AMREP INC.
Ontario, California
By Zachary Geroux


    Brothers Jose and Eduardo Ghibaudo immigrated to Los Angeles from Argentina in 1967, and soon began working for Bemars Inc. building refuse bodies. When Bemars sold out to Maxon Industries in 1972, most of the employees and equipment were absorbed into the new company. With the purchase of Western Body and Hoist two years prior, Maxon had acquired two of the largest refuse body building companies in the Southern California market. For several years they continued the body line of both brands, each keeping their familiar nomenclature, but now adding the "Maxon" suffix.


One of the earliest Amrep front loaders from 1976


    The 1970s saw the explosion of small "micro-builders" within the So Cal market, with ex-Bemars and Western employees striking out on their own, repairing the bodies they once built, and building new equipment for the numerous haulers operating in that area. Often these bodies were close copies of the ones they had made for their former employers, with the majority of the welding subbed-out to fabrication shops. Jose and Eduardo Ghibaudo left Bemars just prior to the Maxon purchase, after not getting a requested pay raise. Initially they would repair trucks at customer facilities (as they did not have one of their own), sometimes at night with only their own car headlights illuminate their work area. What would become the current company trademark was derived from the original name, "American Repair". At the urging of several customers, the brothers had decided to begin producing new bodies. In an effort to not be identified only as a repair shop, they blended the words "American Repair" and the name Amrep was born.


Square-bodied Amrep "unitized" side loader from the early 1980s; body and hopper were constructed as a single assembly


    In 1976, they opened up Amrep Inc in Huntington Park, California and started building front loaders, roll-offs and even a front load roll-off body popular with smaller companies, many of whom had commercial-only routes. The combination rig gave them the benefit of using a single truck for different tasks. While the early Amrep front loader looked almost exactly like the legacy Bemars half-pack, appearances can be deceiving. Amrep introduced a feature that would later become an industry-wide standard: scissor-style packing rams. Amrep began to build up a name for themselves within the market, having to compete with the already popular and established giants Bowles and Maxon, as well as competition from East Coast companies who had begun making inroads into California.


THE AMREP OCTAGON



    By the dawn of the 1980s, America was still recovering from the economic recession and the Vietnam War. However, technology had began to quickly develop allowing the average homeowner the possibility of owning computers and other electronics. A culture had developed where futuristic and flashy-looking devices sold quickly, and retro-technology was out. People had accepted that disco was dead. The brothers knew they needed a new and radical looking body design to stay in the game, and one step ahead of the competition. So in 1984, they filed their first patent for an ultra-lightweight, octagonal-shaped front loader which featured a "half-blade" packer and follower actuated by their scissor-style packing rams. Along with a drip pan positioned underneath the tailgate seals, the Octagonal front loader quickly became a favorite of haulers. One would be hard-pressed to find a company operating in Los Angeles or San Diego which hasn't owned or still owns an Amrep.

    With the filing of this patent, Amrep also began to diversify their refuse line by offering a manual side loader (MSL) for fleets in need of a residential truck. While most companies use front loaders for commercial and industrial accounts, many in the Southern California area used them for residential routes as well. The technology of automated residential collection was still new, and very few body manufacturers were offering automated side loaders (ASL) due to complexity of lift arm designs. Manual collection was still king, and with the economic hardship still being felt from the 1970s, the ability of using one truck for two purposes appealed to many haulers. This was not a new concept, being used since the birth of the front loader back in the 1950s. The City of Los Angeles, which had used mostly rear load packers since 1958, decided the front loader represented the future of residential collection. The city placed a huge order for 125 Amrep front loaders in 1984, with plans for an entire fleet conversion. Western Waste, a fast growing private waste hauler with humble beginnings in L.A., also used this method. They were a big Amrep customer, and with their growth and acquisition of companies as far east as Louisiana, this style of collection truck spread to the south. Amrep's new lightweight front loader seemed perfect for this paring, delivering a high ton capacity, and the octagon-shaped body allowed the driver greater visibility behind his truck, a welcome feature for residential work. By 1986 production demands would lead Amrep to move to its current location in Ontario, California.


The City of Los Angeles began conversion to residential front loaders in 1984, and chose the Amrep Octo



Interior view of the Amrep Octo: Low profile packer blade with follower allows for continuous loading/packing


AMREP DEMONSTRATION VIDEO



This classic '84 AMREP Octo owned by GB Services of Montebello, California was filmed in action by George Lanoszka




Octagonal body was soon adapted for duty as unitized manual side loader



Amrep production facility at Ontario, California

    Automated technology continued to be developed and refined throughout the 1980s and finally started to infiltrate the market in a big way toward the end of the decade. Around 1991, Maxon Industries had mated the independently-built Sunbelt Automated Systems lift arm to their own octagonal front loader, the Maxon Legal One. That same year Amrep, had unveiled their own ASL design with a demo unit provided to the City of Los Angeles, which was eventually sold to BFI in Phoenix. A variation of their octagonal body, its arm was similar enough in operation and design that Sunbelt sued for patent infringement and was later awarded $1.6 million, plus future royalties and attorney fees. Amrep was forced to file for bankruptcy protection. Making only a minor design change, Amrep filed for and was awarded its own patent in 1996 for an automated lift arm which they currently manufacture. As is often the case with new products, their early trucks had some initial growing pains which were later corrected. However, the Amrep half-blade packer body was ideally suited for automated collection, allowing refuse to be loaded at any time during the pack cycle.


Amrep automated side loader (ASL)


    The automated truck soon became the "go-to" truck for companies looking to convert their fleet from manual collection. Amrep even offered to modify their older front loaders with the new automated arm in order to reduce costs for haulers. The City of Los Angeles, among others, placed orders for hundreds of trucks, securing a solid future for Amrep. They also started up a machine shop, fabricating and repairing hydraulic cylinders. Not only do they build the cylinders used on their own trucks, they also make replacement parts for other manufacturers bodies. Amrep is truly a "one stop shop" for customers with a varied fleet, an alternative for customers not wanting to wait for replacements parts from back east.


EDGE MANUFACTURING


In 1993, Eduardo Ghibaudo decided to leave the company he had co-founded, and started Edge Manufacturing in Corona, California, where he was president until his passing in 1998. Edge builds the Octagonal front and manual side loaders, as well as a roll-off frame and bin carrier. His son Dennis Ghibaudo now runs the company, which continues to grow and expand on his father and uncle's experience and trade of building quality equipment.


    Amrep is the only "micro-builder" that has survived from the 1970s, and today has outgrown the roots from which it came. Becoming the largest builder of refuse trucks on the west coast, they have enjoyed a success that is unrivaled by any So Cal builder since Bowles built his first front loader in 1952. Along with the industry-standard changes they initiated, Amrep was also the first to use Hardox Steel in the construction their refuse bodies, making them stronger and lighter. A compressed natural gas (CNG) frame roll-off hoist was designed to meet increasingly tough environmentally standards. In the late 1990s, Jose began transitioning the leadership and ownership of Amrep to his two children, Gabriel Ghibaudo and Vivian Ford, and longtime employee and friend Eric Mattson, passing the torch to a new generation.



Amrep reeving-type roll-off unit


    Surrounded by his family and loved ones, Jose Ghibaudo passed away on March 9, 2012. His son Gabriel ("Alex") Ghibaudo succeeded him as president of Amrep, and even though the refuse industry lost one of its important visionaries, the legacy of the Ghibaudo brothers lives on through every Amrep and Edge truck on the road today. They are a lasting testament to quality craftsmanship, carrying forth with pride the legacy of the California refuse truck industry.



The state-of-the-art Amrep HX450FL is fabricated from high-strength Hardox steel




5/12/12
© 2012 Zachary Geroux
All Rights Reserved

Logos shown are the trademarks of respective manufacturers
Photos from factory brochures/trade advertisements except as noted