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Broadcast date : 24th December 2006

From a tiny tuning company in Germany to the producers of some of the world’s most sought-after cars is a long journey.

In 2007 AMG celebrates its 40th anniversary. What is today Mercedes-Benz’s official performance division, AMG began fitting hot cams and flowed cylinder-heads to Mercs in the late 1960's in an old mill in the little known town of Burgstall in Germany.

The name derives from the two founders Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher, while the G bit comes from the town Grossaspach, Aufrecht’s birth place.

Earlier this year AMG opened its Performance Studio in its headquarters in Affalterbach, and represents a return to its roots, in a sense, from the days when it started out fitting aftermarket equipment to Benz machines.

The new AMG Performance Studio offers all manner of components in various combinations to Merc owners, which can be retrofitted to cars that are ex-factory.

Special wheel-and-tyre combos, brakes, differentials, cooling systems and complete interior re-trimming is now offered as part of a performance pack on various models.

The idea is for a customer to tailor an individual car and take advantage of AMG’s vast racing heritage, which began in 1971 when an old S Class with a 6.3 litre V8 won its class in the Spa 24-Hour.

AMG, of course, is better known for its complete cars, and a visit to the Affalterbach headquarters illustrates the incredible remodeling of each AMG car that takes place.

Each AMG engine is hand-assembled by one technician, whose signature is born on the engine plate.

Perhaps the most dramatic modern rendition of AMG’s handiwork is not one of its sports car models, but the AMG S65, based on the beautiful new-generation S-Class.

Here is a car that has taken the already dramatic shape of the new big Merc and sculpted it to a degree of precision that’s at once eye-catching and yet tasteful – no mean feat in this age of stylistic pyrotechnics.

The 6.0 litre V12 engine pumps out 450 kiloWatts between 4750 and 5000 rpm, and maximum torque peaks at the magical 1000 Nm mark.

Even as low as 1000 rpm the V12 is pumping out 570 Nm, enough twisting power to turn an oak tree into a giant koeksuster.

When we first laid eyes on the S Class we had to take a deep breath to assimilate its shape.

Now the AMG has proven Mercedes designers were once again on the button, and talking of buttons, how about the interior of this car?

The reassuring presence of burr walnut trim is leavened with an AMG sports steering wheel, AMG seats and an IWC Ingenieur analogue clock.

Note the speedo which reads to 360 km/h. Offically AMG 65s are limited to 250 km/h, but we hear that AMG can be coerced to remove that speed limiter in Germany.

Yes, like the S65, the SL65 is fitted with the same bi-turbo V12, with the same 360 km/h speedo.

This is the premium version of the SL roadster which in 5.0 litre form made its debut here some five years ago.

The AMG-ised interior features subtle touches that are appreciated by their owners to give the SL 65 that special look.

The engine fitted to this car, available to a lucky few in South Africa, has been thoroughly re-engineered for its 450 kW output, and knowing Mercedes-Benz, this officially sanctioned hot-rod is probably good for an easy 600 kiloWatts with only a marginally reduced engine life expectancy.

The crankshaft is completely re-engineered and balanced, special materials are used for the forged pistons to withstand extreme combustion temperatures, and the main and big end bearings are also made of special metals.

That sculpted nose houses a bigger charge cooler, with a 70 per cent greater capacity than on the standard V12 Merc installation.

This uses an air-to-water heat exchange system rather than a straight air-to-air system of conventional intercoolers.

Now here’s car that is a sure-fire candidate to have its 250 km/h rev limiter attacked by a virus. 

Just a couple of years ago an AMG-massaged M-Class Merc was considered a bit of an oddity. Now we have one with 375 kiloWatts of deep-lunged, naturally-aspirated V8, entitled the ML 63 AMG.

What this means is an SUV with a claimed 5 second 0-100, an electronically limited 250 top speed and more styling cues to indicate its special place in the Kingdom of the Car than a Boulevard Bling-mobile.

The amount of re-engineering that goes into these cars is stupefying, illustrating how far AMG has moved from a purveyor of performance add-ons, since its absorption by Mercedes-Benz in 1999.

Production of AMG cars has doubled since then to current figures of over 20000 annually.

It’s certainly come a long way since the old mill in Burgstall and that first victory by the fire-engine-red 6,3-litre S Class in 1971.

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