and unerring straight-line stability was capable of the sorts of speeds which had previously been the preserve of capricious sports cars – whose owners often had to contend with questionable endurance, strenuous handling characteristics and inadequate comfort.
The car ultimately evolved into the 300 E 6.0 AMG brought out in 1987, boasting a whole six litres of engine capacity, an output of 283 kW/385 hp and 566 newton metres of peak torque. It can therefore be said that AMG created with its V8 models the forerunner of the Mercedes-Benz E 500 series-production saloon, which would not arrive on the market until 1990.
E 50 AMG: keeping true to the eight-cylinder philosophy
AMG unveiled the E 50 AMG as the worthy successor to the W 124 models in 1996. The saloon in the new W 210 series offered the ever growing fan base five litres of displacement, 260 kW/347 hp and 480 newton metres of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission directed the drive power to the rear wheels, with an AMG sports suspension including 18-inch AMG light-alloy wheels and a powerfully proportioned AMG high-performance braking system also making up part of the standard specification.
The world premiere of the new E 55 AMG was celebrated in autumn 1997 at the IAA International Motor Show in Frankfurt/Main. In addition to a few visual modifications, the successor to the E 50 AMG differed with its newly developed 5.5-litre eight-cylinder engine with three-valve cylinder heads and dual ignition. With a displacement of 5430 cc, the engine developed 260 kW/354 hp at 5500 rpm and 510 Nm of torque at 4800 rpm. The V8 top-of-the-line model, which was initially only offered as a saloon, was also available from 1988 as a versatile estate; 1999 saw the launch of the E 55 AMG 4MATIC with permanent all-wheel drive.
E 55 AMG featuring supercharged V8 engine and 350 kW/476 hp
The most powerful E-Class of all time – this accolade went to the E 55 AMG based on the new Mercedes W 211 series from 2002. The V8 powerpack, which AMG fans were already familiar with from the SL 55 AMG, produced 350 kW/476 hp and maximum torque of 700 newton metres thanks to supercharging. Performance on a par with a sports car became possible: the E 55 AMG took 4.7 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h; 200 km/h was reached in 16.1 seconds. The top speed was 250 km/h (electronically limited). The dynamic driving experience came courtesy of the air-sprung, semi-active AMG sports suspension AIRMATIC DC and the AMG high-performance braking system with all-round internally ventilated and perforated brake discs. In 2003, the Mercedes-Benz E 55 AMG was also launched as a highly practical estate.
E 63 AMG: everyday express with new high-revving, naturally aspirated engine
Fast business saloon, spacious sports estate and dynamic family car – from 2006 the new E 63 AMG proved a more compelling proposition than virtually any other model with its universal qualities. The all-new AMG 6.3-litre V8 engine that had been developed entirely by AMG was complemented by a large dose of sportiness. The combination of high-revving concept and large displacement generated 378 kW/514 hp of power and 630 newton metres of torque. The E 63 AMG Saloon accelerated from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds (Estate: 4.6 s.); the top speed was electronically limited to 250 km/h. The AMG SPEEDSHIFT 7G-TRONIC with three drive modes and AMG steering wheel shift paddles offered just as much individuality as the AMG sports suspension based on the semi-active air suspension system AIRMATIC DC. Outstanding handling safety was guaranteed by the new AMG high-performance braking system with its composite technology.
Pictures in the gallery Mercedes E 63 AMG.