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AMG: The first 45 years

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Mathieu St-Pierre
The story of AMG reads like a good fiction book. Two guys, a dream, a high point, trials and tribulations, and everybody lives happily ever after.

AMG, which stands for Aufrecht, Melcher and Großaspach, was founded in 1967 but the story really began a few years prior. Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher, both Mercedes engineers, met in 1964 just before Daimler-Benz decided to pull out of Motorsports. Both these men shared a passion for fast cars and this is what brought them together.

Over the subsequent years, they built and serviced numerous Mercedes 300 SEs owned by individuals in Aufrecht’s home garage in Großaspach. In no time, they had forged a reputation as the guys to see if you and your Mercedes wanted to win races and be competitive. In 1967, both individuals left the relative safety of working for Benz, rented a garage, famously referred to as the “Old Mill” and began modifying production Mercedes-Benz cars.

AMG history
Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Although much admired in their milieu, it was only in 1971 that AMG became famous. Fielding a modified 300 SEL in the 24 Hours in Spa Francochamps, the first AMG branded car, known as 300 SEL 6.8 AMG (aka the Red Pig), took home a class victory and a second place overall. It was such big news at the time that the event’s results had made the evening news.

In the following ten years, their prominence grew, and so a move to bigger digs in Affalterbach, where they are currently located, was necessary. In the 80s, business really took off. The AMG 190E 2.3 was a star in the DTM series. In 1984, AMG became an engine manufacturer and developed a 340-hp 5.0L V8 through cutting-edge 4-valve per cylinder technology.

AMG history
Photo: Mercedes-Benz

In 1986, the second of the most famed AMG cars was born: the Hammer. This was an E-Class sedan (coupe also as of 1987) that featured the supercar-killing 5.0L V8. In these cars, it put out an unfathomable 360 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. This car could reach 303 km/h. This car became a legend.

By 1990, after much DTM success and a string of impossibly hot AMG-tuned Mercedes’, the manufacturer from Stuttgart formed an alliance with the band from Affalterbach. In 1993, the firstborn from this marriage was the C 36. Subsequent cars were in such demand that it only made sense for the then DaimlerChrysler to stake a 51% claim in AMG. As both brands continued to flourish, in 2005, Mercedes became the sole and complete owner of AMG.

The marriage opened an enormous door for AMG as they then had access to Mercedes-Benz’s massive engineering and production assets. As well, this allowed for the creation of a multitude of new models and further reinforced AMG’s position as a real leader in all-out performance and the all-important desirability factor.

In the early 21st century, AMG collaborated in creating Mercedes’ first modern supercar, the SLR McLaren. Six short years later, AMG would create their first car from the ground up, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. The SLS quickly took off as Mercedes’ and AMG’s flagship while further demonstrating the evolution of AMG. This car clearly made AMG the performance brand within the Mercedes-Benz Cars Group.

Forty-five years ago, they began as a small corner-garage tuner and have grown to become a manufacturer.

Their plant in Affalterbach has matured to now include numerous buildings that include engine assembly lines and droves of engineers which are hard at work on the future of the brand. Currently, the facility employs nearly 1,100 people of whom the vast majority toils in research and development.

The next chapters in AMG’s book cover the years leading up to their 50th birthday bash and what will come afterwards. I’ve got more AMG coming your way in a short while.

AMG Family
Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Mathieu St-Pierre
Mathieu St-Pierre
Automotive expert