AMG looks back on 40 years of glory
Before AMG was a performance package, you could order all seemingly Mercedes models (by the way, where is my AMG Unimog?) They were actually racing cars for this great German company. Not only that, they also raced from some of the most unlikely starting points. It all started 40 years ago when the founders of AMG, Aufrecht, Melcher and Großaspach (the birthplace of Aufrecht) prepared a 1971 300 SEL 6.3 sedan and participated in the Spa-Francorchamps 24-hour endurance race.
Yes, the 300 SEL 6.3 is the big, long four door sedan that bank presidents use to get from Munich to Hamburg, not something you’d expect to see on a race track, and certainly not on a track as serious as Spa, and certainly not for 24 hours.
But AMG was, and still is, damn serious about this performance stuff, so the then-four-year-old firm tore into Merc’s luxo-barge like Teutonic versions of Smokey Yunick. Sure, the 300 SEL 6.3 was Germany’s fastest production sedan, but it was also, shall we say, a bit portly and down on power. So AMG bumped the displacement to 6.8 liters and twisted the engine to crank out 428 horsepower and a stump-puling 448 pound-feet of torque. Weight was cut by using aluminum doors, which dropped the burden down to 3,637 pounds, versus the original 41,000 long tons ... oh wait, that was the displacement of the Bismarck, my mistake. Let’s just say they cut it down by a bunch. Top speed: 164 mph. Not bad for something the weight of a panzer tank.
Bottom line from all those years ago in Belgium? The big Benz blew the doors off nearly everything else on the track and finished second, which immediately established AMG’s credibility as a tuner.
This coming weekend, Black Falcon racing along with AMG will pay tribute to the original racer when they compete again at Spa in a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 wearing original matching livery to the old machine. Making things even more of a time warp is the fact that one of the three drivers will be Kenneth Heyer, son of Hans Heyer who was at the wheel of that legendary AMG sedan four decades ago. Cool, right?
“Forty years after our class victory and second overall place, I think it is a great idea to enter the Spa-Francorchamps race with the SLS AMG GT3 in the same look as ‘my’ 300 SEL. Naturally I wish the Black Falcon team and my son Kenneth every success – and will be delighted if he wins at least second place!” Hans Heyer said in a statement.
The AMG SLS, aka the new “Gullwing”, is a natural for racing, given its atrocious power and inspirational handling, if not it’s featherweight tipping of the scales. So you won’t be seeing just the Black Falcon SLS on the grid, it will also be joined seven other new Gullwings.
The original big AMG competed in a number of endurance races in 1971 and ‘72, even with its four doors, power steering, air suspension, carpet on the floors and wood on the dash, but was retired in 1973. A change in the rules cut displacement down to 5.0 liters, making the big sedan obsolete. AMG sold the car to French conglomerate Matra (of all people), which used it for high-speed tests of aircraft tires. After that, the 300 SEL 6.3 disappeared into the mists of time, and today, no one knows what became of the car. The racer shown here is a replica AMG built in 2006.
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