#inthisyear1984: Production start of KTM radiators
In 1984, “Orwell´s year”, Apple introduces its Macintosh PC, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is born and Bon Jovi presents its debut release. For more than three decades, KTM has been building motorcycles and has become one of the most successful offroad manufacturers.
Some years ago, there had been far reaching technical changes in the offroad segment. Since the mid-1970s, the spring range had become longer, what finally culminated in sophisticated deflection systems and monoshock chassis at the beginning of the 80s. Even the air-cooled engines reached the final stage of development potentialities, since improvements in performance could only be implemented by liquid cooling. In 1981, the first water-cooled KTM – the 125 LC model – was available for purchase. As time passed, all bigger motocross and enduro models were equipped with water-cooled engines.
Therefore, the Mattighofen technicians developed purpose-built aluminium radiators and designed a soldering testing plant. First, KTM solely manufactured radiators for its own requirements, but in order to use the manufacturing capacities the best possible way, KTM also started to build radiators for other European motorcycle brands, which was later complemented by automotive radiators.
The radiator production was operated as an independent business under the name “KTM Kühler” (KTM Radiator). Since the post-war era, it has been a KTM policy to always focus on a second leg to stand on. In 1953, began the motorcycle production as well as the home-made spare parts production for the truck repair shop in order to compensate the repair workshop´s declining workload. In 1989, five years after the start of the radiator production, KTM already produces 222,000 radiators a year. In the same year, KTM boss Erich Trunkenpolz, the son of the company founder, died of a heart attack at only 58 years.
The company operated in the red under the new owners, the consequence being that KTM was split in three independent companies in 1992: KTM Kühler, KTM Fahrrad (KTM Bicycle) and KTM Sportmotorycle GmbH. KTM Kühler was then purchased by the Italian C.S.L. industrial holding company, but as with the motorcycle and bicycle production work was carried on at the Mattighofen venue. In 2005, KTM Kühler was absorbed by the Austrian investors group Andlinger & Co. At that time, 470 employees manufactured water, oil and charge air radiators for the automotive and motorcycle industry.
In April 2009, the KTM bosses Stefan Pierer and Dr. Rudolf Knünz redeemed the radiator production from Andlinger in order to integrate it into the Cross Industries AG. At the time of redemption, Stefan Pierer said, although KTM Kühler belonged to other owners for years, it had always continued to be part of the KTM family.
After successfully restructuring the company, the German supplier Mahle took over the automotive business of KTM Kühler in December 2009. Since January 2010, the radiator production is continued under the name Mahle at the former venue in Mattighofen. The motorcycle radiator business was absorbed by WP Suspension, which is – like KTM – a subsidiary of the Cross Industries AG.
The name KTM Kühler was then changed to WP Radiator. Today, the state-of-the-art WP factory in Munderfing produces 300,000 radiators every year. Nearly half of the manufactured radiators is delivered to the KTM factory in Mattighofen, but WP radiators are also applied by several other European motorcycle brands. Furthermore, exclusive sports-car manufacturers like Lamborghini and Ferrari or Audi – for its R8 sports-car – rely on the high-end products from Munderfing.
A quarter of a century after the radiator production commenced, the circle closed – KTM radiators and KTM motorcycles were again united under one umbrella, as it had been the case at the beginning of the radiator production exactly three decades ago.
Photos: Leo Keller, Buenos Dias