For nearly 25 years, AMG has been known as Mercedes’s performance division. But to think of it as just a small engineering department inside a massive corporation couldn’t be further from the truth. In its nearly 50-year history, it has built some of the most incredible performance cars to ever come out of Germany, and it’s been doing it long before it was under the wing of the mighty Mercedes-Benz.
Like BMW’s relationship with Alpina, AMG enjoyed a strong working relationship with Mercedes for decades as an independent tuner until signing an agreement of cooperation in 1990. Before then, the relationship had been beneficial to both companies. Mercedes’s performance prestige remained intact thanks to AMG’s fantastic reputation for quality and performance, and its Mercedes connection kept AMG at the forefront of the performance tuning community.
The company became a wholly owned subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz in 2005, and on top of building the hottest Mercedes models available today, it is also developing engines for supercar builder Pagani, as well as Aston Martin.
From building cars one at a time in a small workshop to having the bottomless resources of Mercedes-Benz behind it, here are 10 cars that helped transform AMG from small-market tuner to one of the most advanced performance divisions in the world.
1. 1971 6.8 SEL “Red Pig”
For a brand as dignified as Mercedes-Benz, you wouldn’t think it’d take kindly to some aftermarket tuners stripping one of their executive cars, calling it “The Red Pig,” and racing it against much smaller and lighter offerings from Alfa Romeo and BMW. But that’s what AMG did in 1971, and it turned the European racing world upside down.
Taking the big Merc’s 6.3-liter engine and increasing its displacement to 6.8, the Red Pig finished second at the prestigious 24 Hours of Spa and became famous overnight. With a top speed of 142 miles per hour and a zero to- 0 time of 6.3 seconds, the Red Pig became famous as “the world’s fastest sedan” and was more than enough to get Mercedes’s attention.