Calvin Eng ATI Mercedes G Wagon PASMAG Lead

A G Wagon That Isn't Instagram Famous.

Over the years, you could say the Mercedes G Wagon has lost its reputation as the bad boy in town. Back in the day, this vehicle was originally designed for military use and meant to be driven anywhere and everywhere, on or off the road.

Now it’s seen more on Rodeo Drive carrying fancy handbags and red-bottomed high heels. The G wasn’t built for Hollywood, and it surely wasn’t meant for Kylie Jenner’s Instagram, so why is it that it’s the only place we really see them? It turns out that Auto-Tech Interior’s (ATI) owner, Calvin Eng, is pretty passionate on the subject.

“I felt the true nature of the G Wagon had become tarnished and I wanted to remind everyone what a badass truck this actually is,” he says.

Although you may have already seen this car at SEMA 2014, Auto-Tech Interiors is bringing new life to the big box AMG to help launch its new audio pod lineup - transforming this vehicle not only on the outside, but inside as well. They learned pretty quickly that a big vehicle also creates a pretty big challenge, having their work cut out for them right from the beginning.

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“I would have had a lot more regulars involved in this build, but because of the weight of the car and because there just isn’t a huge aftermarket for it, I had to do a little work in finding some new partners outside of our circle,” Eng explains.

It didn’t take long though before they had secured products from both Brembo and Pirelli. After gathering so much attention in the past with previous projects, both companies were on the same page when it came to improving the performance and handling of such a heavy truck.

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“We went bigger and wider with the tires and went with Brembo’s GT brake kit,” Eng lists. “At first the brakes felt a little softer than we wanted, so with their recommendation, we changed to a more track-oriented fluid and pad setup and it was perfect.”

Performance-wise, ATI has teamed up with Weistec, bumping up the mere 500 horsepower to something a little more manageable at over 700. Childs play, right? But you can’t let all that newfound power go unnoticed - or should we say unheard. The G is also fitted with a Meistershaft/GT Haus Hexa Tip exhaust. Yes, I did say hexa-tip (that’s six!). This insane exhaust is definitely as loud as she looks.

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What about the rest of the vehicle? We know it’s going to be fast and stop on a dime with ease, but will it look the part?

“We didn’t want the G Wagon to lose any of its lines or character, so choosing the right partners was important,” says Eng. “The body kit was critical because we didn’t want the look of the G to get overwhelmed.”

A few years ago, when building its 2008 BMW M3 for SEMA, Eng was fortunate enough to meet Vorsteiner. Due to prior commitments, they couldn’t work together at the time, but a strong connection was made. So, with his new project, he made sure to go to them for a little bit of help this time around.

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“The timing was perfect because Vorsteiner was set to release a new G 63 kit to accent the car,” Eng recalls. “That’s actually why we ended up converting the G 55 to a G 63… so we could show off the Vorsteiner kit!” You might be thinking to yourself, “If you were just going to turn it into a G 63, why didn’t you just buy a G 63?” Well, it really wasn’t that easy. Although choosing the G-Class was, there were other aspects of the car he had to take in.

“It’s rigid; it’s square; it’s open; but then after looking at the G 63, I thought otherwise,” Eng explains. “The center dash had a large navigation unit that just looked out of place, and it would have created all sorts of sonic challenges for a well-placed center channel. That’s when I started looking into previous year models.”

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Buying a 2011 G 55 AMG was a great start. Orca Design, a partner of ATI’s for many years, have built some great audio systems in conjunction with ATI in the past, including one for the M3. They both agreed the G Wagon was a perfect vehicle to demonstrate the new Illusion Audio Carbon Series speakers.

Even though ATI planned out this project with a fine-tooth comb, trying to compensate for any problems they may face down the road, there was, as with any build, a share of issues. All the way back to 2014, when they originally purchased the vehicle, was when they had their first run-in with trouble.

“After almost three weeks at the body shop, I picked up the car and started heading down to Auto Fashion USA so we could get the audio build going,” Eng starts. “When I was about 30 miles away from the shop, the car popped twice and then a warning signal came up,” says Eng. “I hit the gas harder and the entire G Wagon started shaking violently, as if I was on a plane going through turbulence. I was literally only three miles from Auto Fashion!”

After finding out that his Mercedes’ claimed “indestructible” transmission was “shredded,” Eng ran into a stroke of luck, as the body shop took full responsibility and covered all of the costs.

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The next series of unfortunate events reared their heads when first arriving at SEMA, after having arranged the G Wagon to be detailed. While driving in, Eng heard a ticking, which turned out to be a huge nail in the tire, but there wasn’t much else he could do except bring the car into the show at that point. Safely parked at his booth, Eng then tried opening the rear door and realized it wasn’t budging. The door was jammed. Eng left it alone thinking everything would be fine, but when it came time to demo the speakers, since the door wouldn’t close properly, the batteries had drained.

Left with a powerless car and a flat tire, at least they were parked and in the show, right? Wrong. The Director at SEMA came the next day to inform them they were in the wrong spot, insisting they move the car. That was a challenge within itself, since with no battery power, Mercedes vehicles lock the steering.

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“But then I saw Pirelli’s outside booth and being a long time sponsor of ours, I had no hesitation to run over and ask for assistance,” recalls Eng. “Problem solved! Their staff were more than happy to help and within minutes the G Wagon was relocated. All was finally good.”

For such a simple event, that  Eng and his ATI crew had done multiple times, this was the most difficult SEMA they had ever experienced. In the end though, the G Wagon came out looking like a star. It will continue to evolve, so look for it at SEMA 2015! Until then, you’ll hear it coming from a mile away.

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As seen in:
PASMAG Tuning Essentials: Trucks, 3rd Edition
(available online at

Mercedes G Wagon

OWNER: Calvin Eng
BUILT BY: Auto-Tech Interiors
LOCATION: Parsippany, NJ
ENGINE: Mercedes AMG 5.4L V8 (W463)
HORSEPOWER: 700+ hp (est.)
TORQUE: 700+ lb-ft (est.)
SOCIAL: @atipods

Weistec supercharger ∂ K&N air filter

Meistershaft/GT Haus GTC (EVC), chrome hexatips

Vorsteiner wheels – 22x11 +33 (f/r)
Pirelli Scorpion Zero Asimmetrico tires – 305/35 R22 (f/r)
Brembo Gran Turismo (custom Verde Ithica pearl metallic 8-piston slotted 2-pc. rotors (f), 4-piston slotted 2-pc. rotors (r), custom braided lines, TS20 pads, LCF600 racing brake fluid)

G 63 conversion kit (front bumper, fenders, LED headlights)
Auto Fashion USA graphics

Auto Fashion USA black leather & suede upholstery

Mosconi (6to8 V8 DSP w/ AMAS, AS300.2 subwoofer amplifier (2), AS200.4 amplifier (1))
Illusion Audio (12XL subwoofers (2), sealed 1-cubicfoot enclosure, C3 midrange (center), C6 components (front/rear fill))

Vorsteiner, Auto Fashion USA, Pirelli, Brembo, GT Haus, Meistershaft, Illusion Audio, Masconi, Avery, ATI Pods

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Contributor: Auto-Tech Interiors (ATI)

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