What interesting new developments is AMG working on? CARtoday.com recently undertook a tour of the facilities of the Mercedes-Benz tuner and performance car developer in Affalterbach to find out...

"It's all about horses here at AMG," said AMG customer relations manager Martin Heiss, looking out over the purpose-built equestrian course outside the company's reception centre in Affalterbach, Germany.

Hans-Werner Aufrecht, who founded the company back in 1967 with partner Eberhard Melcher, is fanatical about pure-bred horses, but it’s safe to assume that South African-born Herr Heiss was referring to AMG's continuous search for more horsepower - especially in light of the super powerful 450 kW twin-turbo V12 CL65's début at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

AMG produced 18 300 units in 2002, and redeveloped two thirds of its facilities at a cost of R1,7 billion. The new engine factory, showroom and two development buildings, which are currently being built, have swelled the surface area of the facility from 18 500 m² to 39 610 m².

When completed, the development buildings will be used for component research, parts production and a workshop for special vehicles. A test rig building for pre-development and engine application testing is also being built.

Mercedes-AMG GmbH has been a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler AG since January 1, 1999. Its fields of activity are the design and development of high-performance vehicles, options and accessories, the installation of mobile media products and communications and infotainment systems and, ultimately, the manufacture of AMG series vehicles in conjunction with DaimlerChrysler factories.

Multiple engine, body platform combinations

There are 17 AMG derivatives, of which the CLK55 Cabriolet is the latest to go into production. However, AMG also manufactures special one-off models on demand... One customer recently asked for a twin-engined A-Class. AMG could not build such a vehicle but built the customer a unique 3,2-litre V6 A-Class hammer instead, Heiss told CARtoday.com.

When the six-litre twin-turbo V12-powered CL65 AMG was being developed, engineers designed the engine to produce 1 200 N.m of torque. Because of the limitations of the car's newly-developed gearbox, powertrain and driveshaft the powerplant's torque output was detuned to 1 000 N.m, but AMG president Ulrich Bruhnke said development was continuing on components that would allow for the extra power and that a SL derivative with the same engine was also on the cards.

To whet local AMG pundits' appetites, DaimlerChrysler SA's media manager, Deon Ebersohn, told CARtoday.com that when a right-hand drive version of CL65, which will go on sale around January in most left-hand drive markets, was developed it would certainly be made available in South Africa.

Fully-stocked, flashy interiors made to order

AMG is experiencing increased demand for customisation worldwide and during the tour of facilities, CARtoday.com saw vehicles with all kinds of paraphernalia - including unique hood and exterior ornaments, custom-made leather and wood and trim combinations, and AMG-badged doorsill panels, with or without illumination, and optionally decorated with an engraving of the customer's choice.

Heiss said that Mercedes-AMG Manufaktur, the company's handcrafting centre, could cater for most out-of-the-ordinary requests. Items that can be provided on request include electrically-operated curtains for the rear and rear side windows, leather-trimmed folding tables with wood or carbon inlay matched to the design of the interior, telephone consoles in various combinations of materials, refrigerated cabinets and bars.

Furthermore, some of the AMGs would be fitted with integrated mobile phones, DVD monitors, video systems and laptops as well as customised, high-end hi-fi units, mobile communication (telephone, fax, data transfer) or navigation systems, he added.

According to Heiss, a customer from Dubai wanted an SL55 matched to the colour of a scrap of pink material his wife reportedly liked. The sheik paid a significant premium to have the car painted metallic pink. Then the interior leather was tinted pink, as was the wood veneer used to trim the interior. You pays your money...

Two wacky examples we saw on the production floor were a Los Angeles-bound G55 AMG, fitted with custom-designed cup holders to accommodate the American coffee bar chain Starbuck's Grande Coffee container and a unique SL55 AMG finished with matt black bodywork, rims and tailpipes.

Hand-assembled, personally-signed powerplants

The commonly-known AMG philosophy of "one man, one engine" simply means that a single technician - identified by the signature on the engine plate - is responsible for the complete assembly of an AMG engine.

The division's 41 master mechanics build between 80 and 120 engines a day. Each is capable of building both the petrol and recently-developed diesel engines and construction of these engines takes two and three hours respectively.

Afterwards, an engineer checks the functioning of the finished unit on the "cold-test" testing rig, with the help of simulated resistance and pressure build-up tests. The AMG engines are then transported from the ground floor to a high bay storage facility on the upper storey.

For the new diesel powerplant, AMG has reworked 95 per cent of the five-cylinder 20-valve 270CDI motor. A longer stroke, larger turbo and a high-efficiency air-water intercooler system helped to raise the output of the three-litre engine to 172 kW. Unfortunately, the C30 CDI won’t be coming to South Africa… According to DaimlerChrysler technical specialist Hans Leithgoeb, the C30 CDI’s engine layout prohibits right-hand drive conversions.

The vehicle is aimed primarily at the European market, where diesels are popular. Heiss said there were no plans for additional AMG diesel engines at this stage.

What the future holds for AMG

AMG employs about 600 employees and, according to Bruhnke, the size of the company’s operations allows flexibility to develop and build unique, exclusive vehicles. That was the reason, he said, that AMG was unlikely to introduce derivatives at the lower end of the market and/or become a mass producer of vehicles.

The McLaren Mercedes SLR supercar's engine is being tested by AMG and when the car goes into production later this year, the Affalterbach-based manufacturer will supply the lightweight car’s tuned 5,5-litre V8 engines.

Bruhnke said that much of AMG’s development was focussed on integrated engine and chassis design. Even though the development of mechanical components was important to AMG, “electronics was and is the most important field” of research - not only in terms of engine and gearbox management or safety systems but also in-car communication and entertainment applications.

And was there any chance of a manual gearbox being fitted to AMG models in the future? Not likely, Bruhnke told CARtoday.com.

“The Speedshift transmission is, in a sense, a very intelligent manual ‘box,” he said. “It offers the best compromise in terms of ease of driving and supercar-beating quick gearshifts when pressing on.”

Original article from Car