Tom Wood ©2019, courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
Among AMG’s pre-merger hierarchy, the 300CE 6.0 AMG “Hammer” is considered by many to be one of the most desirable models. First registered in Japan in November of 1995, according to the accompanying Japanese Export Certificate, the car remained there until 2014, when it was purchased and exported to Europe. At this time the car was noted as having 75,100 km (46,6664 miles) on the odometer and was wearing white paintwork. After leaving Japan, the car was shipped to the Netherlands, where it was repainted black. It was purchased by the current owner in October of 2017 and refinished in black. Currently showing just under 77,500 km (45,764 miles) on its odometer, the car presents very well throughout and it would surely be a wonderful addition to any collection of AMG-modified Mercedes-Benzes.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1992 Mercedes-Benz 300CE 6.0 AMG
Years Produced:1986–93 (AMG conversions occurred after production ended)
Number Produced:Fewer than 10 wide-body coupes with M119 engines
Original List Price:$168,000
SCM Valuation:$266,388 (this car)
Tune Up Cost:$704 for the M119 engine
Distributor Caps:$236 for a genuine Mercedes part. Two are required
Chassis Number Location:On radiator support
Engine Number Location:Behind left cylinder head on bellhousing on upwards-facing pad
Club Info:Mercedes Benz Club of America
Alternatives:1990–99 BMW E31, 1979–95 Porsche 928, 1989–2000 Aston Martin Virage
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 157, sold for $266,954, including buyer’s premium, during RM Sotheby’s sale of part of the Youngtimer Collection in London, U.K., on October 24, 2019.

A real AMG, but not exactly a Hammer

AMG modified this 1992 300CE with a hot-rodded AMG engine, but there’s one small problem: The engine used was an M119, not an M117.

For an AMG to be a “Hammer,” it must meet the following standards:

It has to be a W124 — check.

It has to be built by AMG or a business authorized to build AMG-Mercedes — check.

It has to have the M117 4-cam V8 engine. Whoops!

Our subject car gets its power from an M119.960 engine, which, apart from the displacement increase and some breathing modifications, is mostly a Mercedes engine.

Much like the unique inner structure and wood density produce the beautiful sounds of a Stradivarius violin, the Hammer is defined by the unique, masculine, 4-cam M117 engine. This engine, which was heavily discussed in the May 2019 issue of SCM (Next Gen Profile, p. 86), was AMG’s solution to getting more power out of the existing M117 engine block. While it was fragile, expensive and needs a lot of maintenance, it is the ultimate AMG engine.

The M119 — Mercedes’ copycat engine

AMG had proved something with their M117 4-cam experiment. It was possible to add twin-cam heads to the existing M117 engine.

With the lessons learned from AMG and the 190E 16-valve, Mercedes designed two twin-cam engines of their own: the 6-cylinder M104 and the V8 M119. Both were based on existing designs, the M103 and the M117.

Introduced in 1990, the M119 engine offered a reliable, tunable and dimensionally similar power unit that did not leak copious amounts of oil and blow head gaskets.

This version, the M119.960, was used only in the 1990–92 500SL. It developed 322 hp right out of the box, and with a displacement increase, it reached a comparable 375 hp.

According to Mercedes AMG guru Jonathan Hodgman, AMG also created their version of the M119 — the 117/119 “hybrid.” This was mostly an M119, but it has the front timing cover and multiple-belt drive of an M117. Usually installed as a performance option in late 1990 and 1991 W126 coupes and sedans, it shows just how similar the two engines were.

Also, between 1990 and ’92, Mercedes continued to use the excellent and relatively analog KE-Jetronic injection system. Mercedes then went to the unexciting and electrically unfortunate HFM-SFI system, which is known for its awful wiring harnesses. Regardless, when the M119 showed up, it was essentially the end of the M117 4-cam era.

Named for the tool used to make it

The Hammer was extensively re-engineered to fit the V8 engine, regardless of which V8 was used. Both Hodgman and Hartmut Feyhl, an ex-AMG employee and owner of RENNtech Inc., have stated that the body shells were extensively re-engineered, including a total redesign of the subframe to carry a W126 differential, as well as extensive “reshaping” of the transmission tunnel and firewall, using items of blunt force, to make space for the beefier driveline.

A real Hammer is not just a W124 with a V8 transplant. Extensive suspension, cosmetic and structural changes had to be made. With our subject car, we cannot be sure how much was done, since no undercarriage photos are present, but this wide-body 300CE meets the visual standards of an Affalterbach Swine.

Hammer market records shattered

In March 2016, our subject car was offered at Auto Leitner in Alkmaar, Netherlands, for about $165,000.

Since being advertised, it has not shown a significant increase in mileage, indicating that whoever purchased it suspected these cars were on the rise and may have identified an opportunity in the market.

This could be compared to a 300CE Hammer that Barrett-Jackson sold in 2010 for a paltry $36,300.

In September 2016, Classic Driver in Philadelphia, PA, sold a 6-liter M119-powered sedan for $75,000.

A real Hammer sedan sold for $84,000 at RM Sotheby’s Duemila Ruote sale in November 2016. While the prices are similar, consider that the Duemila car was sitting for an unknown amount of time, with no maintenance, and was in unknown mechanical condition.

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.

AMG hot rods on the rise

Much like the 560SEC featured in the May 2019 issue of SCM, our subject car appreciated dramatically in a short period of time.

Observations of the winning bidder during the auction described the purchase attempt as “relentless.”

Perhaps because of the M119 engine, this car appears to be well sold, but this could work the other way around for a person who wants a reliable AMG hot rod.

The fact this car has been painted several times may have also held it back, but most buyers seem to prefer this type of pig with a shiny black coat.

Eventually Mercedes did get the message, and in 1992, released the 400E and the 500E. Thankfully, anyone can enjoy the thrill of the M119 engine and the W124 chassis, but if you want a coupe with this combination, you’re going to have to pay up.

Regardless of its power unit, this 300CE 6.0 is a rare, fast and reliable car, and it deserves its lofty throne in the new market for pre-merger AMG Mercedes. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)

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