At the time this car was built, AMG was still an independent tuning company separate from Mercedes-Benz. This particular car was built by AMG North America in Westmont, IL, during an era when, infamously, “The only limitation on what could be done to your Mercedes-Benz was the size of your bank account.” It’s estimated that approximately 30 AMG Hammers were produced worldwide, with only 13 of those built for the North American market.
The AMG Hammer is truly a legendary car on its own, and the history and story behind this example only elevates the prominence. Andy Cohen of Beverly Hills Motoring reportedly sold the car to a gentleman who drove the car from Beverly Hills to Las Vegas on his first day of ownership. Upon arriving in Las Vegas, he was pulled over for speeding and the car was subsequently seized by the DEA after some illegal substances were found in the car.
The car was then purchased from a federal auction by former professional baseball player Rob Deer. He owned the car for two years before trading it to Symbolic International, where it was then sourced by the current seller on behalf of the next owner. The car was then reacquired by the seller in 2006 and stored until last year.
Finished in Black Pearl Metallic (199) over gray leather (278) interior, power is provided by an AMG-modified 6.0-liter DOHC 32-valve M117 V8 engine paired to a re-valved 4-speed automatic transmission from a W126. Other AMG modifications include a full AMG aero body kit, 17-inch AMG wheels, AMG springs, shocks, exhaust and much more.
The AMG gauge cluster shows only 19,417 original miles, and this AMG Hammer is being offered by the seller with original photographs documenting the car when new, partial service records, sheepskin seat covers, a clean Carfax report and a clean New Mexico title.
|Vehicle:||1988 Mercedes-Benz 300CE 6.0-L AMG Hammer Coupe|
|Number Produced:||13 known cars from AMG North America; an unknown number built in Germany and Japan, but no more than 100|
|Tune Up Cost:||$850|
|Chassis Number Location:||On right side of firewall in front of battery box (U.S. cars), or on radiator core support (ROW cars)|
|Engine Number Location:||Mercedes number on left side of engine block behind cylinder head on bellhousing, facing upward|
|Club Info:||Mercedes-Benz Club of America|
|Alternatives:||1987–96 RUF CTR Yellowbird, 1985–99 Bentley Turbo R, 1990–92 Lotus Carlton|
This car, Lot 1399, sold for $766,300, including buyer’s premium, on The MB Market on August 12, 2022.
I wrote about what might happen if a true AMG Hammer were to come to market in the January 2020 issue (German Profile, p. 72): “Due to their extreme rarity, we have not seen a public sale of a no-stories M117 4-cam Hammer coupe in the new, wild AMG market. When that day arrives, we can almost be certain that such a beast will define the upper end of this market.”
It has now come to pass — this is the definitive pre-merger AMG sale. The price here effectively takes the elusive Hammer from an expensive way to buy a fast and rare W124 to a blue-chip exotic within striking distance of a seven-figure valuation.
This was the first auction in 12 years where a real, driving, usable Hammer was offered. While a multitude of AMG products have recently sold through the big auction channels, this was all just a ramp up for a market that was foaming at the mouth for the ultimate pre-merger AMG car.
True and “almost” Hammers
In that previous profile, I joked that the Hammer is named after the tool used to build it. Indeed, the engines required so much additional work to make them fit in a W124 chassis that I can’t think of a better tool to get the job done. In actuality, the term was coined by a journalist who felt the car had the force of a hammer. Because the word doesn’t need to be translated into English from German, they decided to run with it.
A true Hammer must meet the following criteria:
- W124 platform (a 300E, 300D, 300CE, 300TE/TD or similar).
- Built by AMG or an authorized workshop prior to AMG’s acquisition by Daimler-Benz.
- Powered by the AMG quad-cam version of the Mercedes M117 V8. These engines started life as Mercedes M117.964, 965, 967 or 968, and were then bored, stroked and fitted with special AMG four-valve heads. The result generated something between 375 and 400 horsepower, although these numbers are likely understated.
A few W124s were converted to M119 power following the 1989 model year. These engines are just as powerful and more reliable, but a W124 with the M119 engine is not a true Hammer. It was one of these cars I was writing about (sold by RM Sotheby’s for $267k in October 2019) when I speculated that a real Hammer would set the world on fire.
Stuck in traffic
I spoke with Blakley Leonard, one of the founders of The MB Market, about his company’s unprecedented offering. The subject car was owned by two long-term caretakers since 1994 and has never been offered publicly. The MB Market had previously sold several rare pre-merger AMGs for respectable prices, so our subject car was a natural fit. This is one of the only online auction sites that specializes in one marque. Started by three Mercedes enthusiasts, the platform seeks to offer a more transparent experience, thanks to its focus on just Mercedes-Benz.
Right before the auction closed, the huge amount of traffic to the website prevented a number of bidders from placing final bids. This is a not-uncommon issue during high-interest sales, one that online auction sites have struggled with. Ultimately, The MB Market determined the winner here via a final sealed-bid sale. According to Blakley, this decision was agreed on by all participating bidders and the selling parties to be the most fair and efficient way to determine who got to buy the car.
It certainly worked out well for the sellers, as the winning bid came in at a full $100k over the highest online bid. The next-highest bid was no laughing matter either, about halfway in between the high online bid and the winning sealed bid.
The future market
While the auction was still live, our subject car was collecting multiple bids in the $450k–$550k range. This indicates that previous ideas about the market for these cars were light by at least $100k.
AMG-savant Jonathan Hodgman of Blue Ridge MB told me that based on the final sales price here, he believes authentic Hammers have now crossed the line from merely special-interest Mercedes models to full-blown exotic collectibles. Their peers are no longer 500Es and SL600s, but rare Ferraris, Paganis and Porsche 959s. A true, documented Hammer — even one built in the U.S. by AMG in Westmont, IL, such as our subject car — could potentially be a million-dollar car in the near future.
This is a complex prediction, as the number of these cars that exist is unknown. While 13 cars were built by AMG in the U.S. (and this includes sedans, wagons and coupes), AMG has never issued production numbers for German-built cars from Affalterbach. There are also an unknown number of Hammers that were built in Japan; that number could be anywhere between five and 100. One Japan-built Hammer recently sold in the low-$400k range, likely underperforming compared to our subject car because Japanese AMG cars tend to have unverifiable histories.
This Hammer is certainly a unicorn. Another one like it may not be offered again anytime soon, which is why it should be considered well bought, even at a market-defining price. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of The MB Market.)