We tend to snigger at the attempts by automotive manufacturers to broach the bicycle market. B-grade bikes branded with the logos of cars are a dime-a-dozen, but Mercedes-Benz were on the right track when they conscripted AMP Research to supply their attempt to access the two-wheeled market.
AMP Research are still in existence: an innovative US company founded by the visionary Horst Leitner in 1980. Their current market consists of automotive accessories, but Leitner was originally a champion motocrosser who brought his experience to the fertile bed of early-90s mountain biking.
In fact, his patented Horst Link suspension design, which eliminated ‘brake jack’ and chain tension, was licensed by Specialized as their own FSR system and was utilised by other brands like Mongoose (ridden to victory by Brian Lopes and Leigh Donovan in ’95), Rocky Mountain and Univega.
This is a particularly rare B5 model from 1998, an original Mercedes-Benz edition and, out of all the car/bike manufacturer collaborations from that era (Trek-VW, Gary Fisher-Saab ad nauseum), is possibly the one with the most integrity.
It’s been updated by Vanguard Designs, a workshop originally located in Singapore but which has recently moved to Niseko in Japan. Thankfully, the donor bike didn’t need much work, and still retains the original F4 carbon fork and carbon stays.
Vanguard have been keeping busy collecting and restoring as many eccentric Japanese bicycles that they can get their hands on, and now have an extensive catalog, although the current market is for fat bikes, the perfect vehicle for tackling Niseko’s snow tracks.
Vanguard Designs Website