Seeing Neil's post with a Mountfield ad from the sixties reminded me that I've been meaning to post some info on the Amnor factory in Belgium for just over a year now. (Sorry folks!)
I managed to track down a guy who worked there from 1980-81 and who provided a snapshot of how things were at that time based on some questions I put to him.
I was Manufacturing Engineer at Wheel-Horse Amnor N.V. in 1980 and 1981.
It was a fast growing company (revenue increased from 10 Mio to 17 Mio and to 25 Mio Euro in 3 successive years) for the markets Europe, Middle east and North Africa and assembled from small to medium size lawn- and garden tractors.
This too fast growing caused then severe cash problems and a series of take-overs by other companies started until finally the company became a Toro company which it still is.
The plant mainly existed of 3 different assembly area:
1) Pre-paint assembly
2) Pretreatment (degreasing, washing, phosphating, washing, passivation and neutralizing, final washing, drying), wed paint booth, cure oven
3) Final assembly
Different models were assembled in different batches (very seldom two models were assembled simultaneously).
The sheet metal parts were all imported from the main plant in US, (greased but not painted).
(we did not have sheet metal presses to produce the parts ourselves)
The engines were Briggs and Straton (US brand) or Kholer (European Brand).
The majority of the other parts were also imported from US,
except when European distributors were specifically asking for European parts, meeting the metric standards, in stead of the inch standards: e.g. bearings, belts, bolts, shafts.
This was to my knowledge the only difference in models. So, using parts from another model as substitution to maintain production, was never done, as far as I know.
Design engineering was done completely in US and they produced the ‘first-offs’.
We at Geel only started assembling when the new model was full mature.
(with exception of 1 ‘walk-behind’ model which was specially and solely designed for Europe by 2 engineers in Geel).
(this model was not a big success because too expensive).
My thanks go to Marc S in Belgium for sharing this with us.
While on the subject does anyone in the US have a copy of 'Horse Power' (Wheel Horse Collectors Club Newsletter) from November 2003. There is an item about the Amnor factory in it. I have a pdf copy but unfortunately when it was scanned a critical page was missed out. I'm hoping that somebody may have collected the newsletters and can help by scanning the article in full for me.