“Cut and shut”: crash repairs in days gone by

I just found a photo at Mum’s place, showing the driveway of my parents’ former home, around 1989.

It shows my Dad’s ’82 Mazda 323 (which I talked about in this article about my own) plus my brother’s ’82 XD Falcon, his ’77 HX Holden Kingswood and Mum’s ’85 Mitsubishi Magna. My own vehicle at the time isn’t seen – perhaps it’s in the garage.

Every one of these cars would visit the smash repairer, for some major repairs. With my brother at the wheel, the Kingswood hit a kerb at speed while cornering, and the front of the chassis was left quite bent.

The Falcon would be rolled on a back road. Yep, overturned.. with all four wheels pointing to the sky. The roof sported a slight peak in the middle until the repairs were finished.

Both were back on the road within a reasonable time.

The Magna was hit while parked in a street, by a car coming around the corner. It needed a new rear bumper and some minor bodywork.

Then there was Dad’s 323:

In late 1990, Dad stopped in traffic and a 4WD with a bullbar slammed into the back of the car – you can see the imprint of the bullbar uprights in the hatchback. The impact sent the Mazda into the back of the car in front, but thankfully only minor damage was caused there.

Here’s the kicker: Dad was driving the 323 after having signed a dealer contract to buy a used Land Cruiser, with the 323 as his trade-in. They told him to come back in a day or so, to pick up the new vehicle. So with the trade now an insurance matter, Dad somehow rustled up the funds to complete the deal.

Even with its bent rear quarter panel, squashed towbar and flattened hatch, the 323 was fully repaired (looking better than ever with new lights, paint and plastics) and was soon sold to a family friend.

These photos got me thinking about smash repair standards today, and in days gone by. Would a 12-year-old sedan with a visibly bent chassis be straightened out? Would a 7-year-old sedan, that had been found crashed and upside down, be brought back to life?

In 1989, at least, the answer was ‘yes’. I think today these cars would be written off.

Around this time, I was introduced to the body repair term “cut and shut”. That’s because my friend’s early 80s Honda Prelude was left in such a state after being hit while parked, that nearly half of another car was welded to what remained of his.

A similar Honda. Source Reddit: Either-West-711

He’d left the car parked on the front lawn at his parents’ house, in a quiet street about 4 houses from the corner. One night someone took that corner too fast, and ran into the back of his Prelude. Unfortunately the impact pushed the car forward – into the power pole that also stood on the lawn.

So this Honda was a candle that had been burnt at both ends. The insurance company arranged for the repair, and the body shop gave him an awful, beaten up early 70s Toyota Corona to drive, for the months it took to fix the car.

After a very long wait, the car was returned, with the shop saying they’d “cut and shut” a new rear section on the car. The Prelude looked great, but never drove the same – and the sunroof often refused to open or close.

So much for “cut and shut”. It wasn’t long before the Honda was an open and shut case, and traded in.

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