Quantcast
Jump to content


Gonzo

Article: Back When - - - Which era do you fit into?

Recommended Posts

Back When … Which Era Are You From?

We’ve all heard the old mechanic at the repair shop tell us about those simpler times; the times when you could fix a car with bailing wire and a boot strap. Let’s take a look back at the way things were, back to the time when the old salty dog mechanic was just a green apprentice in the shop, and see what it was really like. Maybe you’ll find where you are, where you come from, and where we’re all heading.

1940’s to 1949

Pre-War and Post War Era

The Artisan Years

The major setback to the automotive industry was of course World War II. The 1940’s is by far the most unusual time in automotive industry. This was the only time when production actually stopped. 1942 was the last civilian production year and no new production was started back up until 1946. Early 40’s cars were all about luxury, and showcased the wealth and status of its owner.

Throughout the 40’s there was a sense of pride to the craft of creating an automobile. Luxury, style, and pure craftsmanship were evident in almost all the models produced back then. A new car in the 1940’s would set you back about $800.00, and a full out luxury convertible by 1949. with all the bells and whistles could run a whopping $3,970.00 (Chrysler’s Town and Country Woody).

By the mid 40’s gas prices shot up to .18 cents a gallon. Average mileage back then for a production car… 15-20 mpg. Fluid drives, over drives, and power brakes were offered as standard features. Sealed headlights and heating systems were becoming standard features as well.

1950 – 1959

The Style and Chrome Era

The post war years brought on a prosperous time in America. Soldiers returned and settled with their young families in a new concept of housing… the suburbs. Farms were getting larger and smaller farms were being combined. Farm tractors and implements made huge advancements in their capabilities, which meant that fewer hands were needed on the farms. It was the time when more roads and bridges were being constructed, as well as full scale manufacturing of all types of goods was sweeping the nation. More returning GI’s searched out work in the big cities, and getting there required a car. By 1950 there were almost 40 million cars on the road, (40% increase from the 40’s) and 3 out of 5 families owned a car.

Car manufacturers were going for the glitz, glamor, and larger size of cars. Some models by the late 50’s reached epic proportions. Advertising was more likely to emphasize the cosmetics of the car rather than the mechanical features. New colors, chrome, automatic and power accessories overwhelmed a new car buyer. Tail fins started out small in the early 50’s, but by the end of the decade they were the size of small sails. These designs all grew out of the big fad of space travel, rockets, air ships, and plane travel.

Tail light lenses had the shade of ruby red lipstick, paint schemes came in two tones, large front bumpers and lots and lots of chrome. Chrome seemed to be everywhere, inside and out.

Car sales dipped a bit by the mid 50’s, which drove a few of the smaller car manufacturers out of business. Mechanics of that era were all about turning wrenches and keeping things in working shape, and with so many cars on the road it wasn’t hard to stay busy.

A new trend was starting to take hold in communities all over the country… the used car market. It had been there for many years before, but wasn’t as strong a player in the automotive market. Now with more models, more changes and innovations people started trading in their cars more frequently. Everyone wanted the latest, greatest models offered. (Advertising at work…) By 1957, buying a car on credit became the norm.

1955 the average car cost $1500. to $3000, and a gallon of gas… .23 cents.

1960 to 1969

The early Muscle Car era

Most connoisseurs of the muscle cars would say the first muscle car was the Olds Rocket 88 from the 40’s. True… but, in the 60’s mom and dad could go down and purchase a new family station wagon that could run on the drag strip that afternoon with no modifications… straight from the showroom. By the early 60’s the “Big Three” (GM, Ford, Chrysler) dominated the global market. 93% of all cars came from the big three back then. Although companies like VW and other foreign manufacturers began to gain a foothold on American soil with their small economical vehicles as well.

Styling was still important, but raw horsepower was definitely the selling point at the dealerships. Some cars got the term “sleeper”, because from the outside the dull and unassuming body style hid a raging high powered V8 engine under the hood. Every manufacturer was putting out more and more muscle type cars well into the mid 70’s, but the mid-size and compact market was a growing market as well.

The Chevy II, Monza, Corvair, Dodge Dart, Chrysler Valiant and the Ford Falcon are just a few examples of the small sized cars available back then. Some say it was the VW Beetle and the gas crunch that brought it on, others say it was government regulation on emission and safety standards, and the smog conditions in some parts of the country that brought the end to the leaded gas years, but whatever it was, I’m still a fan of the raw horsepower of a muscle cars.

In the 60’s a new car might set you back about $3000, while .32 cents put a gallon of gas in it.

1970 – 1979

The Last of the Muscle Cars

The Technical Era

The first microprocessor came out in 1971 (the Intel 4004), the video game “Pong” came out in 1972, and things like the liquid crystal watch made its debut. Electronic ignition was a biggie, which started in the early 70’s It became popular for a lot of mechanics to switch older rides over to the more reliable electronic ignitions. Lots of various systems were developed; on board lean burn systems (Chrysler) in 1976, Dura spark, and many others. Radial tires, stamped out aluminum rims, and electronic charging systems became common place. (Chrysler had the first alternator car back in the 60’s). Anti-lock brakes became an option, and many other innovative ideas started being added to the cars back then.

A lot of the technology had been around for decades, and some manufacturers used some of those innovative ideas even as early as the 40’s, although, most of them didn’t become a standard feature or workable until the advent of the early computer age.

By far the technical aspect of what was happening around the automotive world had a bigger influence on the market place than any styling or horsepower. It was the sign of the times … economy, safety, emissions, and mpg that stood out as the biggest concerns. By the 70’s it wasn’t uncommon for a family to have more than one car. Mom would have the family car, while dad had his ride. The signs of the busy, fast pace life (as we know it today) had its meager start with the ability to do more, go to more places, and be more mobile.

By the mid 70’s a new car had a price tag of around $2500.00 to $4000.00 while a gallon of gas ran about .57 cents.

1980 to 1989

The Check Engine Light Era

With the clean air act established in 1963, improved amendments added in 1970 (more changes in 1990 also), and the national speed limit dropped to 55 mph in 1974, (prompted by the spike in oil prices of the late 70’s) a huge change was under way for cars that were produced by the time the 80’s came along. Car and Driver Magazine referred to the last muscle car as "The Last of the Fast Ones". Their pick for the last of the show room hot rods was Pontiac's Firebird Trans Am SD455 model of 1973–1974. The 80’s had an entirely different outlook about cars than they did in 70’s… times were changing.

The big car was getting smaller. Some of the same names for those muscle cars of the 60’s and 70’s were still used on the new models, but the car was entirely different, and was nothing like its earlier predecessors. Gone were the tail fins of the 50’s, and so were the muscle cars of the 60’s and 70’s. Now things were geared for fuel economy and safety. By 1984 some states started making seat belt use mandatory, and it wasn’t long before everyone else required it.

Computer aided systems were the new innovations. There were a few earlier computerized/ECU controlled systems before the 80’s (the first production car with a working electronic computer system was a 1968 VW type 4. In the USA the 1975 Cosworth Vega, and later the 1979 Cadillac were the first that I know about.), but by the mid 80’s most productions vehicles had a check engine light and some sort of ECU.

All in all styling was secondary, horsepower wasn’t what it used to be, and the overall length and size of the family car was changing as well. Now controlling emission and gas mileage was the big concern. The check engine light was here to stay, and so was the computer age in the automotive world. Things were changing and changing rapidly.

By 1985 an average car would cost about $8500.00 and gas was a whopping $1.20 a gallon.

1990 to 1999

Converters - O2’s

The Smart Car Era

By the time the mid 90’s rolled around computers were in charge. The biggest changes were definitely with the electronics in cars, and that hasn’t stopped yet. The ECU, ECM, PCM became not just a device that watched for failed emission readings, but now has become part of the actual operation of the car. There were a lot of earlier models with chips and proms that governed the operation of the vehicle, but with the more up to date computers things like the air conditioning, transmission, lighting, and practically every other function in the car was handled by some form of computerized control.

If you could take a time capsule back to the 60’s and see the smog level in some of the larger cities, and compare it to now, you’d see a dramatic difference in the air quality. Needless to say, the catalytic converter made the difference. Using the modern computer systems with their O2 sensors monitoring the exhaust, the car of today has a much healthier emission foot print than those of a few decades ago. Granted, a lot of “tuner” mechanics will tell you that a properly tuned and well maintained car from the muscle car era will have just as clean an exhaust as its modern counterpart. That might be true, but… that’s a hard and probably impossible task, considering the number of cars on the road. You’re just not going to be able to keep them all tuned to that efficiency. But, the converter in today’s car makes it all possible.

By the late 90’s styling starting coming back into the picture. Gone were the boxy body styles, the early emission systems with their countless vacuum tubes, and toned down horsepower models of the 80’s. Horsepower started to get some notice again, and there was definitely some interest in a show room hot rod, just as it was way back when. Especially after 1995 when the 55 mph act was repealed. The need for speed was back. Of course we also have the added features like air bag systems, better suspensions, better handling, better brake systems, better engines, better transmissions, etc… (the list goes on and on.) Computers and technology really made a difference in the automotive industry in the 90’s. Handling was better, performance was better, and overall the cars were better. With proper care a lot of these cars could go well past 100k miles on the odometer.

The average car off the show room floor in 1995 was around $15,000. While a gallon of gas was $1.15 (Interesting compared to the 80’s)

2000 to the present

The Computerized Era

It’s the era of computers, internet, smart phones, face book and the like. Cars have GPS satellite coverage, self-parking, automatous capabilities, and can perform a lot of its own self checks with internal diagnostics. Styling is alive and well… maybe not to the extremes of the 50’s, but a more modern approach to a stream lined body style with a touch of the old nostalgic look as well. Horsepower from smaller displacement engines is the norm, lots of horsepower by the way. Mileage is increasing with every new model, too. There’s no doubt the electronic computerized engine control era is upon us. With more advancements and better technology waiting to be implemented, it’s just a matter of time before cars surpass anything that resembles the mechanical wonders from decades ago.

In the near future the next generation of mechanics will undoubtedly be nothing like the mechanic from the 40’s. Oh sure, they’ll still have a big box of tools, but along with that they’ll also have an understanding of electronics and computers their predecessors never needed. The sad part of that is the craftsmanship of those early pioneers in the industry will be few and far between. Computers and technology override the old “hands on” approach to car repair.

Average new car in 2005 was around $25,000.

In 2010 the average car would set you back about $28,000.

2005 a gallon of gas averaged 1.95, while in 2010 it was 2.51

I’m looking forward to introducing those mechanics born in this time period to the world of automotive repair, and what a world it’s going to be, Hybrids, Electrics, GDIs, and other variations and innovations.

I hope I haven’t bored you with my take on what it was like to be a mechanic throughout these decades I’ve listed. Of course I couldn’t cover everything, or some of the other important highlights. It’s more of what I thought was interesting for those time periods. So which decade do you fit in? When were you born?

The changes are all around us, and sometimes those changes are evident by which decade your car comes from. Taking a look back at the automotive industry from a different perspective might make you appreciate your mechanic and your car just a little more than usual. But don’t forget, keep one an eye on the future too.

 

 

Click here to view the article

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites



  • Similar Forum Topics

    • Increase auto repair sales by adding to the cart

      Retail stores have known for a long time that adding or increasing the size of shopping carts also increases sales. Consumers may go to the store with a list, but as they pass through the aisles, having a cart makes it easy to add to that list.  While your repair shop does not use shopping cart, the same strategy can used. Every customer that books an appointment as done so with some sort of list; an oil change service, a brake issue, tire rotation, etc.  Through an effective multipoint inspection and looking at service schedules, you can make suggestions to your customers that can add to their cart; essentially increasing sales per vehicle. One last thing: Always make service and repair suggestions to the customer that is in their best interest and have value, and you can’t go wrong.  It’s actually great customer service. 

      By Joe Marconi, in Joe’s Business Tips For Shop Owners

        
      • 0 replies
      • 142 views
    • Article: Challenges Of The Auto Repair Business

      As the auto industry moves on into the modern age, repair centers all around the country are experiencing pressure with the tech world and our world colliding. We are all trailing nationwide franchises and dealerships that have endless resources working at their disposal. For most smaller auto repair businesses there isn’t enough time, money, or energy to attempt to constantly and actively secure the new business. We’re mostly worried about attempting to maintain the existing business we have, which has newer cars and increasing demands. Most of our time is now spent adjusting to the learning curve of advanced vehicle systems. However, that’s just a shop problem. The front office of your shop has its own issues to contend with that didn’t exist 15 years ago. Make no mistake about it, our industry is in the middle of a revolution and with 3D printing knocking at the door… the amount of balls to juggle are going to be considerable and it's all just getting started. Today’s auto repair businesses need to worry about the following: Location – Securing a proper location and the authorization to conduct business there over the long term ensures survival. Tools – Without the proper tools, we just can’t work on today’s vehicles. Training – Without the proper training, we put ourselves and our customers at high risk. Employee Engagement – Keeping your employees as interested in your success as you are is critical to the elements that keep people returning and employees from leaving. Employee Advancement – Providing an environment where employees know they can grow with your business, whether financially or moving up within the organization, is the key to keeping and securing talent. Marketing – This is the most complicated element in today’s world. It involves a mix of a strong web presence, good advertising ethics, social media profile, and following up with customers. Advertising – Can be expensive and very confusing. The best method to start is to get your feet wet with small budgets that keep your name in front of your potential customers, constantly. Software – Without good software, it is difficult to run any business. Good software is and always has been subjective. Our experiences indicate that good software saves you time and builds trust with your customers. Most importantly, it should work for you and not against you. This article originally published in CAR's News Section
      View full article

      By CAR_AutoReports, in AutoShopOwner Articles

      • 0 replies
      • 49 views
    • Best Scanner for General Repair

      Hello,  We're in the market for a new scanner and figured I'd ask fellow shop owners their ideas and experiences. I did search the board archives and didn't see much within the past year or so.  We are a general repair shop servicing most anything, according to customer attitude. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.   Thanks in advance 🙂

      By Extracareman, in General Automotive Discussion

      • 5 replies
      • 425 views
    • Article: Breaker-Breaker--- back in the day of the CB... things were a bit different

      Breaker, Breaker…                                 In my many years of repairing cars I’ve helped out a  countless number of other shops with their electrical  problems.  Some shops I would see a few times a month,  and others only once in awhile. This was years before the  internet was around, and cell phones were only a fad and way to expensive to have.  So, most everything was  done by a land line or over the CB radio.         Back in the mid 80’s and 90’s I had one shop that I talked with nearly every day.  Great guys, but not so great as mechanics.  The owners name was Joe.  His shop was small and seemed to be a place for wayward towed vehicles and obscure customers looking for dirt cheap repairs.  His main business was his tow service, and the repair shop seemed to be there just to fill in the gaps on those slow days.     One afternoon I got a call from Joe about a car his crew had given up on.  They threw the parts cannon at it, but couldn’t get this car to come back to life.  Joe was with tows, and needed the mechanics he had to drive the other tow trucks. This particular car had been in his shop for quite some time and I don't think the customer was too happy about it.  So, to speed things up a bit, he dropped it off at my shop.         “I’ll be on the road all day.  I've got to get back out there.  I've got tows lined up all day.  If you get it going, could ya run it back to my shop,” Joe said, as he made a dash for his tow truck.       “No problem Joe, I’ll get right on it,” I said, just as he drove off.       The car was an 80’s GM. I could see all kinds of shiny new components under the hood, and could tell they put a lot of effort into swapping parts to find out what was going on.   The symptom was; if you flipped the key to the crank position it would immediately start, but die just as quickly.           The parts they changed were the predictable parts cannon fodder that the typical parts slapper would try.  Tune-up parts, an IAC, TPS, MAP, ECM, etc… etc… all of which might, could, should’ve, probably, maybe, and of course, eventually with enough darts thrown at it, could have hit the target and fixed it.  But it didn’t.   I wasn’t about to go that route.  Time for some real diagnostics and not just shoot from the hip.  Why not start with the basics- fuel, air, and fire.          Spark was good, timing looked good, and the intake had a good air pull.  I gave it a shot of carb. cleaner, and as long as I kept spraying… it kept running.  Ok, time to check the fuel pressure.  Interesting... there was pressure.  Hmmm, now what to do? The next obvious thing (to me) was to check fuel volume.           I disconnected a fuel line and gave the key a flick into start.  The fuel shot out into the drainage bucket, but then trickled to a stop. I did it a second time.  Not as much fuel made it out this time, but the scenario was basically the same.  It was always a quick burst followed by a trickle.  Maybe I should look at that gas gauge. Well, wouldn’t ya know it, the gauge is ready E. It had just enough in the tank to pressurize the fuel lines but not enough to keep it going.       Might as well grab a gas can, and put some in the tank.  I’ll try it again… vroom, vroom, vroom, alright! It’s running great!  Looks to me as if the entire problem was that it was out of gas.  However, with all the new parts they installed, I couldn’t be sure if this was the 'only' problem or an after affect of having the car in the shop so long while trying to solve another problem.  It could have been any one of the other components (within reason) they changed that really 'did' need to be changed.           Later that day I drove the car back to Joe’s shop.  He wasn’t there, but his dispatcher was in the office sorting out tow tickets and monitoring the CB with the volume up full blast.  In the background you could hear the CB chatter from all the area’s tow companies.         About then I heard Joe’s voice over the CB, “Did Gonzo call yet? Need to check in on him, we need to get that car back to the owner.”       “He just walked in Joe, over,” the dispatcher told him.       “So what was wrong with it,” Joe asked between the squelch of the CB radio and all the other chatter from the other tow companies.       The dispatcher turned to me and pointed at the mic.  So, I told him . The dispatcher, with a stunned look on his face, said, “I can’t tell him that.  He is going to be so pissed.”       “I don’t think you should either.  At least not until he gets back,” I said, while breaking into an ear to ear smile.       The CB comes back to life with Joe’s voice again; “So what did he find out, over,” Joe's frustration was showing through as his voice barked out of the CB speaker.  The dispatcher said to me, " Old Joe sounds pretty pissed."      I don’t know whether it was the way his day was going or how much time and money he's spent on this car.  Either way, he’s not going to like this answer.        “Go ahead… tell him,” I said to the dispatcher, still sitting there hold the mic button, “He wants the answer, so let him have it.”       “Alright, Joe, are ya ready for this, over?" the dispatcher said, then waited for a response from Joe.   "Yea, go ahead, over."   "It was out of gas.”       A dead silence came over the CB. No chatter, nothing, not another sound for what seemed to be an eternity.  Then, all hell broke loose.  Tow drivers from all over the city were razing poor Joe.  The CB was full of laughter and goof ball comments, but not a word from Joe. Poor Joe, you asked for it, and now you got it.        “Tell Joe to stop by the shop, he can settle up with me then,” I said, while trying to hold back the laughter.       As I walked out the door, the CB chatter could be heard all the way to the parking lot, and the comments were still flying.  It was one of the funniest moments I’ve ever had for doing nothing more than putting gas in a car.         When Joe came up to pay the bill I told him I had a little something for him.  I handed him a little tiny gas can on a key chain.  I figured it might be a good reminder for him to always check the basics before loading up the parts cannon again.            After all these years I’m sure he hasn’t forgotten about it, and I’ll bet he doesn’t tell too many people where he got that little gas can key chain from… but now, it wouldn't be so much on the CB, but over the internet. 
      View full article

      By Gonzo, in AutoShopOwner Articles

      • 3 replies
      • 85 views
    • Article: Restoration for the Mechanic - modern repairs, old mechanic

      Restoration for the Mechanic Electrical issues on today’s cars have certainly taken  center stage.  Mechanical issues are still there too, but  it’s not uncommon to have a mechanical problem be  diagnosed, monitored, or calibrated by some electronic  means.  You just can’t get away from the electrical  if you’re in the automotive repair business these days.   It’s taken over just about every facet of the automobile.         Today’s mechanics have become something entirely  different from the stereotypical mechanic from just a  few decades ago.  It’s not that long ago when the  electrical section of the repair manuals were just a  chapter or two, today… its volumes and volumes of  schematics and diagnostic procedures.  I’m old enough  to remember when points and condensers were still  the norm, and I’ve watched the industry go from  electronic ignition to today’s electronic jungle of wires  and processors. We’ve definitely come a long way with  the technology.   Even though I work on all these newfangled electrical wizardry systems on the modern car, deep down I’m still the kid who got a kick out of tearing down an old junker and putting it back together.  Now, I’m surrounded by modules, proximity keys, and sensors.  Occasionally it’s kind of nice just to step away from the computer and just turn a wrench or two. I look forward to those simpler kinds of jobs, the ones that need a craftsman’s touch and not a box of transistors and capacitors to figure out what to do.  Back to a time when a driver was more mechanical involved in the process of operating the vehicle.   Heating vents with levers and cables, or a hand choke that needed just the right touch to get it started.  No electronics, no service light, just the essentials.  (For you younger techs, I’m referring to the days when you actually had to unlock a door with a key.)     I still marvel at the ingenuity and engineering of those times. I guess it’s one of the reasons why I like going to old car and steam engine shows so much.  It’s all about the mechanics for me.  Electronics are great, but to see the early mechanical devices that were commonplace a century ago still amazes me.  How they figured it out, and how they made it work is shear brilliance.  (If you ever get a chance to study some of those early mechanical systems, you might be surprised how things were accomplished prior to the computer age. It’s quite fascinating… well at least to me it is.)      It’s great to be able to step back once in a while and just be a mechanic.  Back when things were rebuilt and not just replaced with new. There’s a certain satisfaction in taking a broken mechanical device and making it functional again.  It’s those jobs that after you’ve wrestled the components into place, and everything is finished you realize that you’re covered in grease, but for some reason you’ve got this big smile on your face. It’s the look of accomplishment, a smile of pride in a job well done.  And while you’re cleaning up the tools, you look over at the finished project still smiling, knowing you’re done and can move onto the next project.  It just doesn’t compare to finishing up on a modern car when the last thing to do is watch that blue line steadily move across the computer screen, waiting for it to say “Task completed”.   Not that I’m putting down the modern car, no far from it.  It’s just nice to take a break once in a while from the technical mumbo-jumbo and just be a mechanic for a change.  Even though it’s pretty awesome to solve a difficult electrical issue, it’s hard to beat a good old fashion mechanical repair.  For me, when a restoration project shows up at the shop I get a chance to turn off the laptop and open the toolbox.   These restoration jobs are just as much for the customer as they are for me.  It’s a restoration of some of my old almost forgotten mechanical abilities. (Yea, I still got it…)     We put a lot of trust in the modern electronics, something the engineers and designers of those automobiles from a few decades ago never even though of.  Their own ingenuity and craftsmanship kept them going.  Components were built to be repaired not replaced.  I think it’s safe to say that a car from 50 years ago is more likely to start and run in another 50 years but I seriously doubt a car from today would have the same luck. There again, it might be something a technician/mechanic of that era might figure out how to do by then.  Me I’ll still stick with being a mechanic/technician … I still like the physical repair aspect of the job.     The future of electronics in today’s cars is constantly changing; sometimes we notice the changes while other times you can’t physically see them.  Sometimes all it takes is a little R&R on an old jalopy just to make me remember how far we’ve come.  In the meantime, the latest restoration job is done so it’s time to go for a test drive.    I’ll get back to the laptop and the modern car world just as soon as I get all the tools cleaned up… it might take a bit though … I’m still admiring the restoration job and I’ve got some more smilin’ to do.  
      View full article

      By Gonzo, in AutoShopOwner Articles

      • 2 replies
      • 80 views
  • AutoShopOwner Sponsors



×