Schools Training

Becoming a Mechanic… in the 1940s

14 AUG 2012
Career Path : Automotive

In the first half of the 20th century, cars went from being a rarity to a quasi-necessity, at least in the streets and highways of North America. How did a young man – for at the time, it was almost exclusively young men who wanted to learn how to become an auto mechanic – go about fostering his dreams?

 

A young man intent on becoming a mechanic in the 1940s would have needed a different skill set from a young man or woman bound for auto mechanic college today.

 

The ‘40s were a time of growth for the automotive repair industry. “How to become an auto mechanic” itself was in flux, as new technology quickly became commonplace, for example, car heaters, car radios and windshield wipers.

 

In the ‘40s, becoming a mechanic would have required the following skills:

 

Machinist skills

 

Anyone becoming a mechanic in this decade knew that they could not always depend on having new replacement parts in stock. More often than not, auto mechanics of the time were called upon to alter existing parts or to produce their own new parts. Learning how to become an auto mechanic involved learning how to become a machinist.

 

Soldering skills

 

Just as students at auto mechanic college today must learn to master the soldering iron, so did young aspiring mechanics of the 1940s.

 

Electrician skills

 

Young men of the ‘40s with their hearts set on becoming a mechanic needed to understand the electrical system of a vehicle. They also needed to know how to align wheels without the benefit of the sophisticated alignment tools that populate auto mechanic college campuses today.

 

Welding skills

 

One of the best ways to distinguish oneself while becoming a mechanic was to learn how to weld. Mechanics who knew how to weld were in high demand in garages of the ‘40s.

 

Then, as now, it was possible to specialize

 

It has always been possible to specialize while becoming a mechanic. In the 40s, young men learning how to become an auto mechanic could choose from one of the following specializations:

 

-          body and fender repair

-          battery and electrical shop

-          brake testing

-          wheel alignment

 

Possibilities for career advancement

 

In the 40s, a young man working on becoming a mechanic could reasonably expect to start his career in the Parts Department, which was considered a fertile training ground in itself, not unlike an auto mechanic college, some of which were around even then, although usually only in larger cities. He might progress then to lubrication or even to serviceman. Ultimately, he might aspire to become a service manager and then a trouble shooter. Then, as now, these jobs required an ability to communicate well with customers and colleagues.

 

Training options

 

Although some young men were able to go to auto mechanic college, which were said to have the best training equipment., it was not as common a route as it is now. Rather, people interested in becoming a mechanic were advised to make the most of the shop, physics, mechanical drawing and math classes at their public high schools. Some garages organized private training for their employees on a regular basis. And some schools offered evening classes for aspiring mechanics. More often than not, aspiring mechanics were advised to tinker with cars on their own.

 

Can you think of any other similarities or differences between becoming a mechanic in the 40s versus now?

 

 

Visit CATI or more information on how to become an auto mechanic.