Fifty years ago this month, September 1969, I took my first job in the automotive industry.
I worked at a family-owned auto parts store, Towers Motor Parts, located in my hometown of Nashua, NH, that also sold automotive refinish paint and related supplies. In the days before PBE Jobbers, many auto parts stores divided shelf space between spark plugs, distributor points and condensers with refinish paint, sandpaper and body filler.
Nashua, with a population of 55,000 was served by five auto parts jobbers, one of which was a NAPA store who carried a small amount of RM paint and another independent jobber carried a small amount of Ditzler paint. Neither store actively pursued the collision industry. Our store carried a full line of DuPont refinish products, 3M products and mostly everything a body shop of the time could need or want. Being the most aggressive collision-industry jobber in town, we did a brisk business in supplying body shops within about a ten-mile radius. Here is a brief overview, as I remember it, of the collision repair business, 50 years ago.
When I started, my responsibilities included mixing paint, delivering parts as well as paint supplies and eventually, waiting on customers. As a DuPont jobber in 1969, our two main paint products were Dulux enamel and Lucite lacquer. Another paint product, Duco, a nitrocellulose lacquer, which had been developed in the 1930s, was still in use, mostly for use on import or “non-domestic” cars because Lucite had not been developed for those cars yet. Within a year or so, Duco was phased out in favor of Lucite and almost as quickly, Centari acrylic enamel and Imron polyurethane enamel was introduced. Initially, Imron, developed primarily for fleet use was available in only about a dozen colors.
Before the days of computers (and even before microfiche) paint mixing formulas were printed on index cards and kept in file drawers similar to book index cards in a library of the time. Lord help you if you spilled paint on an index card and destroyed it. Being the town’s major supplier of mixed paints, some days we were backed up for hours.