Bondo is Invented

Bondo Is Invented

A Mr. J.C. O’Donnell purportedly invented body filler in 1955 but it would take another year before it was referred to as plastic body filler. Many simply referred to all plastic fillers by one of its most popular trade names, Bondo.  Plastic fillers were easier to use, enabling the shop to make a cheap and fast repair.  The problem was however, that early plastic fillers sometimes fell off the car, prompting either a re-do of the repair, or a very angry customer – or both.  O’ Donnell went on to found the Unican company on July 31, 1962, well known for its variety of body filler products.

Cover Revealed

My publisher just provided a proof of my book’s cover featuring George V. Arth and Son Auto Body in Oakland, CA, the oldest continuously operated body shop in America.

I-CAR Is Born

By early 1977, many collision industry leaders could see the need for change within the industry.  With the introduction of the unibody vehicle, cars were getting more sophisticated, and the repair industry had grown stagnant.  While paint technology had changed somewhat, and car-building had certainly changed, body-men were still applying the same repair techniques that had been used since the end of WWII.  And, it appeared to most that unless someone or some organization took the reins and forced change, shops would soon be incapable of making safe repairs.

In April, 1979, a number of industry leaders met at the Hilton Hotel at the San Francisco airport, and began to devise a plan.  Among them was a representative from the Automotive Service Association (ASA), the Executive Director of the Autobody Craftsman Association (a leading auto body association at the time), a representative from the Equipment and Tool Institute, executives from General Motors and representatives from State Farm along with an array of shop owners and other interested parties. The first thing they all agreed on was that collision technicians needed better repair information – and a lot more of it.  If a vehicle had to be fixed a certain way, the OE had to let the industry know it and make the information readily available.  The question was – what was the best way to do that?

Of course, each party had their own interests throughout the discussions.  It was noted that several insurance representatives only wanted to find a way to make cheaper repairs.  Bob Mecherle of State Farm realized that the discussions were not about “cheap” but how to perform a proper repair and address the changing technology.

Dan Murray of General Motors was a key party to the affair because he had recently returned from a two-year stint living in Germany and working for General Motors where the collision repair business had advanced considerably further than the U.S.  In Germany and all over Europe, unibody construction had been used for several years so equipment manufacturers and technicians had advanced considerably.

In November of 1979, a meeting of forty invited industry leaders was held in Des Plaines, Illinois where, after much discussion and planning, over 30 shop owners and associations, along with State Farm, provided enough seed money to start a non-profit company that would train collision technicians on how to properly repair collision damage.  The entity they founded, was the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair; then known as IICACR, and now known simply as I-CAR.


Higher Claims Cost Rattle Insurer

The following statement was said by State Farm Insurance founder George Mecherle in his annual address to State Farm employees in June 1934.

“Automobiles are changing. They employ new materials and different construction methods.  They can attain higher speeds… all of which contribute to higher severity and higher claims costs.”

State Farm was founded by George Mecherle in June, 1922.  From the very beginning, his entire focus, and that of every employee of the company was to sell more policies.  In the first seven years of its existence, State Farm sold over 280,000 auto policies.  Then, the Great Depression hit, and still George and his team pushed hard for more sales and more policies.  It wasn’t until 1934 that his financial people brought George a stark realization – that, for various reasons, loss-payments were starting to exceed new policy sales.  The company was bleeding.  Read the rest of the story in my book, “YesterWreck: The History of the Collision Industry in America.”


The Invention of the “Speedostat?”

People today think that autonomous cars are a completely new phenomenon.  However, the “bones” of autonomous driving, cruise control, was invented in the mid-1950’s by Ralph Teetor, a blind man.  It was first installed in the 1958 Chrysler Imperial. Teetor originally wanted to call his invention a “speedostat.”

Northeast Trade Show

In March, 1977, the first of what would become known as the Northeast Automotive Services Show, or better known as simply, the Northeast Trade Show, is presented by the North Jersey Auto Body Association (NJABA) at the Ramada Inn in Rochelle Park, NJ.  The show is called “Allied Member Night.”   Read more about the history of the show, and other industry shows in YesterWreck: The History of the Collision Repair Industry in America.

Cyclist and Buggy Collide

An unknown cyclist had a narrow escape from serious injury yesterday afternoon by running into a horse and carriage.  The wheelman was going up East Hollis St. at the side of the Crown Hill car. (trolley car running on tracks)  When he reached the corner of Main St. he attempted to run between the car and an approaching horse and carriage.  He misjudged the space between the two and ran under the horse which reared and the rider fell under the front wheels of the carriage.  He escaped with no worse injuries that a badly bruised back.  Both rims and the spokes of his bicycle were wrecked.  The horse attempted to run away but the driver, B.L. Keith soon had the animal under control but not until it had kicked the dashboard out of the carriage.  The cyclist was a stranger to the spectators and he picked up his broken wheels and walked away.  He seemed satisfied that the accident was his own fault and he made no complaint against the driver of the carriage.  Quite a crowd was attracted and many feared for a few seconds that the cyclist had been killed.

It is unknown if an insurance claim was filed by either party… or if the carriage dashboard was repaired.


Early Spray Guns

In 1887, Joseph Binks, a maintenance supervisor for Marshall Field’s department stores is charged with painting the store’s basement walls white – miles and miles of basement walls on several different levels in several different stores.  Painting by hand takes large crew weeks to accomplish.  Seeking a faster way, Binks develops a spray apparatus with paint in a bucket pressurized by a hand pump.  The paint is sprayed out through a wand mechanism with a nozzle, not unlike a devise to spray weed killer today.  It was a success.  Binks would later go on to use his paint sprayer to paint many of the buildings at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  The Exposition, on the scale of a world’s fair, was known as the Great White City, thanks in no small part to Joseph Binks and his now world famous spray guns.  In 1919, Binks developed his first air-powered spray gun as we know them today.

1970 VS 2000

Found in a trade magazine from 2000, this is how industry pundits at the time compared 1970 against 2000.  Do you see any comparisons to 2018?

  • More shops are realizing that there are a number of health hazards encountered by body techs and are taking steps to protect their workers.
  • Electrical work is more complicated and daunting than it was 30 years ago. Many shops now farm out their electrical work to dealerships or shops that know a lot more about it.
  • Because of the complexity of today’s cars, repair information is becoming more and more important.
  • The production pace has changed dramatically. Thirty years ago, owners and managers didn’t push technicians, as long as they worked at a steady and consistent pace.  Today, they are pushed to cut cycle time.
  • Technology is moving forward at an ever-increasing pace. One technician noted that he had to learn more new technology in the last 10 years than he learned in the previous 20.

Can You Bury My Deductible?

In 1966, Mae Harper, a Los Angeles-based collision shop owner and then one of the foremost female authorities on automotive repair had the perfect come-back when customers asked her to “cover” or “bury” their collision repair insurance deductible charge. She told them, “The only man I know who can bury something and get paid for it is a mortician!”