There is an old Mercedes legend that tells us about the first private customer of AMG. A gentleman from Kiel heard about the independent Mercedes tuners via a hot tip at a German motor race.
He followed his confidante’s sketchy directions to a small garage in south west Germany where he found himself confronted with a pair of tiny garage doors at an old mill. He ventured inside and saw a hand-dug inspection pit and queried the two gents on the scene. “Where can I find AMG”, he asked.
“You are in the AMG garage,” responded Aufrecht and Melcher.
You know how the story continues. From such humble beginnings we get to the present, and the 517bhp C 63 AMG Coupe Black Series launched earlier this week. But while the growth of AMG is fascinating to chart, the period directly after it was created bore unexpected fruit.
Following that first private tune-up, Aufrecht and Melcher got wind of a damaged Mercedes 300 that was being offloaded by a doctor. For cheap. With a little bit of luck, they bought the Merc for a reported $6,000 (when they retailed new for $20,000) and went about modifying it for racing duty.
Of course, this being the late 1960s, tuning was done using Big Tools and lots of blood, sweat and tears. Melcher tweaked the 300 SEL’s 6.3-litre V8, boring the capacity out to 6.8-litres and (deep breath…) installed high precision camshafts and modified rocker arms, lighter connecting rods, new Mahle pistons, larger intake valves, modified combustion chambers, polished intake and exhaust ducts, a new intake tract with two throttle flaps and a racing exhaust system to ensure a better gas flow throughout.
The wings were flared to make room for the lightweight 15in magnesium racing wheels, it had larger front wishbones, a more robust rear axle with a heavy-duty differential, stiffer air suspension and aluminium doors to help cut weight from 1,830kg to 1,635kg.
Additionally, the big lug’s endurance capacity was improved by installing another oil cooler and balancing the crankshaft. And as any budding auto enthusiast will attest, a finely honed crank is a fine thing indeed. The result of this tinkering is that tuned long-wheelbase monster on the left, above. Now all the mechanics needed were some pilots. Step forward Hans Heyer and Clemens Schickemtanz.
But because of AMG’s relative anonymity and stature at this stage of its life, when they entered the 1971 Spa 24hr endurance race, they weren’t expected to get anywhere, facing up to cars such as the Alpina BMW 2800 CS (driven by Niki Lauda), a Chevy Camaro, a works Ford Capri and a Schnitzer BMW 2800 CS. Not that Hans cared. “We knew we could win”, he said, “but the others didn’t know that.
“On the old Spa course the discs had plenty of time to cool down and nobody was able to catch us up on the long straights”, he recalls. It even hit a top speed of 265km/h and suffered no technical difficulties at all. At all.
At the Spa race, it finished in 2nd place, virtually establishing AMG overnight. The rest, as they say, is horsepower…
STORY Vijay Pattni