As with so many business ventures that go on to be wildly successful, it’s AMG’s earliest and least numerous creations that are the most sought-after among collectors. And boy, is this one a peach. Possibly.
Lot number 297 at RM Sotheby’s auctioneers’ upcoming sale in Essen, Germany, is a V8-powered W123 Mercedes-Benz that comes packed with intrigue. Its early history isn’t known, but according to the auctioneers it’s supposed to be one of just two ever made, along with two equivalent saloons and one coupe. It comes from the ‘Youngtimer Collection,’ just like the Koenig wide-body Porsche 928 we featured earlier this week.
AMG, then a totally independent company, was effectively dabbling with Mercedes engine swaps at the time. It offered a crazy conversion for the W123, slotting a 5.0-litre V8 into its spacious engine bay and upgrading a few chassis and interior parts. This 1979 car could – could – be one of those illustrious official AMG builds.
The M117 V8 at its nose boasts a host of original parts that were clearly custom-designed for the W123 estate’s engine bay. There are period-correct and date-stamped Recaro leather seats trimmed in the same finish as the door cards, a full and proper AMG body kit, a ‘taxi’ upper console that could hold additional gauges and a number of other signs typically seen in an early AMG conversion. It all seems legit, but there’s just no piece of paper to make it all authentic.
Another thing enhancing the feeling that this car could well be one of the missing 500 TEs built by AMG is the fact that Mercedes itself has looked into the car’s engine number and found that it was never assigned to a specific chassis. That means it hasn’t been swapped from a factory Benz, and may have been bought as a crate engine before being hooked up to a four-speed automatic gearbox. In the car’s listing, RM Sotheby’s writes that:
“The sum of these parts suggests the car was built in period by either AMG in the United States, or by someone who had intimate knowledge of Mercedes-Benz and AMG products at a time when few people would have had such knowledge outside AMG. However, there is no conclusive proof or documentation to support this.”
It’s said to have had a cosmetic refresh courtesy of its Californian owner in 2013 before being used by Top Gear America in a 2017 episode celebrating 50 years of AMG. Now it’s coming home to Germany to be sold on.
The pre-auction estimate rests at €60,000-€70,000 (£51,700-£60,300), which seems reasonable given what the car might (or might not) be, plus its 118,000-mile odometer reading. It will pass beneath the auctioneer’s hammer during the 11-12 April auction at Messe Essen, as part of the Techno-Classica show. Commence wanting.