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Tuesday, 06 November 2018 23:21

In Reverse: The Fabulous ‘50s and Mr. O’Donnell’s Invention

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Some key events in the 1950s would lead to the industry’s first voice in the 1960s. In June of 1955, Emil Stanley founded Stanley Publishing, which produced two magazines: Transportation Supply News and Jobber Product News. Little did he realize, he would later be an innovator in the world of publishing for the collision repair industry. In 1962, Stanley would produce the first nationally distributed collision trade publication, Auto Body News and Good Car Care magazine. Finally, the collision repair industry in general, and shops in particular, had a voice.


Auto body painters finally learned that breathing toxic paint fumes all day was just not good for their lungs, and great strides were made in the world of paint application and the paint-application environment. It was around this time that German engineers developed downdraft technology for rapid air movement and adapted it for use in paint booths. During the war, people and soldiers in Germany worked underground for protection and secrecy. German engineers devised a method of pushing fresh air underground to soldiers and workers and pulled spent air out the bottom along a trench and then exhausted to the outside.


When the industrial infrastructure of Europe was rebuilt, engineers turned to the downdraft method. This was a technology whose time had come because painter health and safety became more of an issue in the 1950s. The downdraft system could quickly and efficiently suck fumes and spray away from the painter and into a floor trench. Fire prevention also became more of an issue, which promoted improvements in spark and fume control and spark containment within the booth. However, not every shop had a booth or saw the need for a booth. Lacquer was the paint of choice in the ‘50s, a product that dried so fast that overspray didn’t go nearly as far as enamel. Besides, lacquer needed to be polished to a shine, so a little overspray that settled on a freshly painted surface was not a problem.


In the early 1950s, the average hourly rate for collision repair was $4 to $5 per hour. The average hourly wage for a body man was $1.75 per hour. This seems ridiculous today, but back then, bread was $0.12 per loaf, and 3 pounds of hamburger cost $0.89.

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