Rear View Mirror

The History of the Automobile in America,

it’s mechanical and auto body technology and development, the people who drive them, the laws they are subject to, the evolution of the roads they drive on, and almost inevitably, the technology required to recover a collision-damaged vehicle and return it to drivable condition, are all intertwined. The history of the collision repair industry, most specifically, the many companies that support the industry, have a long and interestingly varied past.

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

March 6, 1902

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 with no way to get parts for repair, maintenance, or replacement for body damage.  Enter Alfred Dunk.  In 1908, he was approached by two car manufacturers 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 those parts that he ran out of.  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.  Dunk died of pneumonia in California on March 6, 1936.  He was 61 years old and became known as The Godfather of the early auto replacement parts business.  Certainly, many early auto repairers and early body-men 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.  He truly spanned two centuries. 

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