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.
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.
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!”
In the fall of 1969, in his last magazine column as Auto Body Association of America president, Louis Baffa noted the following problems plaguing the industry:
- Shortage of Help – For every seven technicians that leave the industry, only two come into the industry. The two that come in are usually entry-level people.
- Parts – There is an ongoing shortage of parts. What does get delivered to the shop are many-times damaged due to poor packaging and handling.
- Unqualified Adjusters and Appraisers – Baffa felt that unqualified people should in no way be telling qualified people how to repair a car
- Unfair Competition – Insurance company-owned body shops and DRP shops (then called “captive” shops) present an unfair advantage
- Refusal to Pay Proper Charges – Insurance companies were constantly shorting shops for paint costs, materials, towing, storage and the proper hourly rate
- Inactive State Insurance Boards – In Baffa’s opinion, in many states, the Insurance Board did not protect the vehicle owner. In many cases they, in fact, favor the insurance company.
- Improper Return on Investment – The profit a shop makes today is not commensurate with the investment made in equipment, tools, training, and experience.
- Poor Flat-Rate Manuals – Baffa maintains that there is no real basis for the current flat-rate times and they are used as a “Bible” by insurance appraisers.
- Prevailing Rate – Baffa maintains that the “prevailing” rate is a form of price-fixing by the insurance companies.
If you think aluminum is a brand new substrate for auto bodies, think again. This ad is from a 1921 trade magazine.
As of February 15, I have the first draft of the book written, reviewed and minor changes made. From here I will add whatever new material is provided and work it into the existing text. As a reminder for anyone wishing to submit historical materials, photos, etc. for inclusion in YesterWreck: The History of the Collision Repair Industry in America, the deadline is April 1, 2018. from that point I will produce a final draft, then it’s off to the publisher.
1800, January 1 – Escaping the French revolution and leaving their printing business behind them, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours and son Eleuthere Irenee (E.I.) arrive in America at Rhode Island after a grueling 90 day voyage. Though the elder DuPont did not have any family in America, he had friends, namely Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Father and son eventually found their way to Bergen, New Jersey. The elder DuPont wanted to engage in the elaborate scheme of international trade. Son, E.I. took a more practical approach, the manufacture of gunpowder. E.I. won the argument. Two years later the DuPont Company was born in Wilmington, Delaware with one product – gunpowder. Dulux and Lucite paint would come later.
During WWII, German engineers developed downdraft technology for rapid air movement and adapted it in the 1950’s for use in paint booths. During the war, people and soldiers in Germany worked underground for protection and secrecy. German engineers devised a method of pushing fresh air underground to soldiers and workers, and pulled spent air out the bottom along a trench and then exhausted to the outside. When the industrial infrastructure of Europe was rebuilt, engineers turned to the downdraft method. This was a technology whose time had come because painter health and safety became more of an issue in the 1950’s. The downdraft system could quickly and efficiently suck fumes and spray away from the painter and into a floor trench. Fire prevention also became more of an issue which promoted improvements in spark and fume control and spark containment within the booth. However, not every shop had a booth or saw the need for a booth. Lacquer was the paint of choice in the 50’s, a product that dried so fast that overspray didn’t go nearly as far as enamel. Besides, lacquer needed to be polished to a shine anyways so a little overspray that settled on a freshly painted surface was not a problem.
In the early 1950’s, the average hourly labor rate for collision repair was $4.00 to $5.00 per hour. The average hourly wage for a body man, was $1.75.