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Thursday, 12 July 2018 16:39

In Reverse: The 1940s – Part 2 – New Products, Higher Speeds

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By 1943, WWII was in full swing.  There were no new cars; tires and gasoline were rationed, and the American public wasn’t driving very far ... or bothering to renew their auto insurance. 

Many drivers felt there was no point if you couldn’t drive. Sales of auto insurance policies were down 11 percent compared to the prior year for all mutual insurance companies, except State Farm---which was up considerably.

 

In early 1939, State Farm Founder and President George Mecherle launched a sales campaign called A Million or More In ’44, an all-out initiative to have a million or more auto insurance policies in force by the first quarter of 1944. At the outset of the program, State Farm had 476,638 policies in force; it had taken the company 16 years to get there. Now, only five years after the start of the program and despite a raging world war, State Farm had added another 524,001 polices for a total of 1,000,639. State Farm was now the single largest insurer of automobiles in the U.S. Mecherle noted that people had come to appreciate the value of auto insurance. Driven by Mecherle, State Farm agents were very aggressive.


Some early collision industry-related companies were born during this time. Mill Supply Company of Cleveland, OH, provider of replacement body panels, was founded in 1942, and the Schofield Manufacturing Company was founded in 1943. Both manufactured steel replacement panels for popular model cars. These were designed primarily as rust replacements, but no doubt were used in some collision work. The Marson Company, best known for body fillers, was founded in 1948. Steck Manufacturing, known for its specialty body repair tools, was founded in 1949.


New products were introduced as well. In 1946, DuPont introduced Duco Metalli-Chrome paint, a luminescent lacquer that seemed to change color depending on how light reflected off of it. They were only available in darker colors, however, such as dark gunmetal gray or dark brown. In 1948, Reynolds Aluminum introduced a metallic flake for use in automotive finishes. By the early 1950s, Reynolds, Alcoa and others had developed improved metallic flakes for automotive paint. This, together with improved paint resins, started the industry on a road to a vast array of colors and color effect.


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