One of the largest tuning outfits in the world today, Mercedes-AMG models are synonymous with good looks, luxurious interiors, and unbelievable power. Uniquely, each engine is built by a single technician from design through to production. But where did it all begin?
1960s: New Beginnings
Unusually, this story begins after Mercedes-Benz took the decision to withdraw from racing in 1965. A bold move, but one that didn't deter a pair of talented rogue Mercedes-Benz tuners from carrying on their legacy.
Working from home, they acquired a Mercedes-Benz 300SE, (an early predecessor to the S-Class), stripping it down to the bare essentials and upping the power output. The car was entered in to the 1965 German Touring Car Championship, and went on to win ten races!
They had been noticed - and racing teams from far and wide sought them out for engine upgrades. They worked weekends and nights in Hans Aufrecht's basement, purely out of a love for racing. So successful was their venture that they decided to leave Mercedes-Benz in 1967 to pursue their passion full-time, and so AMG was born. So what does AMG stand for? Well, named Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher, AMG was derived from their surnames, in conjunction with Aufrecht's home town (Aufrecht, Melcher and Großaspach).
As business went from strength to strength, AMG began to produce custom-built road cars with reworked engines, based on standard Mercedes-Benz models. Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz began to take notice of the rise in demand for performance vehicles - releasing the 1968 6.3-litre 300SEL. It was a fast car - but it still wasn't fast enough for AMG (or their clients), who went away to work on the car for almost three years..
1970s: The Red Pig
What emerged from their workshop in 1971 was a monstrous 6.8 litre race car with 428bhp, almost double the output of the original 300SEL. Immediately it was entered in to the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours endurance race. Nobody had seen a car of such size and power compete in the event before, yet it finished second in the event overall and won its own class outright. The car, affectionately known as 'the Red Pig', has gone on to become synonymous with AMG's history.
By the mid-1970's, AMG had become world-renowned for their heroic tuning efforts. The size of the company meant they had to move out of the humble barn which had been their home for the past nine years. They relocated to new premises at Affalterbach, which is still the headquarters of AMG to this day. AMG also began to introduce the concept of customisation to their vehicles - if your car is bespoke under the bonnet, then why not show this on the exterior too? The idea proved immensely popular in countries such as America where customised vehicles were all the rage. The AMG signature was external chrome trim which was then finished in black.
As the company developed, their focus shifted from producing racing-specification vehicles and engines to creating sports sedans and coupes. They became so well refined and reliable that many believed AMG editions of Mercedes-Benz models were cars in their own right.
1980s: The Hammer and international recognition
By the mid 1980's, new Mercedes-Benz models such as the 190 E fuelled their passion. The AMG 190 E 2.3 was capable of 133mph and is the starting point for their first German Touring Car Championship (DTM) victories. AMG also began designing their own engines, with co-founder Melcher building a cutting-edge 5.0 litre V8 engine which took pride of place in the Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC. High performance demand from the USA resulted in a very successful decade.
However, it took a special vehicle indeed to cement AMG's place in the automotive community. And that car was the Hammer. A mid-sized saloon was fitted with Mercedes' largest 5.8 litre engine, creating a car which could chase down the fastest exotic supercars. Radical performance figures were matched with a car that had everyday usability - and such an achievement helped solidify AMG as an international marque.
1990s: One Man, One Engine
Behind the scenes, the relationship between Mercedes and AMG began to strengthen. Their joint-venture 190E racing car went on to win over 50 Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) races before 1993. During this time, Mercedes-Benz and AMG formed an official partnership - meaning for the first time that AMG vehicles would be retailed through Mercedes-Benz showrooms.
With Mercedes-Benz lending their credibility to the tuning brand, AMG continued to flourish. Their first joint venture was the C63 AMG, blending the comfortable ride and technology of the newest Mercedes-Benz models with a 276bhp engine, which was enough to rival it to the well-established E36 BMW M3. The C63 AMG became the official Formula 1 safety car - a tradition which is now still in place.
Another lasting tradition that began soon after was AMG's 'One Man, One Engine' policy. Over 25 years after Erhard Melcher and Hans-Werner Aufrecht left to seek pastures new, AMG came full circle and was now officially part of Mercedes-Benz. To celebrate, AMG crafted the E 55 AMG entirely at their facility in Affalterbach. Each 5.5 litre engine was assigned to a single technician to build.
2000s: Breaking new ground
In to the start of the new millennium, Mercedes-Benz and AMG continued to innovate. By Supercharging their new 5.5 litre V8 engine, AMG were able to provide an E-Class with the same level of power as a Ferrari F40. In 2003, the AMG arm launched its first diesel car, and at the other end of the spectrum provided the engine behind the world-renowned Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren supercar. A range of AMG Black series models followed in 2006 - designed to showcase the pinnacle of AMG performance, the range saw AMG modify their own creations to create a line of vehicles with unprecedented performance. Creations like the CLK 63 AMG Black sought to recapture the magic of the earlier AMG efforts which emerged from Werner Aufrecht 's basement.
After several successes under their belt, the AMG team were able to expand their creativity across the Mercedes-Benz range. Relishing the chance to build their own creation, AMG set to the task of producing an uncompromising sports car, bringing the very best elements of Mercedes-Benz together. The end result was the SLS - a modern sports car icon which was dubbed the spiritual successor to the Mercedes-Benz 300SL 'Gullwing'.
2010s: Onwards and Upwards
The exciting thing is that AMG shun the idea of resting on their laurels. 2014 saw AMG's first leap in to hot-hatchback territory with the A45 AMG, a hatchback which boasts the world's most powerful production four-cylinder engine. And with the arrival of the SLS E-CELL, the innovation continues. The E-CELL is the world's first all-electric Supercar, with 533bhp of electric power pushing the electric SLS on to 60mph in just four seconds.
Of course, AMG have also recently released their most desirable car to date. The AMG GT. As stunning as it is sensational to drive, the GT was designed independently by AMG, and set performance car circles alight. Next year, an even more hardcore version of the AMG GT is planned.
At this rate, we can't wait to see what AMG will turn their hands to next. From humble beginnings to one of the most celebrated tuning outfits in the world, there's one thing for sure - the technicians at AMG will continue to surprise and amaze us in the years to come.
Check out our Top 5 AMG Models and the AMG Performance Tour that visited us earlier this year.