Question about spray painting cars in 1960s "Detroit"...

Now, before the mods punt this to Café society, let me state why I think this is a general question. Also, take ‘Detroit’ as a stand in for US domestic automobile manufacturers.

Coming across this rather cool Martha & The Vandellas music video from the mid-1960s (to wit: Martha & company sing “Nowhere to Run” while a 1965 Mustang is assembled around them), I (and several of the 'Tube commenters) had an obvious question - at approx. 14 seconds in, the ladies walk thru a paint shop with a line of workmen visibly spraying paint on various body panels. None of the workmen seem to be wearing any sort of respiratory filter system, and the ladies are certainly not wearing such protection.

Since the dangers of spraying solvents and paint were clearly known pre-WW II, how the heck was this permitted 30 years later? For this video in particular, it probably took a few takes for the walk thru the paint shop, and I can’t imagine subjecting the singers to nasty paint fumes and spray over and over. As for the men did they do this unprotected spraying day in and day out - even by the mid-1960s (the spray seems to linger around and spread out, showing the paint shop ventilation system wasn’t all that impressive)?

Could that have simply been water or something else relatively harmless only for the video, and otherwise the men would have masks on?

Pretty obvious that it’s not assembly line that’s running normally…

So, done when the assembly line was shut down. I’d say the “paint” wasn’t paint.

They’re just spraying water. I don’t know if it’s even supposed to be paint.

My dad worked at Ford in 1967 and took photos of the paint line. I really should get around to posting them on some forum somewhere, they’re great.

Anyway, in the photos of real painting action happening, one can see some of the painters wearing mere paper filter masks, and other guys wearing nothing whatsoever. The masks are about what we would use nowadays for sanding drywall. Perhaps they’re even cheaper than that.

This was at Oakville Ford in Canada, but I expect it would have been the same in Detroit at the same time.

I can’t see the dangers video, but when I was a young man, you spray painted with “adequate ventilation”. The solvents are typically no more dangerous than getting drunk, or having an anasthetic. The paint is more dangerous (shich is why you wair a paint mask) but is typically less dangerous than smoking (and much less dangerous if you don’t smoke)

Getting back to this, we seem to have 2 votes for “paint shop employees” didn’t always have to wear masks, and 2 votes for “they wore masks, but didn’t wear them for this video”.

I’m certain that the spray is supposed to be paint (or some type of coating), as it follows the sequence of “assembly” - the singers first run though what seem to be primed body panel stampings (they don’t seem that shiny in glorious B&W) on an overhead conveyor; next they walk thru the paint station as the body panels are spray painted, and then run thru the now-shiny painted body panels moving via another overhead conveyor - the paint on the body panels must be dry, as the video director wouldn’t risk the ladies getting splotches of paint on their clothing or hair if they inadvertently brush the panels as they pass by.

Yes, I understand this video likely was not filmed during a normal production shift at the plant, as the filming would be pretty disruptive, particularly if they needed a lot of retakes. And this would have easily let them substitute, say colored water during the paint scene so that the singers wouldn’t risk sore throats or nasty bronchial infections (yes, they were lip-synching in this video, but they probably had other shows to do afterward).

“The solvents are typically no more dangerous than getting drunk, or having an anesthetic” Well, I wasn’t thinking in terms of substance abuse, but rather the affects on the workers’ respiratory system. I’m a bit paranoid on this, and always wear respiratory filter masks (rated for pesticides and solvents) whenever I spray aforementioned pesticides and solvents, as both my parents eventually developed lung cancer, and that’s something I don’t want to take after them with. :frowning:

yes, it was done on the production line at the Rouge plant.

though as I watch that, all I can think is “man, do we build cars differently nowadays.”

That looks like paint to me, for what that’s worth. At any rate the spray booth is kind of linear and the exhaust runs along the back wall of the line. You can see the paint getting sucked into the far wall. I’ve sprayed in smaller booths with some noxious acrylic lacquers and as long as you’re upstream in the breeze you can’t smell a thing. And this is from someone who is pretty particular about nasty fumes getting in his lungs. Add in the giant hassle of putting water into those paint lines and then getting it out again, well, who’d bother?

I’ll take their word for it. It doesn’t look like they’re actually painting anything to me, but I have no idea how cars in the 60s were painted. I assume there are big ventilation fans there if they are painting. Not for the workers, so paint doesn’t get all over the plant.

I don’t know about paints then — although I am sure they were chockablock full of all that lead-y goodness — but the primary reason for heavy protection now, both respiratory and body covering, is because of brain damage from the paint.

Industrial Hazard hath it’s victories as much as War.

I can’t comment too much about the old days, but im a professional painter for an ag and environmental company. My knowledge is OSHA didnt too involved with manufacturing hazards till 30 years ago or so. Obviously, the parts are dry that they bumped in to. So after a baking oven. Not sure if theyre spraying paint or not, in the other seen. I agree water and paint do not mix at all, so that could be a hassle. it could be a clear coat or even a wax for rust protection. For the record ive been told the metals in paint now are still bad for you, but if people wore the proper ppe, we could go back to having lead in paint, and having a nice smooth finish. 15 years ago at my company, people were still using dust masks and cover the faces and hair with vasaline to prevent the paint from adhearing. We now have suits, gloves, and air hoods. Weve come a long way.

Edited to add: also I concur that with the proper ventilation, and if your upstream, you wont hardly get any fumes, so thats a possibility.

Well that was an interesting read - it claims it was an active production line. While I figured they used a real production line, I also figured that Ford had slowed the line down so the film crew had time to do set-up, blocking, lighting, retakes, and so on - didn’t need to worry about sound as the music was obviously added in post (the ladies wouldn’t have been heard above the whine of pneumatic tools and the clanking of conveyors - maybe they did record the sound, but for time-keeping use during editing/post production). I wouldn’t be surprised if Martha & the Vandella switched white Mustang convertibles in various stages of assembly as different takes of the video were shot. The final completed Mustang that Murray the K drives off the assembly line, if the video has been shot even 10 years later it would likely have become the grand prize in some listener contest (of course, there were no production Mustang II convertibles made in 1975), but in 1965 who knows.

So if that was an active production line, then yes, that’s paint coming out of those sprayers (judging by the billows not fully being vacuumed up by the overhead ventilation system, that wasn’t too hot). After over a decade of watching “How Its Made” and other such shows, I’ve come to expect anyone spraying paint/powder coat/primer etc. in a production environment to be wearing a decent respiratory filter mask, regardless of the ventilation system installed.

As an aside, while checking a bit, I came across this interesting wiki entry which adds some context to the link jz78817 posted above:

In the 1960s, were most cars painted with enamel paints? These were oil based. Now, they use water based lacquer paints. I have always wondered how they did those 3-color jobs (roof one color, body another, and a 3rd trim color).