Tuesday, 02 April 2019 17:22

In Reverse: The 1970s - Part 1 - The Collision Industry Starts to Mature

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Automotive technology continued to move forward---although it was not always a pretty sight. In 1973, the 5-mph bumper was introduced. Still made of chromed steel, the bumper was supported on the frame by shock-absorber units allowing the bumper to move in and out. In 1974, similar bumpers became standard equipment for the rear of the car. The bumpers were described as “monstrosities” and appear to have been added to the car as an afterthought because essentially, they were.


In the 1970s, vehicle engines and transmissions were more durable but lacked today’s e-coat to prevent rusting. An otherwise well-running car would rust out in 3--4 years, especially in areas where road crews used salt and sand on snow-covered roads. Salt, water, and sand, combined with exposed sheet metal all contributed to some serious rust problems. Fixing rust holes correctly and legitimately was time-consuming and expensive … and not covered by insurance.


In many cases, the entire panel had to be replaced, including rocker panel rear quarters or front fenders. And even when panels were replaced, rust would break through someplace else. It was like a cancer. Used-car dealers found themselves with lots full of otherwise good used cars--- except for the rust holes---that they wanted fixed as quickly and cheaply as possible. Left to their own devices and being paid on a “per-car” basis, creative body technicians found quick and easy, albeit non-permanent, ways to fill the holes and make the car look good---and just long enough to get it sold. This led to some sore customers, and a black eye for the used car industry and body repair industry.

Paint technology started to change in the 1970s as well. Paints became more durable but had some unforeseen consequences. In the early 1970s, DuPont introduced its Centari line of paint ---a poly-urethane-based product that required an isocyanate hardener. Little thought was given at the time to safety measures and little was known about the effects of isocyanates. Suddenly, painters began experiencing asthma symptoms. Many ended up in their local hospital emergency room. Depending on their length of exposure or how they were exposed to it---either by inhaling it or being exposed by touch---the ill effects could have been short-lived or permanent.

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