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The next stop of our tour of AMG’s history will be in the 1990s. During this decade, the company grew substantially thanks to strong partnerships in the areas of cars and motor sports. The model I remember especially well is the bestseller of that period, the C 36 AMG.
Thanks to the niche products offered by AMG in the 1980s and the company’s ongoing success in motor sports, the time had come for a partnership in the area of cars. As a result, in 1990 the Mercedes-Benz CEO Werner Niefer and Hans-Werner Aufrecht signed a partnership agreement to engage in comprehensive cooperation.
The first vehicle resulting from this agreement was a complete vehicle: an AMG model of the W 201/124 and R 129 series that was launched on the market in 1991. The MB production code 990 still identifies cars of this series today as original vehicles that were partly assembled in Affalterbach. In parallel, AMG also offered a variety of exclusive modifications for all MB cars in its direct-sales business.
AMG specifications could even be ordered for the MB 100 D van. The sales of accessories, equipment, and AMG equipment packages also became increasingly significant.
C 36 AMG tops them all
The C 36 AMG became a real bestseller. Soon after the market launch of the new C-Class (W 202), the 1993 sales figures for this model — the first top vehicle that was jointly developed by the two companies — exceeded all expectations. Apropos, in 1995 Bernd Schneider won the overall championship in the DTM/ITC with an AMG C-Class, thus masterfully demonstrating the success of the compact class.
When the “four-eyes” face of the E-Class (W 210) hit the road in 1995, the E 50 AMG became the pace-setting power sedan in the upper mid-class segment. It was followed quickly by the station wagon and later on by the E 55 AMG 4matic. AMG also showed the way in the off-road segment — as usual.
The ML 55 AMG, which was launched in 1999, was the world’s first power SUV. It was based on the first German SUV, the M-Class, which had been on the market since 1997 and was initially produced only in the U.S. The concept behind the ML 55 AMG is still an ongoing success today, and I’m convinced that we’ll see some interesting developments in the future.
Maximum-displacement car with the star
Another top-of-the-range example of the dynamic synergy between AMG and Mercedes is the initially modified SL. This model has been on the market since 1991 as the AMG 500 SL 6.0, a complete car from Mercedes-Benz. It was followed by the SL 60 AMG. The 6.0-liter V8 engine delivers 280 kW (381 hp) and has a top speed of 286 km/h.
In 1999 it was available as the SL 73 AMG, with a 12-cylinder engine and the largest displacement of any Mercedes-Benz car since 1945. From its 7,291 cc it generates a fantastic 386 kW (525 PS) of power at 5,500 rpm. It goes from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds — an absolute record!
AMG as a brand
Regular victories in motorsports, such as the 1997 FIA GT championship won by the CLK-GTR (which inspired the CLK 55 AMG road vehicle), have been reliably supported since 1996 by the official safety and medical cars from Affalterbach. As AMG’s brand recognition increased, the German Patent Office recognized the three letters AMG as the company’s brand in 1993.
In 1999, the company known today as Daimler AG acquired 51 percent of Hans-Werner Aufrecht’s shares of AMG. Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard became the first CEO of the newly founded Mercedes-AMG GmbH. The sporty top models of the various model series began to attract the attention of younger, solvent buyers all over the world to the brand. This success was also reflected in the company’s structure. The opening of Plant III in 1990 expanded the production capacity of AMG, whose headquarters had been located in Affalterbach since 1976, and set the company’s course for the future.
What came next? You can find the answers in Part 5.