These days you’d be lucky to get your hands on one of Mercedes-AMG’s hardcore Black Series cars. There’s only been six different models, all of which are exceedingly rare and revered equally by collectors and serious enthusiasts alike; but it wasn’t always this way.
The origins of the Black Series date back to the ‘00s, before the Great Recession, to a time when AMG was on a mission to refocus the brand and reinforce its racing credentials.
“The history of AMG is based on motorsports,” said Joerg Letzel, product manager of the newest Black Series model. “In 1967, the founders [of AMG] Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher had the vision to build vehicles based on Mercedes cars with such enormous power that they could also be used in motorsports.”
The Black Series was originally one of three lines produced in AMG’s exclusive Performance Studio, alongside the “Signature Series” and “Edition.” The idea behind the Black Series, Letzel continued, was to create a more direct link between AMGs racecars and its street-legal machines. In other words, these were to be racecars for the road. Sounds like a slam dunk right? Well, not exactly; the first Black Series was met with limited sales.
Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG Coupé Black Series
Powertrain: Handcrafted AMG 5.5-liter V8 with 400 hp, 383 lb-ft torque
Availability: 2006-2007, only 120 units produced. (Not available in U.S./Canadian markets)
That’s right, only 120 examples of the first Black Series were ever made. Perhaps it was the price that put buyers off; it cost €107,300 in Germany. Or, perhaps it was the fact it was based on the smallest, softest cabriolet in Mercedes’ lineup. (The brass decided not to even sell it in America.) Nevertheless, it’s the first Black Series, and the limited numbers only make it more valuable these days. The amount of work it took to turn the regular AMG into a Black Series model was staggering. The engineers ditched the folding hardtop and installed a fixed carbon-fibre roof, strengthened the chassis, fitted manually-adjustable suspension and bigger brakes.
Mercedes-Benz CLK 63 AMG Coupé Black Series
Powertrain: Handcrafted AMG 6.2-liter V8 with 500 hp, 465 lb-ft torque
Availability: 2008, 700 units produced globally
Okay, this is more like it. Thankfully, someone at Mercedes saw the potential of the AMG Black Series and green-lit a second model based on the compact C-Class coupe. The CLK 63 Black looked like one of AMG’s DTM racecars with its wild fender flares and carbon-fibre vents jutting out ahead of the front wheels. Under the hood is one of the all-time-great engines: the M156. The 6.2-litre unit was AMG’s last, massive naturally-aspirated V8 before the downsized, twin-turbo V8s took over. When this engine fired up, you took notice. As the revs increased, its deep rumble became a hard-edged metallic bark that is absolutely addictive.
Mercedes-Benz SL 65 AMG Coupé Black Series
Powertrain: Handcrafted AMG 6.0-liter V12 biturbo with 661 hp, 738 lb-ft torque
Availability: 2009, 350 units produced globally
Each Black Series had been more extreme than its predecessor, until this one. It was brand’s arguably the high-water mark. The SL was originally intended a luxurious, two-door transcontinental cruiser, but AMG turned it into a monster. Well, actually, HWA deserves the credit. Named after one of AMG’s founders, Hans Werner Aufrecht, HWA was spun off from AMG to make racecars and racing engines. But, they also made the 36-valve 6.0-litre 12-cylinder motor slotted under the hood of the SL 65 Black. To cope with the immense power and torque, the body and track were widened and a fixed roof replaced the folding one. These are very special indeed. If you want one today, it’ll set you back around US$400,000.
Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG Coupé Black Series
Powertrain: Handcrafted AMG 6.2-liter V8 with 510 hp, 457 lb-ft torque
Availability: 2013, 800 produced globally
The press launch took place at Laguna Seca, an intimidating high-speed track with its infamous corkscrew corner: a blind crest into a three-story drop. (It feels like driving over a cliff.) However, the C 63 Black Series was so sweetly tuned it turned this treacherous track into a playground. The car was ridiculously fun, with a reassuring front-end and a biddable chassis that could be easily steered on the throttle. (The motor’s linear power delivery plus its massive wave of torque helped, too.) The now-familiar M156 engine ripped up through the rev range, making that quintessential high-displacement AMG grow/howl. To this day, the C 63 Black Series remains one of the all-time best cars SHARP has ever tested.
2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Coupé Black Series
Performance: Handcrafted AMG 6.2-liter V8 with 622 hp, 468 lb-ft torque
Availability: 2014, over 300 built, 200 imported to the U.S.
Ah yes, the Gullwing. The doors open vertically, which looks baller, but meant getting into the driver’s seat required a quick succession of tricky contortions. Once you were in though, it was worth it. Under the hood was the last and greatest iteration of the M156, here dubbed M159 because of its dry-sump lubrication system. (The 159 actually lived on, powering AMG’s GT racing cars for years.) This engine would spin to 8,000 rpm and sing through a titanium exhaust. The SLS Black Series was a fitting send-off for a legendary motor.
Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series
Powertrain: Handcrafted AMG 4.0-litre V8 biturbo with 730 hp, 590 lb-ft torque
Availability: 2021, just over 1,700 units produced globally
It took AMG nearly 10 years to follow-up the SLS, but the wait was worth it. The nimble, compact AMG GT is an incredible sports car in its own right, ideal for weekend blasts up your favourite Alpine pass. The Black Series, however, seems to have been built only for diehard track rats. The adjustable front diffuser and huge wing make real downforce, and the chassis is supported by exotic coilover adaptive suspension. Oh, and under the hood is AMG’s most powerful V8. The price? Roughly $380,000. And, sorry, they’re all sold out. We don’t know how AMG will top this for the next Black Series, but we’re very much looking forward to finding out.