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Monday, 04 February 2019 18:37

In Reverse: The 1960s – The Collision Repair Industry Gets a Voice

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Each month, collision industry trade magazines provide readers with a glimpse of the industry at that point in time.

 

Each issue is a microcosm of an entire ecosystem of repairers, estimators, adjusters, shop owners and managers, paint suppliers, parts suppliers, equipment suppliers, consultants, trainers and all the other people who help keep the industry running. They provide a “voice” to the industry that few other mediums can.

 

From the end of WWII to the early 1960s, the collision repair industry grew exponentially---but the entire industry was in the dark! Nobody knew what was going on within the industry. Yes, there were associations, such as the Washington Metropolitan Auto Body Association, that communicated their information to their constituents, but this was on a local or regional level. People in Miami had no idea what was going on in Los Angeles and vice-versa.

 

And then---there was a light! Already a magazine publisher, Emil Stanley started something that would eventually do more to bring the industry together and help it coalesce than anything else in the 60-plus years that people had been repairing fenders. In September 1962, Stanly introduced Volume 1, Number 1 of Auto Body News and Good Car Care magazine, believed to be the first nationally distributed collision industry trade journal. Finally, the industry had a “voice.”

 

The monthly circulation was 45,000. (At the time, depending on your source, there were about 80,000 shops in the country.) The opening article stated, “The business of auto body rebuilding and appearance maintenance is a growing industry in itself. No auto body publication exists today that supplies staff-created news and features according to the ABN formula. A number of publications carry limited auto body sections or departments treating auto body work in a ‘fringe’ manner. ABN is a specific auto body publication for the specific auto body market and provides leadership and readership in a proven formula of ABN’s several companion publications, all in the automotive industry.”

 

A letter from a body shop owner published in the following issue stated, “Wonderful idea, this magazine. For years, we’ve needed such a circulation. I’m so happy to see a publisher cater to [us] fender-benders.”


 

It wasn’t long before “Letters to the Editor” started appearing on a regular basis. If subscribers read nothing but the Letters to the Editor page, they could experience a microcosm of the entire industry on a single page. It was a place where everyone in the industry could air a grievance---not just body shops.

 

As collision repair publications do today, the magazine carried articles about current trends, IGO and other association news, technical articles and articles about how to be more profitable. In the seeming absence of today’s I-CAR, AMI and other collision industry training, S.M. “Silvie” Licitra, ABN editorial director, started a multi-installment course on “Auto Damage Insurance Adjustment.”

 

One of the first articles that appeared in this magazine was titled “Body Restoration – A Profession.” It stated in part, “Time was (not so many years ago) when a dinging hammer and block , a metal rasp and body solder could produce fairly good results, even in the hands of the average garage mechanics. Those were the days of easy-to-get-at- fenders, straight panel sections, and smoothly flowing contours---when there was little under the hood but a simple engine, unencumbered by with the modern maze of filters, gadgets and accessories that fill every available space. 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!”

 

The editors of ABN noted that they would not display any “cheesecake” advertising, showing “shapely female legs” or “scantily clothed” women, as was the norm in automotive advertising at the time. They wanted a magazine that could be read by “the whole family” and be welcome in anyone’s home.

 

A short article called for better corrosion protection, used by the OEs at the factory and made available to refinishers. This was due to the increased amount of salt used on roads in snow-belt areas.

 

Another article noted, “Among the strongest allies of the independent shops are manufacturers of replacement body panels and other items available through independent automotive wholesalers. Such suppliers and independent insurance companies are the reasons independent shops are still in business.”

 

This was true because the magazine was loaded with ads from different manufacturers of replacement body panels.


 

Another article noted three classifications of work for today’s body shop: 1.) Customer-paid work, for which the customer generally wants good-quality work and is “not afraid to pay for it.” 2.) Work generated by independent insurance companies that want work done as cheaply as possible, pitting shops against one another on price, issuing a check to the vehicle owner and leaving the owner to his/her own devices for repair, and 3.) The so-called “captives.” These were cars financed and insured by the car manufacturer. They usually ended up at dealer-owned body shops. This deepened the rift that already existed between independent shops and dealer-owned shops.

 

In the days before computers and the mountains of statistics we have today, an article promoting maintenance, vehicle-painting and restoration for older cars stated that this type of work is necessary to generate profits because the collision repair customers are generally “one-time patrons.” It was unknown at that time that statistically, a person is going to be in an accident periodically.

 

Another article encouraged shops to intermix their own paint, as opposed to buying factory-packaged paint from the local jobber or allowing the jobber to mix it. The article claimed that it is more profitable and efficient for even a small shop to intermix its own paint. Depending on the workload for the paint mixer at the local jobber, a shop could wait half a day for a mixed pint of paint.

 

Arco Paints, the paint and chemical division of the Martin Marietta Company, was one of only two paint manufacturers advertising in this first collision industry magazine. The other paint manufacturer was Rinshed-Mason Company.

 

An advertisement placed by the Equipment and Tool Institute of Kalamazoo, MI, asked, “Why service today’s cars with equipment and tools born in the ‘50s?” The ad invited shops to upgrade their tools and equipment to meet the needs of modern cars and replace tools that were worn or outdated.

 

Today, there are several collision trade journals serving the industry, each with its own special twist. Autobody News is unique in the industry because it offers local news and information but with a national flavor in both paper and digital media, providing a great service to readers and advertisers. As you browse through this issue of Autobody News, consider what Emil Stanley started almost 60 years ago ... and thanks for being an Autobody News subscriber.

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