Everyday, anniversaries are celebrated throughout the world, and every so often, one comes round which is truly special, worth stopping for and admiring. This year of course we celebrate automotive manufacturing perfection with 50 years of Mercedes AMG.
It is very rare that you get a number of Mercedes AMG models in the one place let alone 50 (one for each year) of the most awe inspiring cars the German automaker has produced. This is exactly what I experienced recently when I made the journey down to Silverstone race track. Founded in 1967 by Mercedes engineers Erhard Melcher and Hans Werner Aufrecht to produce racing engines, AMG has crafted some of the most insane and intense driving machines over the past five decades, all of which started with their first project, the “Red Pig”.
Starting out as a standard Mercedes 6.6L V8 300 SEL, both engineers were approached by a somewhat adventurous customer who wanted to take his car racing. From here the creative wizards set to work, reducing the weight of an extremely heavy car by adding aluminium doors, boring out the engine to 6.8L and increasing the power output to 420BHP, up from 250BHP. Ready to go it made its first appearance at Spa in 1971 to which the racing spectators named it the “Red Pig” due to its unsightly appearance, little did they know however by the end of this race the car would be winner in its class and second overall. The first car to wear the AMG acronym, history was made and the foundations of a partnership between Mercedes and the legendary tuning company had begun.
As I surveyed the pit lane looking for what model I wanted to drive first I made a bit of a crazy decision, perhaps it was tiredness from the early morning flight impairing my judgement, but feeling like I was in some supercar bar I went all in “could I try the SLS Black Series Please?”. Now in the dry this would be a bold first choice, but with a little drizzle of rain now falling around Silverstone I could now easily be labeled a madman. Until you actually sit in and drive the SLS Black Series it is difficult to comprehend how insanely savage this car is. We started with the driver who was taking me out, warming the car up before we swapped over. A car recently insured for £750,000, I was shocked at just how utterly savage and brutal the acceleration was as I left the pit lane. It literally just keeps throwing power at you and in the wet that is a bloody terrifying thing.
After negotiating a slightly twitchy Becketts Corner and Chapel Curve I planted my foot to the floor for Hangar Straight. Instantly I felt like I was in Back to the Future, hurtling down the track with that biblical 6.2L V8 roaring away. The SLS Black Series is such a unicorn of a car in which if you get the opportunity to experience one in any format I command you to jump at it. It will be truly unforgettable.
Now a model which I have always admired and been curious about since its introduction in 2012 is the C63 AMG Black Series and when I seen it was on the list to drive that day, I instantly had to get my name down. A road going DTM car, it looks as mean as it performs with those huge flared arches and matt black paintwork immediately telling you this is no ordinary machine. The particular version I drove featured the AMG track package which exterior wise with that rear wing, definitely finishes this car off perfectly.
Immediately as you sit in the car, that AMG lineage starts to filter through, vibrant red safety belts compliment bucket seats in which with a quick few adjustments and firing up that throaty V8, we were ready to go. Now given I haven’t driven an endless list of high end performance cars and I only carry a light dusting of track experience, from what I have driven previously however, I have to say categorically this is by far the best car I have ever driven. Period. I came to this revelation as I drove further and further into the laps and just felt an absolutely unrivalled balance of power and control, something I didn’t even experience with the other AMG models available that day. The steering in this car is just majestic in which it feels unbelievably stable in the bends no matter how hard I went into them. There was that ultimate blend of on the edge driving yet I was still in control, just a gentle, controlled slide in some bends and tonnes and tonnes of power waiting for you to unleash hell with your right foot. Simply put I could have driven this all day until the wheels fell off, it really was that good and I’m surprised my passenger didn’t have to prise me from the drivers seat.
Dotted round the paddock there really was such a mix of beautiful cars. The new track focused, blisteringly quick AMG GTR in its already iconic green, an A45, nimble and punchy, to the new C63s, a car I tend to drool over when I see one in matching black alloys and bodywork in the street.
I did however save the best until last, a special chance to experience a truly monstrous beast, an opportunity to ride as a passenger in an AMG GT3 with Adam Christodoulou, former British Formula Renault Champion and endurance racing expert.
From the moment I registered, it was evident this would be no ordinary series of laps. Out came the race suit complete with fire retardant balaclava and miked up helmet enabling Adam and I to communicate. After getting suited up, and a little bit of not so stylish limboing into the passenger seat, I was strapped in securely with my safety harness ready to go. Aside from the seats, Adam, a roll cage and steering wheel there was not a lot inside this car. A race prepared AMG GT built for competition in the GT class of Le Mans and the 24 hour at Spa, it was completely stripped out to save weight. As we set out down the pit lane the noise was just deafening, and as Adam floored it out the pit lane, the acceleration was just apocalyptically fast. One of the biggest things that actually surprised me aside from the speed of this car was actually its breaking power. I was staggered at how late Adam could break into the bends to extent I was wondering “is he going to break at all, or are we going to stop somewhere just outside London?”
Hurtling into those bends and turns so hard we must have easily been experiencing a high level of g-force as my head bounced around from side to side. Added into that, and I have to take my hat off to Adam and also on the day, DTM king Bernd Schneider who was also driving, is how the guys deal with the tremendous heat which could be felt in the cabin. As I said we were only in there for 3 laps and it was like being in a mobile oven, god only knows what its like competing in an endurance race, the chaps must shed a heck of a lot of body weight. So there we were, two human chickens in a rotisserie on wheels and do you know what, it was the most fun I have ever had as a passenger. An adrenaline fueled, primeval high that I didn’t want to end. I’m incredibly envious of Adam and Bernd who do this for a living. I would be sitting in the drivers seat with a permanent, Cheshire cat style grin as I hurtled round the track.
For me it was an incredible privilege overall to see how these machines have evolved in shape, performance and how technology has developed with Mercedes AMG over the past 50 years. Whats more, having experienced the likes of the new AMG GTR and the cutting edge of racing with the GT3, I gained a delightful snippet of what we can expect to come, in which its safe to say, the next 50 years is going to be just as special.