Nowadays when most AMG are all-wheel drive, or SUVs, or both, Motormouth decided to revisit the 30-year old AMG Hammer for a spin in Portugal and see what the fuss was about
This thing is not lost in translation. Both in German and in English, thy name is Hammer, and thy game? Frizzing your mullet, I guess.
Put foot in this old super-sedan, built in the late 1980s before the term even existed, and the big AMG Hammer bucks, squats, the transmission eventually decides to get up and heave, the engine finally responds to your planted right foot, and then with a lurch, it wallows forward like a startled hippo. And, actually, those things run really fast…
It was a different time, not inappropriately labelled the decade of excess, when manufacturers didn’t have to rein in their fun with a crowd of health and safety folk gate crashing the party. When providing massive power, they didn’t think to include all-wheel drive, or traction control, or stability control, or torque vectoring, or anything much at all. It went without saying back then – you’re buying a badass car, you’d better be a badass. That was basically the only fine print involved.
With money growing on trees, car manufacturers couldn’t go wrong in the 1980s and indulged in wide bodywork, door slats, vents, spoilers, wings, the word turbo splattered everywhere, and never before heard of speeds and power figures.
Group C racing cars cars were nudging 400kph down the Mulsanne straight, Group B rally monsters were laying waste to the countryside, to the spectators, to the drivers, and turbocharged Formula 1 cars were screaming around the world chased by the wastegate’s whistle.
It was a fantastic time to be alive and to be a car enthusiast, but even the most imaginative couldn’t have expected what came next.
The two cars hogging all the headlines, contesting the top speed honours of the day, were the Lamborghini Countach and the Ferrari Testarossa. And here was a four-door executive car that could run with them all day long – not only was the AMG Hammer the world’s fastest sedan, but it was faster than both those Italian mid-engined supercars. The Germans took it up to 303kph on a derestricted portion of the autobahn during testing, and neither the Ferrari nor Lamborghini could crack 300 at the time.
The idea was, you brought a basic W124 generation 300E to the nice people at AMG, and then started writing cheques.
For that sort of privilege, moneyed buyers were expected to be very moneyed indeed – once you were done ticking boxes, you had yourself an order for a $160,000 sedan, which was like spending $360,000 today. Put another way, you could’ve bought yourself a Countach and a Testarossa for the price of an AMG Hammer, so it isn’t at all surprising that this car is so rare. Even the folk from Mercedes don’t know for sure, but no more than three dozen cars were ever built.
The idea was, you brought a basic W124 generation 300E to the nice people at AMG, and then started writing cheques. The first thing to do then was to chuck out the straight-six and replace it with a 5.6-litre V8 out of an S-Class. Then AMG really went to work.
The company had the credentials – founded by former Mercedes engineers Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher in the late 1960s with an ambition to go racing, over the years focus shifted over to road cars. Aufrecht and Melcher however never lost their touch when it came to engine mastery – into the 1980s, power remained the predominant force in Affalterbach. Horsepower, and lots of it.
If you were feeling particularly excessive and had any cheques left over, you had the option of paying extra for AMG’s 6.0-litre treatment, and have the boys bore out the cylinders for the price of a nice, then-new Mercedes 190.
AMG then put twin-cam heads on top, lowered suspension, 17-inch wheels, and the in-house body kit. When it was revealed it seemed like nothing else out there but viewed today it’s relatively benign, and you could even call it restrained once it’s up and running next to a modern Mercedes-AMG E63.
The interior looks familiar to anyone who’s caught a cab in Europe in the past, and there’s almost nothing out of the ordinary in there except some white gauges and that classic AMG four-spoke steering wheel made by Momo especially for the Affalterbach company. If you need more help, just prod the accelerator pedal and you’ll get a raging clue, in the form of a monster V8 snapping and snarling back at you.
This thing is definitely all engine, because the chassis just about manages to handle the grunt. I can’t imagine how anyone had the marbles to push this thing beyond 300kph, with this much play in the steering wheel and tyres that would look small on a Golf in this day and age.
Just doodling along as you do in a Merc, the Hammer behaves impeccably and the four-speed automatic hesitates like all old automatics…
Keep in mind the stock 5.6-litre S-Class motor was rated at 180bhp but once AMG was done with it the engine more than doubled its power output, and the Hammer hit the road living up to its name.
By contrast, the 1990s Porsche-built W124 500E used a 5.0-litre V8 rated at around 320 horsepower, and although hand-made in Zuffenhausen this was still deemed an official Mercedes-Benz product whereas the AMG was a modification by an outside tuning house – AMG wasn’t absorbed by Mercedes until 1993, right after the 500E was discontinued.
Just doodling along as you do in a Merc, the Hammer behaves impeccably and the four-speed automatic hesitates like all old automatics, but there’s no hiding from that speedometer reading all the way to 320kph.
Today just about any manufacturer will sell you a super-sedan – 30 years ago though, you could only buy the real thing from a little German town called Affalterbach. It wasn’t then, but it’s on the map now.
Mercedes-Benz AMG Hammer
6.0-litre V8 | four-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive | 380 horsepower and 566Nm of torque | 0-100kph in around five seconds and a top speed of 303kph | $160,000 when new