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.
Today’s master of body rebuilding must be a practical diagnostician, with the delicate touch of a surgeon, plus the skill of a practical mechanic. The blending, preparation, and application of modern paints is something acquired only by long experience with the aid of proper equipment. Verily, today’s auto body craftsman no longer is ‘just a body mechanic.’ He’s a skilled artisan – a professional. And his business is a profession!”
Emil Stanley – Editor / Publisher Auto Body News and Good Car Care magazine Volume 1, Number 1 September, 1962 (First nationally-distributed collision trade journal.)