Wait? There's a Canberra AMG Car Club?
If there's a car then, in all likelihood, there's a club for it. Why, only last week I discovered there are clubs for the Prius. So on this fine, Canberra winter's day, I found myself invited to Canberra's AMG Club, hosted on the grounds of Mercedes Benz Canberra, and the juxtaposition could not be more pronounced. Here, lined beneath clear skies, stood a stable of Mercedes Benz AMGs with a boggling array of horsepower and fuel consumption.
I arrived in my own hybrid, much to the amusement of some, and slinked around the back to park out of sight. But the welcome was warm and soon I found myself mingling with a number of AMG owners discussing their cars. The dealership had a bacon and egg sizzle going and, considering I missed out on my “democracy dog” the previous election day, I ate with gusto as I wandered and admired the magnificent machines.
A thank you to the AMG Club and Dan Clements, who invited me, plus Mercedes Benz Canberra, who hosted the event. All photographs have been graciously provided by Dan Clements of the AMG Club except where marked.
We car people often like to think of ourselves as “general specialists” -- sort of an automotive Swiss army knife of car knowledge -- whereas the closer truth is we (perhaps this should read, "I") tend to know more about those marques that pique our interest while things get somewhat vaguer once the topic strays from ones core interests. That means while I'm keenly interested in the German marques per se, that interest focuses more on BMW and Porsche and less so on Audi/VW or Mercedes.
Meaning I can recognise AMG cars and even tell the difference between some; but that deeper, inner knowledge where one knows engines by their number as well particular quirks... that's not in my domain.
Luckily, this day I was surrounded by experts whose domain it was in and I managed to corner one Dan Clements, the owner of an E63 wagon, in order to plumb his knowledge.
Here’s that exchange…
Interview with Dan Clements of the Canberra AMG Club
Hi Dan – thank you for inviting me. Do you mind if I ask a few questions?
[munches bacon and egg roll, but I detect a nod!]
When was the club formed and what was the inspiration?
The club started around 2 years ago as a social car club for AMG owners who liked to get out on the open road. We undertook a re-branding last year to make it more of an AMG first type association to attract all types of owners, from "show-ers" to "go-ers".
What's the relationship of the AMG Club to the MB Club?
There isn't one. We've found the MB club members don't really have the same DNA as the AMG club members and it was a better fit to try and find our own direction.
Is An AMG is the main criterion for membership?
The main rule is you must be an owner of an AMG vehicle. Also, being from the surrounding ACT region helps as it's always great to drive the car and hear a *beep* from a fellow member who recognises you.
What if someone has the AMG-line or AMG package?
The AMG-line or AMG package vehicles don't apply. Initially, I wanted to align with the ethos of "one man: one engine" -- as per AMG -- and use that as our rules for entry. However, with the explosion in popularity of AMGs and the fact they offer AMG models that don't fall into this category... well, we didn't want to close the door on these people simply because their engine wasn't assembled in Affalterbach.
I saw some rare cars - what are the real unicorns in the club?
The real unicorns are the SL65, with the hardtop convertible with the twin turbo 6.0L V12, a C32 AMG with the 3.2L supercharged (Kompressor) V6 and the E63 Estate with the twin turbo 5.5L V8. These are only available in Australia in small numbers. Other notable inclusions are the CLS55 with the 5.4L supercharged (Kompressor) V8 and a previous member had a G55 wagon with the same engine.
Do you have regular events, like track days
I try to organise regular catch ups, whether it be for a coffee or beer around Canberra, or a day out on the back roads. We're scheduled to hit the skid pan next month to get loose and dirty. 7 AMGs going sideways will be a real hoot. Track days are something I have considered, although there's always the danger of not knowing who else you're sharing the track with on the day. A lot of our members are low risk owners and would rather hit the B roads on the weekend than find themselves rubbing bumpers with other drivers who, perhaps, aren't so careful with their cars.
Has anyone tried to join with a "faux" AMG and, if so, what happened?
[laughs] Yes, we’ve had a few people reach out and attempt to join with cars like an A250 or a C300 -- usually under the pretence of "I'd like to get to know what the cars are like before I upgrade" or "one day I'd really like to own one". I’m afraid it's not personal when I have to say “no, sorry”. The idea is we try to make our members feel like they're part of a group that truly can really appreciate what they have.
Can anyone buying an AMG, particularly a 2nd hand one, contact the club?
Absolutely! I'd say a higher percentage of our owners are in second hand AMGs. We all know that the cost of entry into this arena can be eye watering for the regular person. Most of the "things to look out for" or "known issues" with particular models become part of general knowledge with car clubs. Leaning on that can be super helpful when making a purchase.
What advice do you have for anyone buying an AMG -- such as the E63?
What a coincidence. *I* happen to own an E63. The larger cars are more my thing. As far as the E class is concerned, knowing the changes that have occurred over the life of the model helps to identity why these changes were made. The M156 6.2L motor in the early E class models had known issues with headbolts, cam adjustors and injectors. These were mostly ironed out towards the end of the engine's life, but knowing where your motor lives in the production lifecycle can set your mind at ease when it comes to laying down your hard earned.
The M157 motor that I own runs particularly hot. Additional cooling for the intercooler was included in later models to overcome this. Timing chain stretch and additional oiler valves for the intake cams also appears to be a concern with early engines. This becomes more of a worry when you start upping the boost in the car. Upgraded timing chains AND TENSIONERS came into effect on later models, as did the newer valves to protect the intake cams.
These can be done later, but it's a particularly expensive operation... I was quoted a minimum of 12 hours labour at approx. $250p.h. Then, a known forum user happened to stretch his timing chain on an early M157 release IN A CLS63 and bent an entire bank of valves when the pistons came up out of sync. A top end rebuild is an even more expensive repair.
Engines aside, there are common issues across ranges with things like "chirping blower motors" or "funky smelling air vents" that many of us are aware of and know how to deal with without a trip to a dealer.
What ups and downs have you had with your E63 wagon? Are they rare
There are about 5 E63 wagons in the country; some are the M156 motor and some are the M157 motor. Early in the ownership I replaced the rear struts and had a transmission leak. While not exactly cheap to remediate, it didn't deter me too much. I've since had the car tuned for higher performance.
Following this, I've had an O2 sensor cook and die plus a faulty transmission conductor plate which required refurbishment. Also, one needds to take into account regular running costs of consumables; brakes, rotors, tyres, filters. For me, it's been a good ownership experience thus far, despite the cost. The ups far outweigh the downs; I've never been left stranded and it always brings a smile to my face when I drive it.
Being able to bring my wife and two photographers back from a recent day out, with camera equipment in the back plus more than enough leg room in the rear AND able to overtake easily on the Kings Highway cemented my love for the car.
If someone should wish to join the AMG Club, who should they contact?
www.amgclubact.com.au is the first place to start. We also have an Instagram account (@amg.club.act) and a Facebook group (www.facebook.com/groups/amg.club.act). I don't harvest email addresses and sign you up to SPAM. It's all very informal and friendly.
Post Interview Musings..
As the morning aged soon the engines fired up ready for a country drive. Their roar reminded me of my own V8 M car and disquieting thoughts came to mind. Doug DeMuro, an automotive YouTuber and journalist, observed that we are coming out of an automotive renaissance, where the balance between power, safety and driving pleasure may have peaked. How much longer will magnificent machines, like these AMGs… or M cars… or other be designed, driven and enjoyed? Probably throughout my lifetime, I suspect. But my children and their children will see the complete transition from petrol to hybrid to electric; and from people driving to being driven by computers…
I stopped chewing my second egg and bacon roll.
Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night
At the start of the article I spoke about the Prius since, in their lithium hearts, they represent a future that has no room for the pure petrol motor. The fossil fuel engines, turbo charged or otherwise, are becoming the dinosaurs they consume; and this means these wonderful AMG chariots -- and their equivalents from Ferrari to the Ford Mustang -- are becoming sepia coloured memories. It is a disquieting feeling as the history page turns and eras end...
... but judging by the raging exhausts the V8s made as they came and went in the morning light; they will *not* go gentle into that good night.