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Mercedes-AMG Hammer Wagons – and why not?

25 Jan


Don’t ask me why, but I have always had a thing for fast estate cars. Couldn’t explain it to you. Perhaps it’s a latent love for Rickard Rydell honing about in the British Touring Car Championship in a Volvo 850 estate. Or hearing the V6 burble of the Audi RS4 the guy at the end of our road used to own. I actually think that, to explore the real reason that I love fast estate cars, you have to look at my penchant, as a boy, for Swiss Army knives. Here was something which fitted in your hand and was convenient to carry around, but could replicate the experience of owning a saw, or a pen, or a knife, or a magnifying glass. By replicate, I really mean ‘do an impression of’. Because if someone presented me with a piece of wood and said ‘OK pal, you have to cut this and you could either use a real saw or spend the next 7 months of your life eroding the wood away with the saw in this Swiss Army knife,’ I know which one I’d pick. It’s the saw, by the way.

My first crush, Rickard Rydell

Now those of you whose brains aren’t entirely starved of oxygen should be able to make this analogical leap with me. If someone gave you a racetrack and said ‘OK pal, you can either go around it in a Lotus Exige or a BMW M5 Touring’, you’d probably take the Exige, because its entire raison d’etre, if I might be so pretentious, is to go around a racetrack, just as the saw’s job is to saw through wood. BUT! If I was dropped in a forest somewhere and was only given a saw, I’d think longingly about that Swiss Army knife with all of its flawed features all snugly collapsed into its red body. And similarly, were I to be told that I was only allowed to own one car ever again and found myself owning a Lotus Exige and trying to fit my hypothetical future wife and two small children into it, I think that I’d rather begin to miss that M5 Touring.

A Swiss Army knife, earlier today

And this is what’s so great about fast estates. They’re the only car you’re ever going to need in the real world. You can go down to Homebase and buy some curtain rods and on the way home you can outdrag a Ferrari and totally remasculate yourself! No, they’re not as sharp as a sports car around a track, and they’re almost certainly not as economical as a Nissan Micra on the road, but if you’ve only got space for one car in your garage and you’re a petrolhead, a fast estate should win out every time.

So anyway, that long preamble is by way of discussing the daddy of powerful estates and the subject for today’s little monograph: the Mercedes-AMG ‘Hammer Wagon’. Now for starters, if you’re going to drive around in something, it may as well be called a Hammer Wagon, right? Right.  And the Hammer aspect does accord with the engineering principles behind earlier AMGs, namely stick a very large, very powerful engine in the car and then….sell it. In the case of the original Hammer Wagon, AMG started with a W124 E-Class chassis, into which they dropped a 5.6l 360bhp V8. Yes, it may have had the cornering ability of a train, but it packed a hell of a punch when it was released in 1986. It would pack a hell of a punch now….although you rather feel that a modern engine tuner could extract more power out of a 5.6l engine. And because it was a Mercedes estate, you could have two people in the front seats, three in the middle and ANOTHER two on the weird, flip up, probably now illegal bench in the boot. And then you and these six other people could travel at 186mph down the autobahn. Wunderbar!

Homoerotic Hammer saloon

But why should I mention the Hammer Wagon at all? Well, for one, because I like educating you all out there, dear Readers, about these fabulous cars. But also, I’ve recently written a couple of articles for a BMW modifying magazine and, reading the publication that my articles appeared in, have had the hitherto largely unknown world of car modification illuminated to me. I think I had rather written off car modification as the preserve of sex-starved adolescents from some of the England’s lesser-known counties. But it can be done with taste and with discretion. And this has got Carficionado’s little grey cells ticking. Could I buy a W124 estate and turn it into my own Hammer Wagon? There must be thousands of boggo W124s out there, and no shortage of written-off cars just waiting to have the V8’s scraped out of them. Mercedes themselves are famed for their collection of spare parts for their old models, so sourcing them wouldn’t be a problem. Then just buy some tasteful AMG bodykit and wheels (tasteful, mind), upgrade the suspension, and there you have it: a Hammer Wagon! And then you could drive it around and feel like an 80s banker, or murderer, or something. I can only see two flaws in my plan. One of them is money. The other is that there are bonobos with a greater flair for engineering and mechanics than me. Maybe it will just be a little pipe dream then <sigh>. Either way, ladies and gentlemen, doff your caps if you will to the Mercedes-AMG Hammer Wagon.

R is for Rehabilitation

27 Nov

Shall I make myself a bit of an outsider in the car world? More so than I am already, poring over my posts on a lonely laptop, unpaid, unloved….

Oh alright then. I quite like the Mercedes R-Class. There you go, I said it. This has been gnawing away at me for a few months now. It gets nothing but stick from the car industry, who call it cynical, a needless, money-grabbing expansion of the Mercedes range. Personally, I think that particular hole is filled quite ably by the GL, thank you very much.

You know, from time to time, Carficionado is wont to ask himself  the question: if he were to, tomorrow say, knock someone up, and nine months later this person was to bring forth quintuplets, and assuming that in the intervening pregnancy period he got a fairly decent job, what car would he choose to ferry around his knock up-ee and their squirming brood. And the answer Carficionado keeps coming back to is, you guessed it, a Mercedes R-Class. Personally I can think of little else on the road that can take so many people whilst still being stylish and (R) classy. The only other car that I can think of is a Land Rover Discovery, and frankly the economy will be as good if not better on the Mercedes if you choose the base diesel model and you’ll be able to slither past the environment-types because by dint of the Merc not being a 4×4 (they’ll go after the GL drivers, and rightly so). There’s the Volvo XC90 but, having lived in Toronto and seen the earnest North American soccer mums whooshing around in them – well, it’s all just a bit Volvo-y isn’t it? I think the R-Class deserves to sit at the table of fine cars of today, a good-looking way to ferry your family around without the requisite emasculation. And if you’re really worried about emasculation, get the R63 AMG.


It just wants to be loved.....


Prius vs Bluemotion

28 Sep

So I’ve just finished my first assignment for my university course. Apparently the Police have taken delivery of 94 Toyota Priuses (Pria?) to be used by members of their ‘Safer Neighbourhoods’ teams. In their press release, the Police claim that the Prius is “the most sustainable alternative to conventional means of transport”. Now I’m not sure if that is necessarily true. Jeremy Clarkson, he of the obtuse and retrogressive anti-environmentalist stance, has been vehement that the environmental impact of making the Prius outweighs its benefits on the environment, and he’s got a point. The car sources materials from all around the world and, in real world driving rarely returns a fuel economy better than 50mpg. I used to have an Audi A4 that could do that.
In contrast, I think that the best alternative that we currently have to conventional engines is…..the conventional engine. Specifically, I’m talking about the Volkswagen Bluemotion range. See, Volkswagen have used their heads and said “frankly, we feel hybrid technology is under-developed and we wouldn’t want to compromise our customers with something we don’t know enough about. So instead, we’re going to take our existing diesel engines, give them longer gearing and make them more aerodynamic and thereProxy-Connection: keep-alive
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2s your answer for now.” It’s so simple that it’s brilliant. Why use hybrid technology when it’s not optimal yet? There’s time for it to develop, but that doesn’t mean that we have to be driving it while the developing’s happening. And I think I’m right in saying that the Bluemotion range all rate over 60mpg combined. Now that’s what I call a solution!

In praise of….the UAZ

26 Aug

During my time in Mongolia recently, I kept spotting these old Soviet vans dotted around the place. They looked ancient, such as you’d see in a documentary of 1960s Berlin, and yet this was the go-to vehicle for the police, the ambulance service and, of course, the tourists being constantly ferried to and from The Mongolian Wilderness.

Well, it turns out this van is called a UAZ-452. I imagine that its proliferation around Mongolia is a result of the Soviet ideal of everyone owning the same thing, which is why places like Budapest are still littered with those horrible Trabants. But, in an age that has given us the new Beetle, the new Mini, the Toyota FJ Cruiser, the Plymouth Prowler, the new Fiat 500 (shall I go on?), I think that the UAZ should be rehabilitated for the modern age. And more importantly, should be allowed the travel through Checkpoint Charlie and into the glorious West, filled as it is with that sense of liberty, equality and fraternity so often seen in place like the U.S…..

My idea, which I was kind enough to share with some Australians on a trip into The Mongolian Wilderness, and who looked most interested, was to ship one back to the UK, rip out its engine, which will doubtless be of a 1970s Soviet design (and therefore total crap) and put in something small and diesely, maybe the longstanding 1.9 diesel from the Volkswagen Audi Group (I thought that was better than writing VAG). Then, lo and bloody behold, you have an amazing looking van, which is significantly cooler than a Volkswagen Camper, not least because it won’t be driven by people trying to creat some sort of hippy parody, which will be built like the proverbial shithouse and it won’t break down. As much. Basically, a winner then. Get your orders in now.

(Addendum: my friend in Mongolia reliably informs me that the UAZ-452 is known colloquially as the Forgon, to differentiate it from the UAZ jeep, which looks very similar to the Jeep Wrangler or equivalent. Presumably it is called this as it’s a “Forgon” conclusion that the thing will break down somewhere in the middle of the aforementioned Mongolian Wilderness and you’ll be mauled to death by angry sheep intent on their revenge against the Mongolian people, who have been slaughtering them for centuries and serving them up in bowls of milk. This actually happens.)