The Good Oil: the story of the Red Sow
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Mercedes-AMG makes a lot of very high performance machines that are based on luxury family cars (like this week’s cover model, the GLC 63 S SUV). That sounds a bit weird, but if you know your AMG history it’s perfectly on brand.
AMG was founded by former Mercedes-Benz engineers Hans Werner Aufrecht (that’s the “A”) and Erhard Melcher (“M”) as an independent tuning company. The “G” is Grobaspach, Aufrecht’s place of birth.
AMG really made a name for itself when a customer asked it to prepare a 300SEL 6.3 for the 1971 Spa Francorchamps 24-Hour race. The SEL was a very fast luxury sedan for the time, but it wasn’t exactly a racing car. AMG increased capacity and power, with over 310kW from the now-6.8-litre V8. Tracks were wider, with the wheels sitting under flared guards.
But it also shed weight, with aluminium replacing steel panels.
The car was quickly nicknamed “die Route Sau” (the Red Sow) because it looked so ungainly among the small, light competitor cars. But it stormed through the race and finished second behind a factory Ford Capri RS2600.
That was really the start of Merc’s modern era of racing, because it had withdrawn from racing completely when AMG emerged. It’s a direct line from a scrappy red sedan to the Three Pointed Star’s complete dominance of Formula 1 today – consecutive Driver and Constructor Championships from 2014-19.
The Red Sow was sold off to Matra, which used it to test aircraft tyres by dropping it through the bottom of planes. So it went hard until the end.
But it does survive in a way. When Mercedes-Benz acquired 100 per cent of AMG in 2005, it built a replica from the original plans. And then a second, because it was in such demand.