A Little History Lesson on the Roots of Paintless Dent Repair in the United States

This was written by my long-time friends Tom Price & Tommy Clayton around 2007.

Tom Price Said:

Due to popular requests from a few of you, here is some history of the roots of PDR in this country. I am relating this history to you as I have heard it. It may not be 100% fact, but the gist of the stories are true, as I have been told. I’m kind of a PDR historian and fact junkie….others would call me just plain nosy. LOL. PDR gets its primitive worldwide origins from the assembly lines of the Mercedes and BMW plants in Germany dating back over 60 years there. It is unknown who started and perfected this craft there. In the US, PDR has several traceable origins that I know of. The most verifiable is Nattalio Balderama and Dent Wizard dating their incorporation back to 1983 here. Nattalio, or Lido as he is more commonly known, came to the US from Argentina in the early ’80s. He was a bodyman who was frustrated that a car panel had to be straightened and then painted to be considered properly repaired. He took old school metal bumping techniques and molded them into modern-day PDR principles. How he figured all this out, I’ll never know. He came to the US and started practicing this art and through lots of courting, formed DW with a few American businessmen. I had the distinct privilege of being trained by Lido in Florida in 1992 for 6 weeks. He was an incredible man. Another US PDR pioneer is Juergen Holzer from Minnesota. He was a BMW factory PDR tech from Germany who moved to Minneapolis in about 1978 and started DentKraft there. He traveled all across the US, like Lido in those early days repairing high line cars. He does not have the corporate documentation to be able to refute DW’s claim of being the original. In 1986 Dent Doctor was formed when Tom Harris, a successful American businessman stumbled upon the talents of Darwin Sanders and the 2 joined forces. Darwin’s roots go back from his body shop days, and he claims to be an original here in the US I believe as well. The modern-day Mecca of PDR is Springfield, Missouri. A large group of guys that worked at Springfield Acura there started into the PDR trade in about 1990. They included Jerry Powell, Scott Clifton, Jerry Blehm, and a few others. I’m sure there are many others who claim some type of originality, but the ones listed above have the most substantiation I know of. It is interesting to note that DW had a unique style of PDR with their cold-rolled bendable tools, flatbars, master tools, fog reflection systems, etc. DW also trains techs in the “upside-down” door-ding position. Most of the rest of the PDR companies of old utilized pre-formed, heat-treated tools with bare-bulbed fluorescent lighting systems and stand in the normal leaning forward door-ding position. This a bit of the origin and history as has been told and proven to me. If you want a bit more elaboration or embellishment on this subject, look me up at MTE. I’m the big, tall, loud, ugly guy with the short hair that everyone is afraid of…..LOL. I will not be involved with any MTE activities other than as a spectator this year. I will have time to shoot the breeze. I will be hanging out a bit at the PDQ tools booth.

Lido is not directly employed by DW Corporate anymore, nor does he own much of anything in the US for DW. He does still have some DW International interests I believe. He still is paid to do some special training projects for DW in St Louis here and there my sources say. Juergen still does dents in the Minneapolis area and has trained several techs over the years. Tom Harris is the majority owner of Dent Doctor. Darwin owns some interests in Dent Doctor and or franchises and still does some training I hear. Jerry Powell is still the legendary PDR stud that he has always been. He now has a retail shop in Colorado Springs and still has his shop in Springfield, Missouri. Trey Pool [dentbrain] has more info on Jerry. Scott Clifton used to own US Dent for many years. He sold it a couple of years ago after he had milked it for all he could. Jerry Blehm sold A-1 to Jon [the current owner] a couple of years ago and is retired from PDR interests if I remember correctly. I hear a lot of info in the PDR world and talk to a lot of people. Sometimes my memory is hard-pressed to remember all the details I heard, but it’s usually fairly accurate.

Tommy Clayton Said:

A couple of things I understand from Jerry Powell (it’s been a couple of years since I talked to Jerry) He started around ’86-’87. The story I heard is that they had a guy Lido trained who would not show them how they took dents out. Jerry bought an old car and started knocking dents in it and trying to take dents out until he learned and taught Robert his brother (who the last time I worked with him was as good as Jerry (Jerry admits this)). I know Jerry trained a lot of people but he trained some guys for Steve Gerhartz (a wholesaler for American Sales and Imports in DC). This was around ’89 or ’90. DW bought Dentworks of DC (around ’96) and last I heard Steve Gerhartz still worked for them. Steve talked up Dentworks to his buyers and convinced John Wickstead of Greensboro NC to buy-in. Jerry trained Ricky Clayton (my uncle) and Scott (Wicksteads son who still works for Wickstead) in late ’90 early ’91. I went to work for Wickstead in early ’92. An industrial salesman bought Wickstead out in late ’96 after Ricky (who is in northern VA) and another guy Josh(who went to work for DW in Northern VA and has since left) left. We trained some guys to work for Dentworks and I bought my way out of my contract in early ’98. The guys we trained have left Dentworks except for a Salesman we had who forced the owner of Dentworks NC to sell to him or everyone would quit. Sorry to ramble on but I got to thinking of how PDR started in NC.

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