‘I was able to turn my hobby into a career’

Kurt Liechti (b. 1953) was slightly delayed in starting his apprenticeship at Automontage Schinznach, but he then stayed loyal to his profession until he retired.

Kurt Liechti

Kurt Liechti can remember well...

Mr Liechti, you were an apprentice at Automontage Schinznach from 1968 to 1972. What do you still remember from when you started?

Kurt Liechti: I remember I was living in Beinwil am See at the time and took the bus to Schinznach Bad. For the first eight months, we learned and practised basic working procedures in Othmarsingen. Only then did our actual apprenticeship start in Schinznach.

How was the apprenticeship structured?

Every apprentice went through every department, so that you had been everywhere and could do anything by the end. As luck would have it, I started in Hans Hossle’s department, where the boxes with the car parts were received from the USA and the individual components were checked and inspected. This means that my apprenticeship went through exactly the same process as the parts that eventually left Automontage as finished vehicles.

How did you even come up with the idea of doing an apprenticeship at Automontage?

Even as a teenager, I had a passion for cars that hasn’t left me to this day. I also went to the careers advice service at the time, where an apprenticeship at Automontage was recommended to me. However, because I was too late and all the apprentice positions had already been filled, I had to start in assembly. The plan was for me to stay there for a year before being able to start with the next year’s group of apprentices, but because one of the 19 apprentices quit after three months, I was able to replace him. Of course, I had to catch up on all the teaching material that my colleagues had already covered, but I enjoyed my work a lot because I was able to turn my hobby into a career and even earn something from it.

What did you take away from the apprenticeship to help you in the future?

Our supervisors taught us a work ethic that I was able to benefit from throughout my career, and we learned to work with great precision. There were no exceptions and no sloppiness was tolerated. Over time, we got into a routine and precise work just became a matter of course. The apprenticeship at Automontage Schinznach was probably the best in this field at the time. I really liked it, for example, when I was able to assemble the dashboards. I also enjoyed installing the windows.

What do you remember in particular?

We had technically skilled instructors for whom we had the utmost respect. I also remember one small reward that was really popular with us: those who did a good job were allowed to accompany test driver Arthur Blank. Doing a test drive in the area around Schinznach – up the Bözberg, for example – was an absolute highlight and a nice change for us. We assembled seven cars a day, all of which were tested by Arthur Blank before delivery.

Where did your professional career take you after your apprenticeship?

I stayed loyal to the profession I had learned until I retired. At first, I worked in a body shop/paint shop in Mosen before going to military training school. I earned CHF 1,900 a month there. Later I was employed in Spreitenbach, then in Zurich, where I worked with commercial vehicles. For one season, I worked in Zermatt and prepared the ski slopes with a Ratrac. After another job in Zurich, Walter Greub, a former apprentice supervisor at Automontage, brought me to Aarau. He had taken over a body shop there and hired me as a foreman and for his towing service. I also worked at sites in Buchs, Hunzenschwil and Sursee. At that time, I also took my master craftsman’s exam. From 1997 onwards, I worked as a self-employed one-man company in Hochdorf for 15 years, before being employed at a body shop and paint shop business in Hitzkirch for the last few years before I retired.

Do you still have any ties with AMAG?

Not directly, but I’m still in regular contact with my former colleagues from Automontage Schinznach, and I drive a VW T5, which is a reliable travel companion as I pursue my hobbies. I now fish a lot, ride my mountain bike and sail. I take part in international regattas (Calais, Ireland) in my boat in the Fireball class (5 metres long, 1.4 metres wide, 92 kilograms) and have also been to the world championships, for example in 2012 in Australia.