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On we go to the second part of AMG’s history (Part 1): The 1970s clearly demonstrated that our company comes from the motor sports sector. The eight-cylinder M 100, which from 1968 onward powered the Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3 — one of the world’s fastest series-produced sedans — had potential not only for attracting customers but also for motor sports.
Hans-Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher took a used dark-blue 6.3 that had previously been registered in Stuttgart and transformed it into a bright-red over-the-top race car with a capacity of 6.8 liters — a car that unequivocally demonstrated the power of the three letters AMG to the race car drivers in Spa.
It was an incredible success, and I still get goosebumps when I think of it!
Giving up past habits
Daimler Benz had given up the niche market of motor sports because its priority was the development of passenger cars. Suddenly this niche was once again occupied by a race car team that was devoted to Mercedes from the very start. AMG’s success in the 24-hour race in Spa, Belgium, attracted admiration but also generated questions about the adaptations to the vehicle. The fender flares, additional headlamps, sponsor labels, and similar features had previously not been part of the top-level program for Mercedes-Benz cars in 1971.
A sporty temperament
AMG’s success in motor sports boosted its reputation. The company invested in the further development of its customer program. Starting in the 1970s, numerous private customers came to us so that we could enhance the sporty temperament of their vehicles. Most of them came with their six and eight-cylinder vehicles of the new “-8” generations: the (W 114), the SL and SL (R/C 107), and the S-Class (W 116). Since 1976, their individual wishes have been realized in Affalterbach — always in accordance with the high standards of Mercedes-Benz. Through AMG, the tried and tested attributes of the cars with the star receive an additional touch of sportiness.
According to the customers’ wishes
Back then, the AMG company’s success in motor sports was very clearly motivating it to hope that it would someday return to the race track. However, before that could happen it had to optimize its engines, chassis, and tires, as well as safeguarding the growth of its business by adding customer services and repair shop work of every kind.
Starting in the mid-1970s, customers increasingly asked for modifications of their cars’ appearance — spoilers and sills, matte black instead of chrome, stereos, TVs, and sports steering wheels. Customers expressed their wishes, and AMG developed, delivered, and grew.
At the end of the 1970s, the M 117 engine was launched. After a gap of decades, a five-liter engine was once again available for the big Mercedes-Benz models with 240 hp as standard. After Erhard Melcher had analyzed and modified it, it was also made available for the mid-class W 123 series, for example in an AMG 280 CE 5.0. Later on it was also known as the AMG 500 CE.
In the 1980s, engine construction became increasingly well-established in Affalterbach. That was always an aspect of AMG’s unique development process, power delivery, and exclusivity.
Success in five races: the AMG 450 SLC
At the end of the decade, AMG was once again able to engage in motor sports. The AMG 450 SLC large coupe, which was sponsored by the liquor manufacturer Mampe, was entered in a number of races. It had a Spartan interior, lots of horsepower, powerful spoilers, body extensions, and a roll cage — these were the ingredients of its considerable success in five races from 1978 to 1980.
The car included lots of clever improvisations. I remember that a master plasterer from Affalterbach used the aerodynamics components as a positive for the attachment parts made of fiberglass and plastic. Today such a procedure would be unthinkable. The weight of the heavyweight SLC race car was optimized by means of sophisticated measures, but there were still high stresses on the brakes.
AMG realized maximum potential on the race course and successfully followed up the 6.8 with the V8 engine. Once again, AMG’s race cars were driven by the likes of Hans Heyer, Clemens Schickentanz, and Jörg Denzel. And AMG was solely responsible for the return of the Silver Arrows, starting in 1978.
How did the story continue in the 1980s? We promise to tell you more in Part 3!