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Monday, 16 April 2018 17:28

In Reverse: Duke, Dunk and DuPont---Tales from the 1930s

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With the proliferation of cars’ models in the late ‘50s and the need for more and better data, Norman’s former employer could not keep up and was ready to fold.  Mitchell stepped in, picking up the National subscribers---and Mitchell was off and running as a nationwide collision industry provider of repair information.

To ensure the times Mitchell was using were fair and equitable for all parties, Norman organized meetings all over the country for shop owners, technicians, dealer associations and insurance companies to review repair times and operations.  These meetings continued from 1963 to 1968.  

By the mid-1960s, the team of Duke Norman and Glen Mitchell had grown to 130 people.  In 1972, the company was sold to Cordura, a technology-based company, with the intention of bringing Mitchell into the 20th century with new technology.

In 1973, Norman suffered a stroke.  The travel and long hours had caught up to him.  He returned to work later that year and retired in 1976.

Alfred Dunk

Alfred Dunk died of pneumonia in California on March 6, 1936.  He was only 61 years old.  Few, if anyone, remember Dunk today, but if it had not been for him providing replacement parts to mechanical and body shops for early model vehicles, more cars would have hit the scrap heap at a much earlier age.  Dunk was a pioneer in the replacement auto parts field and single-handedly responsible for helping keep probably tens of thousands of cars on the road.  No doubt, many mechanics and body men praised him for his simple but visionary idea.  

During the earliest years of the automotive industry, scores of car companies were founded, lasted a few years, sold a few cars, then went bankrupt or otherwise disappeared.  This left thousands of “orphaned” vehicle owners and repair shops with no way to get parts for repair and maintenance.  Enter Alfred Dunk.  In 1908, two car manufacturers approached Dunk to set up a parts distribution system for them.  The two companies would merge into a company called E-M-F and Dunk would handle parts distribution.  Dunk then founded a company called Auto Parts Company and made himself president.  By 1910, Dunk was doing such a good job, another car maker, Blomstrom, asked Dunk to distribute parts for them, which he did.  

Over time, and as more and more car manufacturers went out of business, Dunk found it advantageous to not only buy the manufacturer’s parts inventory, but also the blueprints and drawings so additional parts could be made.  Dunk then formed another company called The Puritan Machine Company and began to manufacture parts as his inventory exhausted itself.  A magazine article of the time touted that Dunk had parts or could make parts for 196 obsolete automobiles.  In 1929, Dunk turned over to the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce, records for parts for 756 companies.  Many early auto repairers and early body men certainly knew and depended on his parts companies.  Consider also that this pioneer of the auto parts business was born in 1875, the height of the cattle-drive era of the old west.  

Read 2090 times Last modified on Wednesday, 15 August 2018 17:11