The Hochleistungs-Benz Story
Back in 1979, in Southern California, before AMG had any presence in North America, two men (Tate Casey & Mike Baker) had the idea of modifying Mercedes cars for better performance. Both of them owned Mercedes and Tate was working at a local dealer. The overall Mercedes quality and engineering impressed them, but they knew more performance could be extracted from the cars.
Together, they started the first real Mercedes tuning company in the USA. They named it Hochleistungs-Benz (German for high performance Benz). The first products that they developed and sold were suspension kits, exhaust systems (including headers), body kits and many other accessories. The current models at that time were the 116, 123, 107 and the new 126 cars. Additionally, parts from Germany were imported on a special order basis. In fact, the AMG company in Germany was so interested in what Hochleistungs-Benz was doing that Hans Werner Aufrecht (the “A” in AMG) himself paid a visit to the shop in the early 1980s to check it out. He wanted to know what he could do to improve the relationship.
Eventually, a full line of performance products was developed and the shop was busy doing specialty modifications for clients. One job stands out; a 6.9 AMG conversion for John Frankenheimer (director of the 1960s movie Grand Prix).
Additionally, Hochleistungs-Benz was the first company to create the 16” Centra wheel (usually chrome plated) with the Mercedes star in the center. The wheel became very popular and container loads of wheels were eventually sold.
By the mid-1980s, the partners split up and Tate Casey created a new Mercedes tuning company called Auto Design West located in Dana Point, California. Compared to the original company, ADW was a more sophisticated company that took the operation into the dealer expediting realm by adding body kits, suspension and wheels on to new cars being sold by Mercedes-Benz dealers. The shop portion was doing specialty work including engine swaps and wide body kits.
This was the height of the grey market so the Euro/AMG look was in vogue. As Mercedes became more aggressive against the grey market importers, this trend faded and eventually, ADW closed its doors.
Tate Casey then went to work for a German parts importer/distributor; Metrix West. There, he developed new product lines including Hartge (BMW) and Carlsson (Mercedes) brands for the US market.
To commemorate the beginnings of Mercedes tuning in the USA, Carobu Engineering has decided to name the new Mercedes performance parts line “HB Sport”. This line of performance parts will focus on the older models (107 & 126) using the M117 (560) engine. This conforms to the Carobu Engineering specialty of “retro-tuning” older models using modern tools and technology.
With the introduction of the HB Sport line of products, a 40 year arc of automotive history bends back on itself.