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Monday 4th January 2010

PH Heroes: Mercedes 300 E AMG Hammer

Stuff a big V8 in a simple saloon body and what's not to like? Matt Rigby revisits an AMG classic


I'm sure Peter, Paul and Mary weren't thinking about a fast Mercedes when they sang 'If I Had a Hammer'. However, after having driven AMG's magnificent take on the W124-series Mercedes 300 E, nothing else I can think of better explains how this car makes you feel.

Put simply if I had a Hammer, of the AMG variety, I would most definitely hammer in the morning. I would, in fact, hammer in the evening and all over whatever land I happened to be in at the time.


Why such breathless excitement? Well, the AMG Hammer is the grandfather of the modern AMG super-saloon, the car that was there at the birth of a dynasty that would eventually give rise to a whole family of sporty Mercedes saloons.


The recipe that makes the Hammer so special is simple enough: give it a big engine, enough sparkly bits to set it apart from the crowd visually, and make it stop, go and steer like a supercar. It's a recipe that has been applied to almost every AMG-badged Merc since (and certainly all the better ones), but the Hammer was pretty much the first.

In the Hammer's case, the big motor was the 5.6-litre V8 from the big 560 SEC luxury coupe, onto which AMG grafted its own twin overhead cam, four-valve per cylinder set-up. Should you wish, the folks at AMG would also bore out the engine for you to 6.0 litres, creating a 375bhp monster of an engine with a phenomenal 407lb ft of torque.


The results were 0-60mph in five seconds flat, a top speed somewhere beyond 186mph and a 13.5sec quarter-mile run.

And, to ensure the W124 could cope with all that power, AMG dropped in a beefy four-speed auto from the S-class, a Torsen limited-slip differential, and popped in stiffer, lower suspension.

The undeniably 1980s styling tweaks also help that outlandish top speed. Not only did they make the AMG Hammer look impossibly hard in a shoulder-padded sort of way, but they also brought some proper aerodynamic benefits. Thanks to a flattish under-body design, a new front air dam and a ducktail-style rear wing, the hot Merc's drag coefficient was a scarcely believable 0.25 Cd.


But although the AMG Hammer was near as dammit as fast as a Lamborghini Countach, that pace came at a price. Back in 1986, a BMW M5 cost just over £30k. The AMG cost £50k, and that was in basic 5.6-litre guise. No official prices even exist for the 6.0-litre version, as far as we're aware.

Driving the Hammer is initially an exercise in remembering how far cars have developed over the past two decades. The gearbox feels ponderous, the steering a little woolly, and there's a surprising amount of lean as soon as you tackle a corner with any vigour.

Once the old girl gets going, though, and the sluggish gearbox allows the engine some room to breathe, your first impressions are rapidly adjusted. This is a fast car, even by modern standards. The bellowing V8 pushes the W124 along on a surging wave of mid-range torque, that doesn't relent even when you're well into three figures.


We only had a short while on a wet and windy Dunsfold aerodrome to play with the Hammer, but that did include a couple of goes along the runway. We only managed to see 145mph on the speedo, but that had more to do with standing water, a lack of confidence in brakes designed a quarter of a century ago, and a desire to preserve Mercedes' own museum piece for the sake of my wallet than it had to do with any lack of grunt. That fabled 186mph top speed is certainly believable.

Once you get used to the slightly fluffy steering and the body roll, the Hammer's chassis also proves to be a surprisingly grippy, faithful companion. It will even indulge in some benign tail sliding fun, provided you have a wet road surface and that the gearbox is willing to play ball.

History has not been kind to the Hammer, however. Perhaps it's because the styling, if we're being unkind, is a little gauche, or perhaps it's because the Porsche-fettled, super-subtle Mercedes 500E that came along a few years later rather stole its thunder. Either way, the AMG Hammer is a bit of a forgotten gem these days. Type '300E AMG Hammer' into Google if you want proof. That will yield just under 29,000 results. A search for '500E' will give you more than 4.5 million pages.

But it should be remembered that the AMG Hammer was the fastest, and it was first. And for that, as well as for being the sire of a whole family of outrageously fast Mercs, the Hammer fully deserves its place in the Pantheon of PH heroes.





Riggers
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Author Discussion

Puk

Original Poster:

125 posts

65 months

[news] 
Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
Love this car, brilliant !

Those were the times when Mercs were reliable and well made ...

LukeBird

17,082 posts

97 months

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Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
Awesome! thumbup

Good point regarding the 500E/E500 though... they look much more subtle... smile

Martin_Hx

2,486 posts

86 months

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Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
Want !

900T-R

19,554 posts

145 months

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Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
Love those two-piece wheels. Whatever advances there have been in the past 25 years, they don't really include road wheel design (witness the otherwise lush Aston V12 Vantage yuck and the new Mégane 250's 19-inchers hurl )...

omgus

6,578 posts

63 months

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Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
Want.

VROOOM VROOOOOOOOM drivingbiggrin
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Great Pretender

24,808 posts

102 months

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Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
Oh YES! clap

This is the car that gave me hope through all those years of double Maths.

Mini1275

10,650 posts

70 months

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Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
Great Pretender said:
Oh YES! clap

This is the car that gave me hope through all those years of double Maths.
Oh YES! indeed lick

Gridl0k

1,058 posts

71 months

[news] 
Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
Repeat after me: the number of pages Google finds for any given phrase bears no relation to the real world.

Hate this approach to "research", it's becoming more and more prevalent in the media but to anyone who understands even the basics of how Google works it's laughable.

If you wanted a more sensible approach try using Google Trends; at least this reflects human activity, not algorithms.

ETA - lovely car though, lucky people to get a go biggrin I'm going to hope you're not thinking of the C43 when you talk about "lesser AMGs" biggrin

Edited by Gridl0k on Monday 4th January 11:27


Edited by Gridl0k on Monday 4th January 11:28

GregE240

10,839 posts

155 months

[news] 
Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
Puk said:
Love this car, brilliant !

Those were the times when Mercs were reliable and well made ...
Most people know they still are, aside from a slight wobble in the late nineties for a few years.

Gridl0k

1,058 posts

71 months

[news] 
Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
You've obviously not bought a 220 or 250 CDI then - there must be over a thousand Mercs at the dealerships right now waiting for a resolution to the failing injector problem. I know of many customers who've been in Enterprise rentals for months.

Riggers

1,851 posts

66 months

[news] 
Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
Gridl0k said:
Repeat after me: the number of pages Google finds for any given phrase bears no relation to the real world.

If you wanted a more sensible approach try using Google Trends; at least this reflects human activity, not algorithms.
Fair point, but it wasn't actually 'research', more just a quick illustration. I promise to try to be more computer-literate in future! wink

Gridl0k

1,058 posts

71 months

[news] 
Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
Sorry, Mondayitis = overly critical reactions biggrin

Bugs me is all, for instance there's 1 million pages about "purple oranges" vs 3.5 million for "orange oranges" - but which is more popular?


GregE240

10,839 posts

155 months

[news] 
Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
Gridl0k said:
You've obviously not bought a 220 or 250 CDI then - there must be over a thousand Mercs at the dealerships right now waiting for a resolution to the failing injector problem. I know of many customers who've been in Enterprise rentals for months.
Its a diesel, so no, I'd rather walk.

Plus the injectors are made for Mercedes, its not the car per se. Its a recall being dealt with.

Gridl0k

1,058 posts

71 months

[news] 
Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
GregE240 said:
Gridl0k said:
You've obviously not bought a 220 or 250 CDI then - there must be over a thousand Mercs at the dealerships right now waiting for a resolution to the failing injector problem. I know of many customers who've been in Enterprise rentals for months.
Its a diesel, so no, I'd rather walk.

Plus the injectors are made for Mercedes, its not the car per se. Its a recall being dealt with.
"Sorry Sir, but as you can tell your Mercedes is amazingly reliable, it's just the injector parts that aren't. I trust we can count on you to remember the distinction whenever the issue of reliability comes up in public?"


d1d215

265 posts

63 months

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Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
looooveee it !!! yikes

Great Pretender

24,808 posts

102 months

[news] 
Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
Gridl0k said:
GregE240 said:
Gridl0k said:
You've obviously not bought a 220 or 250 CDI then - there must be over a thousand Mercs at the dealerships right now waiting for a resolution to the failing injector problem. I know of many customers who've been in Enterprise rentals for months.
Its a diesel, so no, I'd rather walk.

Plus the injectors are made for Mercedes, its not the car per se. Its a recall being dealt with.
"Sorry Sir, but as you can tell your Mercedes is amazingly reliable, it's just the injector parts that aren't. I trust we can count on you to remember the distinction whenever the issue of reliability comes up in public?"
Well I would argue that most people with an inclination of the rules of Supply Chain, would at least understand Mercedes' plight.

On the other hand, you could argue that Merc's procurement team deserve to be shot.

daveco

2,820 posts

95 months

[news] 
Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
Love it!

On a separate note why don't modern mags do comparative pieces of these cars with their newer siblings? Or head to heads with older cars? EVO and CAR would be excellent if they took some of the focus off slightly banal newer cars and onto these characterful beasts.


Gridl0k

1,058 posts

71 months

[news] 
Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
Great Pretender said:
Well I would argue that most people with an inclination of the rules of Supply Chain, would at least understand Mercedes' plight.

On the other hand, you could argue that Merc's procurement team deserve to be shot.
Their QC team certainly does, judging by the failure rates.

Fact is that today's Merc is built to a price that's way lower, relatively, than those of the 70s and 80s. My friend's W203 C320 is obviously more modern than my W202 but you don't have to poke around the cars too long to see which is slightly over-engineered and which went through several rounds of Bean Counting.

Gridl0k

1,058 posts

71 months

[news] 
Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
EVO has a long history of doing exactly that sort of comparison.

288GTO vs F40 vs F50 vs Enzo comes to mind (pretty memorable..)

Ecurie Ecosse

4,551 posts

106 months

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Monday 4th January 2010 quote quote all
d1d215 said:
looooveee it !!! yikes
+1. One of my all time favourites.

One of the all time great car names too.
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