Friday, 30 August 2019 09:57

In Reverse: The 1980s – Keeping up With Technology

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It seemed like we had just gotten over the decline of the hippie movement, and the rise and fall of disco and a TV actor being president of the U.S.

And bang … the 1980s were on top of us. It was a decade of big hair, big phones and new, bigger problems. We had to worry about who shot J.R., what would happen to Hawkeye, Radar and Major “Hotlips” Houlian now that the Korean war was over – and we had to worry about how to get a dirt-free finish on collision repairs.


On-Stage With Two-Stage


In the 1980s, paint technology was advancing rapidly. In a 1985 trade magazine column, industry leader and Texas shop owner Bobby Johnson wrote, “… the use of acrylic lacquer is down across the industry and will continue a downward trend in most shops. You can expect to use more catalyzed acrylic enamel, urethane and related products if you intend to duplicate texture, finish and durability.” Indeed, by 1985, most paint manufacturers had introduced their own two-stage base-coat/clear-coat paint systems. This was another thing driving the purchase of paint booths. More exotic paints meant more exotic means of application. Although waterborne paint had been around for years at the OE level, it had not yet hit the refinish market.


In early 1988, an article about modern refinishing techniques notes:


  • From 1981 to 1988, use of basecoat/clearcoat colors on domestic cars has gone from 6.5% use to 64.9%.
  • In 1988, more than 50% of all import vehicles will feature OE basecoat/clearcoat finishes.
  • More than 90% of all vehicle repairs in the U.S. will be spot and panel jobs.

A trade magazine article in the summer of 1989 notes; “New products are being introduced at such a rapid pace that it can be both confusing and frustrating for many of the ‘older than average’ painters. Many of us still recall when the introduction of new products only happened occasionally. The enormous number of changes in technology, equipment and training taking place in the last nine years (since 1979/1980) have been just short of overwhelming to many of us.”

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