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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.Cutting Room Floor