Hans-Werner Aufrecht – the Engineer and Visionary “Who is the A in AMG”
The AMG story began with Hans-Werner Aufrecht. Hans was born on December 28, 1938 in Großaspach, Germany. As a young boy Hans was thrilled by the Mercedes victories in several landmark races. The Carrera Panamericana was the world’s toughest road race at the time and in 1952. It was won by racing prototypes of the now legendary Mercedes-Benz 300 SL.
Two years later when Hans was just 14 years old, the Mercedes-Benz W 196 R, known as the “Silver Arrow” cars won first and second place positions in 1954 at the French Grand Prix. During this period in car racing history, Mercedes-Benz engine power was increasing at an exponential rate. This exciting trend caught the attention of everyone in the racing world and sparked the young Hans’ enthusiasm as well. He was inspired by the reports of such powerful racing machines, and it ultimately sparked his dream to work for Daimler-Benz to build racing engines.
After college Hans landed his dream job and was hired on to work at Daimler. One can only imagine his excitement on landing a job to work behind the scenes in racing back in the early 1960’s. He was a dynamometer engineer in the testing department of the racing team. He quickly became reknown as “the performance man” for his engineering work on the team’s racing engines. During those days the company performed extensive tour car racing in Europe and South America.
Hans -Werner Aufrecht later on met and worked with Erhard Melcher at the Daimler-Benz Development department on the 300 SE racing engine. At first, as they both admit, frankly the two didn’t really hit it off. Melcher, a fresh “know it all” engineer from Rhineland left a note in test bench data logs about whether there should be measurements with a fan or without a fan to Hans-Werner Aufrecht. Hans thought that of course the measurements should be without the fan. Melcher, was a bit of annoyed by Aufrecht’s matter of fact attitude, and started to send notes about how he should personally check the timing on all of the 6 cylinder engines. Fortunately the two settled their minor differences and both began to work on engines of their own after work at night. Little did they know that later went on they would create AMG history together.
Erhard Melcher tuning and engine
At the start of the racing season for 1965, in the world of sport racing factory teams were only allowed to enter race cars from small batches of production series road cars. The board of Daimler-Benz in turn made a business decision to discontinue it’s racing activities. The reason being they just couldn’t see much future for small series sedans with racing stripes. One can just imagine the day the Daimler-Benz racing engineers and team got the news from upper management. This must of felt like an epic disaster to Hans as afterall he had just started his dream job with the company only a few years prior.
Sometimes change is good if one looks for opportunity. Hans did just that. Han’s intense passion to work on building racing engines still burned brightly. Operating in seclusion he focused on his mission. He bought a Mercedes-Benz 300SE with Manfred Schiek, a close colleague and race car driver from the Mercedes racing division. In an old mill in Burgstall An Der Murr, about 20 miles northeast of Stuttgart, he set about working on the car clearing it of it’s chrome trim and building a true race car out of it.
Only one thing stood in this way, but it was something that had to be overcome. The standard production 170 HP engine just wasn’t strong enough to make it with competitive car racing. The problem was that once an engine pushed past 7,000 rpm there was an inherent risk to the engine’s stability. Aufrecht knew that Erhard Melcher was not only a genius, but had extensive experience in pushing performance out of his older brother’s championship racing motorcycles. He knew he would be successful with his help, and he sought out Melcher’s advice.
Melcher hard at work tuning Mercedes performance engines
Aufrecht’s basement where they worked on the direct fuel injection system.
Aufrecht presented Melcher with the technical challenge and Melcher quickly found a rather ingenious solution. He installed a high performance fuel injection system from a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing and managed to squeeze 238 HP at 7,200 rpm out of it on the test bench. The engine indeed held up, and was confirmed by a secret test run by European rally champion Eugen Bohringer.
Aufrecht and Melcher prepared the very same Mercedes 300 SE that they had been working on in the barn to join the German racing championship in 1965. Once the car was nearly ready to go the two confessed their secret. They opened up to Rudolf Uhlenhaut who was the Daimler-Benz board member for development at the time. Mr. Uhlenhaut rendered a quick decision for the two. If the car turned out to be as fantastic as they said, Aufrecht and Melcher would be allowed to run it in competition but, if not, they would be shown the door and asked to leave the company post haste.
Melcher holding AMG’s first 4 valve V8 engine
Fortunately for the men and AMG fans everywhere, the car passed the test. That very same Mercedes 300 SE 6.8 that was tuned in Aufrecht’s old mill barn went on to win 10 rounds in the 1965 German Touring Car Championship. At the wheel, was the legendary race car driver Manfred Schiek. The very same driver who helped Aufrecht purchase the car in the beginning. Manfred was an intense racing crowd favorite and aggressive driving champion. He had six wins in eight races and in 1965 tied with Gerhard Bodmer, the German circuit racing champion. (He was awarded the championship posthumously after a tragic accident near Prague later that year.)
The old mill that Hans-Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher worked in to tune the Mercedes-Benz 300SE MG in the town of Burgstall, Germany
In 1966, Aufrecht and Melcher continued to focus their hard won racing technical expertise. They set out working on tuning road vehicles inside Aufrecht’s garage. Members of the Daimler-Benz racing team who loved speed and performance as part of their jobs, would take their regular street cars in to be optimized by the duo. They outfitted four or five Mercedes-Benz SEs with direct fuel injection with extraordinary results. After the wins of 1965 and word got out that the pair were tuning ordinary cars the orders came flooding in. Regular owners of 220 SEs and 250SEs were starting to make the trek out to the barn and old mill to have tune ups performed.
Melcher pointing out his AMG sign
In 1967 the two officially described themselves as “engineering, design and testing specialists in the development of racing engines”. Their previous successes built up enough business that they felt confident to give up their jobs at Mercedes. They formed their own racing engine company. “Aufrecht Melcher Großaspach Ingenieurbüro, Konstruktion und Versuch zur Entwicklung von Rennmotoren” (“Aufrecht Melcher Großaspach engineering firm, design and testing for the development of racing engines”) or also called AMG Motorenbau und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH. Fortunately for the rest of us who don’t speak German very well, the name was shortened to AMG. The letters stand for: Aufrecht Melcher Großaspach. Großaspach was the town where Hans-Werner Aufrecht grew up in.
In 1968, the Stroke-8 gave them their first real breakthrough and customer orders began to double from year to year. When they entered their first AMG in a 24 hour race at Spa Francorchamps in 1971 they won 2nd place with the “Red Giant” a four-door sedan piloted by Hans Heyer and Clemens Schickentanz. The car ran at 428 HP and a top speed of 265 km per hour. On the very same day a TV new program had a report on the AMG 300 SEL 6.8. It seemed overnight the name AMG became a world wide sensation with newspapers as far as China reporting about the cars.
The first real success for AMG came in 1971 at the 24 Hours of Spa where the AMG powered Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 won in its class and came home in second place overall. And with that result, the AMG name spread throughout the automotive world. The company then continued to grow throughout the 70’s and 80’s and in 1990, it signed a cooperation agreement with Daimler-Benz AG in 1990. Three years later, the first jointly developed car between the two was released with the Mercedes-Benz C36 AMG and in the same year, the Patent Office officially recognised the AMG trademark.
Since then, AMG and Mercedes-Benz have continued to collaborate on both racing cars and road cars and GTspirit was recently able to take an exclusive tour through the AMG engine production facility located in Affalterbach, Germany.