At the dawn of the 1980s, the collision repair industry was going through some fundamental changes with the advent of business computers, cars with unibody construction, advances in paint technology, repair technology and the introduction of aftermarket parts.
Business processes and repair protocols that had been virtually unchanged since the 1940s was quickly becoming obsolete.
“In the early 1980s, body shops had it rough,” said industry veteran John Loftus in a January 2018 interview. “They needed someone or something to pull them together and represent them on a national scale. They needed some cohesion. Every shop owner was fighting their own individual battles with insurance companies.”
At the time, and with few exceptions, auto body associations were mostly run at the state level. What was needed was a national organization to give the collision repair industry a unified voice.
On Sept. 25, 1982, the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) was formed with goals of providing body shops with technical training and management education, improve the quality standards of collision repair services, raise the professional standing of those engaged in the collision repair industry and secure the financial position of individuals within the industry. SCRS also wanted to work on programs to certify the professional ability of each individual member.
John Loftus was appointed executive director and Rosemarie Kitchin was the executive vice president. Loftus had spent 13 years as the owner and operator of Hawthorne Auto Body in Hawthorne, CA, and several years serving in various volunteer roles for the California Autobody Association (CAA). Loftus was a key player in the formation of the CAA for southern California and spent a year as their director.
In a recent interview, Rochelle Wickland, wife of one of SCRS’s founding members, Bill Wickland of Wickland CARSTAR Auto Body of Liberty, MO, noted, “John Loftus came to Missouri to meet with us. We all went over to Park’s Auto Body in Riverside and it was there that SCRS was born. The organization itself had to earn its reputation and credibility. But we had some good people to start out with – people who were already well-known and respected in the collision repair community. We jokingly called it the organization of the three Bills – shop owners Bill Bailey, Bill Eveland and my husband, Bill Wickland. At first we were thought of a rogue outfit.”