Hammering Out The Truth: Crooks & Castles’ 560 SEL AMG

Being a car person makes you do some really weird things.

Not weird on an intimate I-married-my-car VICE vibe – that raises some deeper, ethical issues – but rather the involuntary reaction certain cars give you. Case in point, chasing after one. In any other situation that’d land you on the register with a solid restraining order. But when that car happens to be an AMG Hammer – the original über saloon – suddenly that behaviour is almost justified. Your honour.

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Let’s be real for a second; cars like the AMG Hammer aren’t just bought by normal people, they’re bought by car people. You don’t accidentally stumble across one while shopping for a new daily, and you sure as hell won’t see Influencer149 asking YouTube what colour wrap to apply.

What makes a Hammer so special? It’s all about the engine. That and having one of the coolest model names ever assigned. Who cares which God of Wind or Coastal Breeze your supercar pays tribute to? Give me a solid blunt object capable of bashing things up. Paper beats rock, rock beats scissors, hammer beats everything.

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There’s just one tiny issue in this fairy-tale car spot. Nothing major. It just, err, wasn’t a Hammer. But, it wasn’t a replica, either. It was entirely legit in every sense of the word, just not the name. Confused? Brace yourself, it’s about to get nerdy.

Hit Me Then – What IS A Hammer?

If you’re a die-hard Mercedes fan you’ll already know the W126 platform was never known as a Hammer. I can say that with total conviction now having researched it heavily for the past three days. But if we’re being honest, I didn’t have a clue before that.

In its most basic form, the term ‘AMG Hammer’ refers to the pairing of the M117 DOHC 32V V8 engine and the W124 300 E platform. That DOHC 32V bit isn’t me being an über geek, it’s integral to the Hammer story. Because Mercedes never made the M117 with double overhead cams; that was all AMG’s doing.

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If we’re being mathematical, it goes something like this: W124 300 E Mercedes-Benz + AMG M117 DOHC engine = AMG Hammer.

You need both of those elements for a car to be considered a holy-grail Hammer, not just the engine. Truth be told, the M117 wasn’t a special engine in standard form – it was in production for 21 years powering no fewer than 19 models over the course of that time.

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That was until AMG got their hands on it. But back in the 1980s AMG and Mercedes hadn’t fully joined forces despite already being partners in racing. The full merger didn’t happen until 1990, and we had to wait until 1993 to see the first ‘official’ joint venture of an AMG-badged production car in the form of the C 36 AMG.

Got’cha. What About All Those AMG Models Before That?

Before we get into that, it’ll make a bit more sense to quickly learn of AMG’s beginnings before the merger. The year was 1967 and AMG had been established solely to build race engines. Coincidentally, its three founders happened to be former Mercedes-Benz engineers.

At the time, Mercedes wasn’t exactly famed for their ‘sporty performance’ range, but rather the ability to waft along the autobahn in maximum comfort and luxury. Cue the AMG trio turning their attention towards tuning those models they’d previously developed, albeit with their own high performance upgrades. Those deemed significant enough would then wear the AMG badge on the back.

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What made AMG unique was their approach to tuning. Nothing was considered too wild or wacky. If you had the cash – which a lot of interesting Columbian-backed business ventures did in the ’80s – the world really was your oyster.

AMG’s bread and butter was always engine tuning; that’s what they originally existed to do. And while the stock motors weren’t exactly slow, their massive over-engineering meant they were ripe for tuning with components inspired by and taken from racing. Their most famous piece? The M117 DOHC 32V V8.

What Makes The M117 DOHC V8 So Good?

This engine wasn’t exclusive to the Hammer; AMG fitted it to a range of special editions including the W126 platform. It made sense seeing as these models came with the M117 (OHC) V8 as standard.

But that’s what makes the Hammer so special – Mercedes-Benz never offered the W124 platform with a V8 engine. Or rather, they didn’t until after AMG had paved the way. The largest until then was a straight six. Not only did AMG fine-tune the M117, they then shoehorned it into the W124 300 E – first in 5.0-litre form, then 5.6-litre and finally the full-fat 6.0-litre brute.

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As if by magic, the engine which succeeded the M117 (the M119) was rolled out by Mercedes with displacements in 4.2, 5.0 and 6.0-litres, DOHC and 32 valves. And it was now available in the W124 platform. Sounds familiar, right? It was much more powerful than the old M117, but crucially not quite as powerful as the AMG-tuned DOHC version.

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To say AMG paved the way for all future Mercedes-Benz V8 development – and the trend of shoehorning big engines into smaller sport saloons – is a hell of an understatement. It’s one of the main reasons the AMG Hammer demands so much respect. Without it, we might all be driving four-door saloons with tiny turbocharged engines instead. Oh, wait…

Is Everything Alright Back At Home, Mark?

We’ve not got time to cover that, but there’s one extra bit of bonus trivia to help clear up the Hammer vs. AMG ‘special edition’ debate. Because the DOHC M117 engine wasn’t exclusive to the W124 Hammer, it found itself in a series of other AMG models including the 300 CE AMG, 500 SEC AMG and 560 SEL AMG.

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Each of these models featured all the Gucci upgrades we associate as being ‘Hammer’ parts – the split wheels, badging, aero bodywork, the lot. And that’s why they all look like Hammers; it was just AMG’s style at the time.

Koenig Specials, Carat, Lorinser all had their own fashion which they became synonymous with, AMG was no exception. And if you want to blame anyone for the confusion, blame Car and Driver magazine who first coined the term ‘Hammer’ back in their December 1986 issue.

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TL; DR – A genuine Hammer is recognised by its AMG-tuned M117 DOHC engine fitted into the W124 300 E platform. Any other model boasting this engine isn’t a Hammer, just an incredibly badass AMG special edition.

Haven’t You Got A Spotlight To Focus On?

That’s an exceptional point. Back to the actual spotlight. As it turns out, the AMG’s owner was an old friend of Speedhunters – Rob Marley from Crooks & Castles. Actually, that’s not surprising at all. These things are owned by car guys after all. And Rob’s automotive history features a killer mix of Italian exotica laced with German überwagen goodness.

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“You know what’s funny, I bet if I was in my FF [Ferrari] you guys wouldn’t have looked twice let alone turn around and follow me.” laughs Rob, which is always reassuring after being stalked for three blocks. He’s absolutely right, though.

Anyone can go and buy an FF from a LA supercar dealership, but a classic like the 560 SEL AMG takes a different kind of mentality. One which understands the rarity and significance of such a car. And one which thankfully doesn’t get freaked out at the sight of three Englishmen pulling up behind it.

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Every car tells a different story, and you can imagine this particular 560 SEL AMG has some incredible history behind it. Back in the day this would’ve set you back upwards of $150,000 and, looking at the way the current market is, you won’t be getting much change from that figure now either. But there’s one extra element about Rob’s 560 SEL which makes it infinitely cooler – its Japanese heritage.

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“I’d been searching for one of these for years,” Rob adds. “They just don’t come up for sale. Then one day my buddy showed me one he’d spotted all the way over in Japan. It’d been held up in a garage after the typhoon which hit the coast in 2017. It wasn’t in bad condition, but it wasn’t how I wanted it.”

“Fuck it, I thought, I’ll pull the trigger, get that sucker shipped over and make it perfect. That’s been my project these past 12 months – everything has been checked, replaced, repainted you name it, man. These cars are so badass, they deserve to be perfect.”

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Manufactured and tuned in Germany, shipped to Japan and now residing in LA. There’s an age-old saying about never truly owning a car, merely being its keeper for a period of time, and Rob’s 560 SEL AMG is the perfect candidate. Looking at the spec supplied by AMG – particularly the walnut tables in the back matched with privacy glass all round – it doesn’t take much imagination to assume what kind of owner this had in Japan. One lacking the tip of his pinky finger, perhaps.

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“You have to remember that back in the ’80s, Japan’s economy was booming. So, cars like these were commonplace with the Yakuza who ran the streets,” explains Rob, folding down one of the tables in the back. “See those? They were fitted for conducting… business. Now I have my kids in the back using them to eat fruit off and shit, I love it!”

So while the correct use of Hammer will continue to be debated between owners and fans for many years to come, there’s one thing which simply isn’t up for discussion: Rob’s 560 SEL AMG is a legit badass, and it’s global gang-infused heritage makes it infinitely cooler than any nickname.

Mark Riccioni
Instagram: mark_scenemedia
Twitter: markriccioni
mark@scene-media.com

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32 comments

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1

Old School AMG is the best

2

This has to be the best Benz car ever made hands down

3

totally enjoyed the article !

nice work.

4

Why did this article have to end??

5

Nice! Words from the man behind the camera himself! Really enjoyed it!

6

Play this in the background while you read this article:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qno9pWpChnA

7
streetstatik.com

Car, on point.
AMG accessories, on point.
Ride height, on point.
Rear plate mounting.... an abomination

8

This was a super fun read! Learned a lot about a bad ass car too.

9
Naveed Yousufzai

drool...

10

For me, the motor discussion can be summed up with, "AMG used Mercedes' M117, first seen in 1971, as the basis for a limited-production, four-cam masterpiece that ruled the Autobahn at 300kph, in the wild times of cocaine and 1986. Perhaps that fading blip in your rearview mirror was a Lamborghini Countach." But I love your writing here and the car is just absolutely stunning. It's a restoration in the spirit of Japanese AMG, and in always refining what's badass. Which is arguably the most AMG of all its traits.

11

Rick, also noticed the exhaust was probably swapped out with newer AMG as original sebrings do tend to rust out.. ;) there your 2 issues but i would say its authentic regardless

12

Authentic AMG japan with a updated steering wheel is all. Just because the wheel was swapped doesnt declassify it as AMG. Rick, I dont believe this is the car Mendels garage sold.mos Def not original rare so which car are u referring to? the m117/9 6.0 276 KW was late model and the best iteration of the 6.0L in my opinion. Very nice car.

13

That rear plate placement has made me violently unwell! For someone who wants to "make it perfect" that is an absolute howler of an oversight, pleeeeeease fix it!

14

Also, great job, Mark, of putting the car into both the present-day and historical perspectives. That's not easily done while describing what makes it tick.

15

Rock beats paper, paper beats scissors



I dunno if it's cos I'm on the other side of the hemisphere (and therefore upside down back to front) but it's definitely scissors beats paper, paper beats rock...

but none of that matters! Super interesting article and badass car... if only you could listen to the conversations that have gone on inside!

Author16

You're onto something there... never a game i was very good at.

17

There are at least 2 things, which aren't fit to the genuine 560 SEL AMG. And current owner didn't imported it from Japan... ;]

18

does the author of this article know much about the m117 or not. the m117 with early m119 heads are junk and semi thought out engineering. These motors were built before the full blown Mercedes/amg partnership. the cams used to break because the way amg designed/drilled the oil passages and journals and then they were increased by MB to a larger diameter to be stronger. I can go on for paragraphs about the the m117 vs the m119 engines. amg m117 dohc is not the bad ass amg motor you're thinking about. You should do a little more homework before writing about these things.

Author19

I'm more confused as to why you don't think it's a great engine. Not sure what you mean about 'early m119 heads', but sure the early AMG ones were prone to those issues... hence why they kept developing 'em. And yes you could also argue the m119 was far more refined and less prone to failure, but if that's all you're focusing on you've missed the entire point of this story, and the importance of the engine - not the reliability.

20
Jonathan Hodgman

Agreed, the 3 piece heads were problematic..and still are but they are manageable and with proper attention and maintenance. The EARLY versions suffered from the cam bearing issue but that was rectified rather quickly after widening them out a few mm.

I was hopeful the author would delve into the M117/9 hybrid that is in this particular W126. Neat engine, M119.960 (tall deck motor) with an M117 front cover allowing you to use all the factory bits..well, with the addition of a few customized brackets for the accessories...and pinning the VVT for the intake cams.. but that aside a handy and Easy to care for 6L DOHC engine. Not quite the same personality I've got to say but they're still a Rip.

Author21

Some really good information there! Am i right in thinking that the M117/9 hybrid was something originally coined by AMG Japan? Or rather, that's what they classified 'em as with the M117 timing cover. Looking through the history on Rob's 560 SEL, it was a 'proper' AMG Japan model which would make sense.

22
Jonathan Hodgman

I haven't Seen any Affalterbach cars with the 117/9 hybrid engine...but that doesn't mean they didn't do any. That said, Japan seems to have been rife with them...AMG NA was already told to C&D by Mercedes Benz so they never fiddled. Hartmut never made any to my knowledge either.

And yes, Rob's car ticks all the boxes for AMG japan...from the engine to the badging etc, etc..

23

Delete the first 3 paragraphs trust me.

24
Matthew Everingham

How about you trust me, and re-write the first three paragraphs to dazzle us with your insight?

Author25

Of course, let's trust the comment which alludes to absolutely nothing and brings zero information to the table.

26

author doesn't really know what he's talking about. Needs to do more homework and research.

27
Jonathan Hodgman

Care to enlighten us Jack? Would love to hear about your experience with DOHC M117's and pre-merger AMG as a whole if the author is so off base...?

28

I disagree 1000%. I really enjoyed reading the facts about AMG and their history as well as the history of the hammer. I wish there was more nerdy fact stuff like this on speedhunters. Beautiful car, great article.

29

Second the idea. Especially starting off wrong trying to dig at actual works of automotive art in an article that fan boys over AMG’s fan boy antics of Shelby’s antics with luxury-market, cost cut, mass production bricks. Also, smashing an AMG as a blunt object is a terrible idea, that’s “Hammond” talk.

30

Wut.

31

I'm sure it made sense in his head when he wrote the comment.

32

How about Speed Hunters bars authors from responding to negative criticism from it's readers? I don't see how you should post something on the internet to generate ad revenue through visitors and expect them to love everything you do, that's childish. This car is also childish, they took a capable saloon and "stanced" it, yea.

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