Hammering the AMG into Mercedes-Benz

By David Thomson on Sat, 4 Aug 2018

Time behind the wheel of the Mercedes-AMG E63 S that features in Drivesouth today had me thinking about the now legendary AMG Hammer sedan of 1986

AMG had been around for a couple of decades when the Hammer appeared, firstly as an independent race engine specialist and then, from the early 1970s, as one of several companies offering unofficial after-market mechanical and cosmetic enhancements for key Mercedes models.

But the Hammer, which was based on the E-Class of its time, the W124 saloon, took things to a new level. Rather than tweak a car's existing motor, AMG shoe-horned the V8 from Mercedes' larger S-Class saloon into an E-Class frame.

Before completing the transplant, AMG took the engine to pieces. It was re-assembled after a full rebuild, with a new four valves per cylinder high-performance head, and improvements to its internals. For customers with cash to burn, AMG would even bore the engine out from 5.6 to 6.0-litres, strengthen the chassis and gearbox to cope with the more powerful motor and add a monster limited-slip differential, the obligatory sports body kit, lowered suspension and high-performance wheels and tyres.

With a 0-100kmh sprint time of around five seconds and a top speed similar to that of the latest AMG E63 S, the Hammer would count as a super-fast car even in today's terms. Back in the day, its performance was mind-blowing.

The Hammer was a particular favourite in the United States. It also commanded immense respect in the United Kingdom when I was working there in the late 1980s; one of my colleagues on Autocar magazine, road test editor David Vivian, summed it up beautifully as ``rapid enough to face down a Ferrari 288 GTO, yet it could be driven by your granny''.

No-one seems certain how many Hammer cars were built, but one thing is certain: the influence the Hammer had on AMG's future.

It showed the world that AMG was a tuner to take more seriously than most. That realisation then paved the way for Mercedes-Benz to develop a formal relationship with AMG, starting with a co-operative agreement in 1993 for joint vehicle development and distribution via the Mercedes-Benz dealer network.

A majority shareholding followed in 1999 and, since 2005, AMG has been a wholly owned subsidiary of the Daimler AG empire, of which Mercedes-Benz is the major part.

And so the AMG name has been an integral part of Mercedes-Benz's high-performance persona. That extends to Mercedes' current world championship-leading Formula One team, whose formal name is Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport. It also covers everything from styling kits to full-on enhancements of many road cars, among which this weekend's test car is one of the best.

David Thomson