AMG, Michael Kübler says, is about courage, intensity, character, driving performance. It’s about knowing what you want and having the will to go after it, and prevailing in the end. “And, of course, it’s about the best engines in the world.”
We shadow the 36-year-old during his shift at the shop in Affalterbach, where each V8 engine is hand-made by one person. “One man, one engine” is the philosophy the employees here follow. This means that, in a way, the engines produced here are unique specimens. They’re technological, lightweight masterpieces that unpack an enormous amount of power with maximum energy efficiency.
Seal of quality: Mercedes-AMG engines built according to the “one man, one engine” philosophy come with a hand-signed motor tag.
And the results are something Kübler and his colleagues can be proud of: each finished unit is given a tag bearing the signature of its creator, attesting to the quality of the engine. “I reckon I’ve built over 4,000 engines,” Kübler reflects.
The Mercedes-AMG engine shop is currently producing two high-performance V8 engines: the petrol-powered M 177 twin-turbo used in the current 63 models, and the M 178, the beating heart of the GT family. Kübler tells us they each weigh around only 200 kilogrammes and are made of around 600 different parts, which he puts together by hand in four to five hours. After that, the V8s are ready to be sent to the Mercedes-Benz plants where the AMG models are built around the world.
The V12 engines that find their way under the hoods of the Pagani super sports cars are also put together at Kübler’s bench – they have been for the last seven years.
AMG and Pagani, which specialises in limited-run sports cars, have an exclusive cooperation agreement.
“It takes me about two days to finish one of the V12s,” he explains. “And I haven’t received a single complaint yet! That’s good news for a perfectionist like myself. I put a lot of blood and sweat into my engines, whether they’re V12s or V8s. My engines and those of my colleagues have soul. That’s just what we build here in Affalterbach: engines with soul!”
A peek into the engine shop in Affalterbach.
What yoga does for other people in terms of personal well-being and balance, engines do for Kübler, he says as he gives a tour through the immaculate, high-tech facility. Not only do the engines manufactured here put some of the “hottest cars in the world” on the racetrack: “They’re also what make my heart race. I’m at my best when I’m working on engines. Sure, this job has its routines like any other. But each new engine is special in its own way. I have the same giddy feeling when I do my job today that I had back when I first started. Sometimes I think, ‘This is pretty surreal.’ But what can I do? It just makes me happy!”
It’s time for a break. Going by “f1mike28” on Instagram, Kübler gives his 200,000-plus fans and enthusiasts around the globe a glimpse into his world, allowing them to become part of the fruits of his labour. He fills his coffee cup from the machine and goes outside for some fresh air. He says hello to his colleagues as they pass. They chat a bit, talk shop. It seems as though everyone knows everybody here in the quiet town of Affalterbach. Kübler sips his coffee and bites into a red apple. That’s about all he eats during his shift; he says he hardly goes to the canteen. “I don’t get hungry until after work.”
How did he get started at Mercedes-AMG? “I was born with a passion for Mercedes-Benz,” he explains. “In the early 1900s, my great-grandfather headed the engine testing facility in Untertürkheim. My grandfather followed in his footsteps, and my parents both worked at Daimler, too.” He even completed his apprenticeship at Mercedes-Benz – in the Engine Construction unit. Kübler started out working on diesels, and then moved on to V6 and V8 models. He took classes in the evening to obtain further qualification, and then applied at Mercedes-AMG, where he’s been for 10 years now.
Assembly of the AMG 4.0-litre V8 biturbo engine (M 178)according to the “one man, one engine” principle.
“One man, one engine. Attaching your name to your work can be gutsy, and that’s what I found so appealing,” he explains. “AMG just had this magical allure to me in general. After I finally got my driving licence, I drove to Affalterbach as often as I could to look at the cars that were here. There was the SL 55, the SLK 55, the CLK Black Series, the CLK DTM, and of course the Formula 1 Safety Cars. I thought, ‘Wow! This is right up my alley!’”
The young Michael Kübler would daydream on his many excursions to AMG headquarters. AMG was his goal. “My northern star,” he says, and you can see the stars in his eyes as he utters these words.
What was his first AMG engine? “A V12 that brimmed over with power.” The most challenging engines? “The GT3 engines because there are so many regulations to observe and measurements to take.” What keeps him going? “Every completed engine is a gift. ‘Satisfaction’, as Mick Jagger would say.” But knowing that his and his colleagues’ craftsmanship and dedication are what allow dream cars to drive safely and reliably on racetracks and roads around the world, that they’ve built the perfect engine – that, for him, is the greatest gift of all. “I like to imagine that there’s a Mercedes-AMG with one of my engines cruising through San Francisco, another one in southern France, and a third on the Nürburgring at full speed. These aren’t wild dreams, they’re reality!”
Michael Kübler experiences many an emotional moment at his job. And not just at the weekend, when he and his son watch the GT3 races and see his engines in action. When asked if there’s any one experience that sticks out in his mind, he doesn’t have to think for long. “A married couple from Australia once visited me at the shop. He drove a Mercedes-AMG with a V12 engine and had bought his wife one with a V8. My name was on both of them, and they just wanted to meet me. That was a great day.” Was he proud? “Very proud. And happy.”