Mitchell 1’s Throwback Thursday Posts

Read this collection of popular Throwback Thursday blog posts that take a look back at the more than a century of Mitchell 1 history.

Throwback Thursday: The Mitchell Manual Mile

It’s that time around here – CLEANING Time! UGH! Most people only have to do “Spring Cleaning,” but in the library we have to do it whenever we get a chance. We were just going through old files and ran across some material from a “Department Showcase” we did here in 2011. For the library display, we put out some of the Mitchell Manuals and showed examples of old data storage methods and how we acquired the data in the “good old days.” It’s always fun to see these old relics because it makes us sooooo thankful for the way things are now!

One of the items we came across was the “Bit O’ Trivia” exhibit that we made. It included a sign stating the number of linear feet of shelf space that a customer would need to house a complete set of printed Mitchell Manuals. Then we stretched a green ribbon that distance along the wall so everyone could have a visual image of the shelf space these books required. It was fun to see the look on the employees faces when they saw the volume of Mitchell 1 repair data from that perspective.

To get an idea of the space these books needed, take a look at the photo above. Do they look familiar? These are the “annuals” of the 1994 master set for domestic cars, light trucks and vans, and import cars. In addition to these, the complete set included several estimating guides and maintenance service books.

These manuals were super popular, but as they grew in size, more of our customers turned to our electronic OnDemand product for repair information. In fact, by the late 90’s, OnDemand had bypassed the printed manuals in units sold. It makes perfect sense when you think about the rising complexity of vehicles and huge growth of automotive data provided by OEMs. There was just too much information to squeeze into a printed book.

And the growth has continued at a breakneck pace. In 2003, Mitchell 1 was processing about 200,000 pages of information per year. We now process about 1.5 million pages of data annually and have over 28 million pages of information available in ProDemand™, our online repair information product that replaced OnDemand. And that doesn’t even include the millions of articles in SureTrack, the expert-based diagnostic module inside ProDemand. Can you imagine how many books all that data would fill up – and how many feet of shelving you’d need to store them all?

So today I’m feeling very grateful for computers and the ease and speed they add to our lives … and the weight they’ve eliminated from our shelves, both in the library and in our customers’ shops!

All of the data in those books — and TONS more — is now accessible in ProDemand anytime you need it. You can even get to it on a small electronic device you hold in your hands. Yes, something that sounded like science fiction at the height of Mitchell 1’s publishing days has become totally commonplace in today’s shop. What’s not to love about that?!


Throwing It Back To The Early Days Of Automobiles

Celebrating over 100 years of Mitchell 1, we wanted to delve into our history even further. In doing so, we pulled out our prized jewel, a 1918 Reed Service Manual, our earliest record of what evolved to ProDemand, your current Mitchell 1 auto repair information. After flipping through the worn pages, it was remarkable to see how many vehicle manufacturers were unrecognizable. We’re talking about the kind of vintage that is far from ever being seen on the road and only seen in the most serious collector’s garage.

Do any of these sound familiar: Crow-Elkhart, Adlake, or Roamer? If you said yes, then kudos to you! You know your vintage cars. But if you’re like many others, these are mysterious brands that seemed to have disappeared overnight — many during The Great Depression.

This antique treasure inspired us to catch up on some of our vintage car knowledge and learn a bit more about the history of these cars that paved the way for our current automotive technology. Randomly, we selected three auto companies, all of which either had some pretty incredible innovations, impressive founders and industry thinkers or even just quirky stories. Here are some highlights of what we found on the Pierce-Arrow Motor, Franklin and Cunningham Automobile companies.

Pierce-Arrow 38-C4 from 1916. 6-cylinder engine. Photo cred: Wikimedia –

Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company – 1916 Pierce-Arrow Model38

If you’re thinking about collecting or restoring this Model 38, don’t hold your breath. It is believed to be only one of three still remaining. Pierce-Arrow cars were luxury cars known to be owned by car drivers with deep pockets, Hollywood stars and other “elites” during the time. These affluent and demanding customers could custom build their car to order— in fact, they were encouraged to do so by the company.

Founder: George N. Pierce

Lifespan: 1901 – 1938

Headquarters: Buffalo, New York, United States

Fun Fact/s: This car’s first build was actually requested by Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, the founder of the Vanderbilt Cup Races, and it was the first official car of the White House.


Pierce-Arrow started out in 1865 as Heinz, Pierce and Munschauer, a household products company; but by 1872 Pierce bought out the other two owners and added bikes to his line of products. Shortly after, he started working on making steam-powered cars, where he produced his first single-cylinder car in 1901. It only took a few more years to bump up the power to a 2-cylinder in 1903.

It was about then he shifted his focus to premium models. By 1905, The Great Arrow, Pierce’s most prized product, won the Glidden Tour, marking it as one of the most dependable and durable cars on the market at the time. By 1910, Pierce was already offering 6-cylinder cars and was most known for their headlights which switched to flared lights in the front of the fenders versus at the radiator’s side. The company experienced some really exciting advances in technology and recognition in the community. To see more about Pierce-Arrow’s history, ads and accolades, visit here.

Franklin Modell 9-B Touring 1919. Photo cred: Wikimedia.

Franklin Automobile Company – 1919 Model 9B Touring

Founder: Herbert H. Franklin

Lifespan: 1902 – 1934

Headquarters: Syracuse, New York, United States

Fun Fact/s: Franklin participated in the first automobile show held in 1899! Also, if you are into racing, just know that Franklin was too. In fact, Franklin was a big-timer in the first racing circuits.


The Franklin Auto Company was a perfect pairing of a business genius, Herbert Franklin, and an engineering mastermind, John Wilkinson. Originally, Herbert Franklin fell into an interest and opportunity with die-casting, inspiring him to open up his own business called H.H. Franklin Manufacturing Company. During this time, he was introduced to Wilkinson and shown an automobile prototype Wilkinson had created.

Franklin could see that Wilkinson had something and that he was a master of his craft. With all the confidence in the world, Franklin turned to one other investor and created this startup with Wilkinson as the creator. Shortly after, Franklin bought out the second partner and split off the company from H.H. Franklin Manufacturing Company, establishing Franklin Automobile Company as its own entity. He made Wilkinson chief engineer and part stockholder.

After four attempts, Franklin created the first 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder cars in the United States. They truly were the technological leaders. Carl Doman of Franklin Auto Company, chief engineer later on, took the time in 1954 to cite Franklin firsts:

  • First 4-cylinder engine (1902). Original model built in 1898.
  • First in scientific light weight and flexible construction (1902).
  • Fundamental features (1902), such as light unsprung weight, full elliptic springs and air-cooling appeared in first car marketed.
  • First in valve-in-head cylinder (1902)
  • First in throttle control (1902)
  • First float-feed carburetor (1902)
  • First 6-cylinder engine (1905). This engine was exhibited at the 1906 Auto Show in New York
  • First to employ drive through springs (1906)
  • First to use transmission service brake (1906)
  • First to adopt automatic spark advance (1907)
  • First to use individual re-circulating pressure feed oiling system for engine (1912)
  • First to use exhaust jacket for heating intake gases (1913)
  • Pioneered closed bodies. First production sedan (1913)
  • Pioneered aluminum pistons (1915)
  • First to use an electric carburetor primer to facilitate cold weather starting (1917)
  • First to use case-hardened crankshaft in regular production (1921)
  • First to use centrifugal air-cleaner for carburetor (1922)
  • First to use Duralumin connecting rods in regular production (1922)
  • First to employ narrow steel front body pillar construction (1925)

To learn about the specs on these cars, visit their timeline.

The Cunningham Car, Style 94A, Model V-4, 1920. Photo cred:

Cunningham Automobile Company – 1920 Cunningham V-Series

This car has a long history that dates back to some of the earliest horse-drawn carriages available. This, too was a high-end brand like Pierce-Arrow. Cunningham had its hand in many pots, including buggies, limousines, planes and even hearses. Not to mention, they were also part of premier racing circuits.

Founder: Joseph Cunningham

Lifespan: 1896 – 1936

Headquarters: Syracuse, New York, United States

Fun Fact/s: Curious about this V-Series? Just look to Jay Leno who shows off his personal 1920 Cunningham on Jay Leno’s Garage (Video).


The Cunningham Automobile Company has a rich history in transportation that dates back to the patriarch’s company, James Cunningham, son and Company, a company that flourished in the production of sleighs, buggies, horse-drawn coaches and carriages as early as the 1830s. Although it created its first electric-powered buggy by 1896, it was unlike the other two producers in the way that their first automobile did not go to market until 1908.

When they did start production, it was more on a private production basis to current customers. Even at that rate, it did not produce the whole car but rather created the body and sourced the parts. It wasn’t long before they were producing a V8 engine (1916) and airplanes (1920s). It was the first car to use steps of brass-framed aluminum instead of running-boards.

At the time of their first car production, they were big on luxury, elegance and being different. The first model could be seen at a price as high as $3,500, which was a pretty penny back then. They were very driven by being better than European styles, both in performance and appearance. Even more impressive was that they had up to 12 body styles in their first year. To see more notable firsts and advancements Cunningham had in the automotive industry, take a look at their timeline.

These vehicles are all included in the Reed Electrical Manual. It’s pretty cool to think about mechanics of those days referring to these pages to repair them. Imagine what they would think about today’s vehicles, or using ProDemand on the Internet as their source for repair information.

For more information on these vehicles

Cunningham Family Origin:
Sales Book Resource:

Franklin Club: Car Specs:

Pierce Arrow Museum:
Jay Leno Images & Article:



Throwback Thursday: Good Old Wiring Diagrams

The six generations of the Mustang cover a lot of history, starting in 1964 when the first one was introduced, and continuing through 2015 — the 50th anniversary of the Mustang!

While I was poking around for Mustang lore for the poll, I turned to the Vintage module inside ProDemand and found some wiring diagrams for the 1964 Mustang 6 and V8 engines (see below and click images to enlarge). These two diagrams covered the entire vehicle and were all you needed to work on the Mustang. No kidding.

Yes, times were simpler in 1964. Back then, Mitchell 1 was a very busy and successful book publishing company, printing its best-selling Mitchell Repair Manuals. That year, Sony introduced the first VCR home video recorder, Hasbro launched the G.I. Joe action figure, and the Sharpie marker made its debut. The average yearly income was $5,880, a gallon of gas cost 30-cents and a 1st class postage stamp was 5-cents. And does anyone remember BASIC (Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code)? Yup, it was introduced in 1964.

Now, to put the 1964 Mustang wiring diagrams in perspective, compare the two diagrams above to the diagram below for the power seat in a 2013 Mustang — something that didn’t even exist in the 1964 model. And this power seat diagram is just one of approximately 60 pages of diagrams for this one model alone!

All these Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG) color wiring diagrams can now be found with a quick search in ProDemand. And you can zoom in on the most intricate diagrams with no loss in clarity and  select individual circuits to highlight, isolate, and then print in full color. And the diagrams are consistent in style across all OEMs, so it’s easy to read any diagram for any vehicle in the database without having to know how different OEMS display their diagrams.

The simplicity of the 60’s may be gone, but at least finding the wiring diagram in your favorite Mustang is still simple.



Throwback Thursday: Mitchell 1’s Publishing Days

Today we’re throwing it back to the days when Mitchell 1 was primarily a publisher of books. Up until the early 1990s, the renowned Mitchell Manuals were the go-to resource for professional repair information. It didn’t take long for the electronic OnDemand product to overtake the books in popularity, but for most of Mitchell 1’s history, the books definitely dominated.

The massive printing press, enormous bindery and gigantic camera are distant memories now, and only a few people at Mitchell 1 remember the huge effort it took to produce all of those books and get them out the door each year. To give you an idea of just how large an operation it was, here’s some trivia from 1999. In just that year alone:

  • Mitchell Repair published 360 different titles
  • A total of one million manuals were printed onsite
  • The paper used would fill 67 tractor trailers or cover 16 square miles if spread out in a single sheet

As the amount of vehicle data continued to grow, it became impossible to contain it all in physical books. Mitchell 1 currently processes over 1.5 million pages of data annually and has over 29 million pages of information in ProDemand®, our online repair information product that replaced OnDemand. It’s truly mind boggling to ponder how many books all that would fill – and how many trees are being saved now that the data is delivered digitally instead of on paper.

Here’s a look back at some of the printing equipment housed at Mitchell 1 in our publishing days.

Paper being prepared for printing
Printing press: Heidelburg GTO 5-color perfecter 22″
Pre-press: Giant Walzberg camera (horizontal 26″ x 36″)
Bindery line – Muller-Martini
Press check
Running the bindery



A Trip Down Memory Lane

I wanted to do a little something different with this blog. Instead of a product tip or a how-to, I would rather take a trip down memory lane to a place where you or others of my generation might fondly remember. Believe it or not, there was once a time when there were no computers, tablets or cell phones. Everything had to be looked up in these things called “books,” and you could only hope to find something similar enough to what you needed to use as a reference point.

It was quite amazing on those rare occasions when the “actual” information you needed could be found. In many shops, you would be lucky to find a few heavily oil stained books, the pages worn thin from use. It seemed like there was always someone going around looking for “the book”.

Still, in my case, and I am sure the same is true for others, it proved to be great fun to simply take the book and look through the various procedures and pictures just to see how engines and other parts were put together and worked. I still have service manuals from the 1930’s and 1940s, which is even well before my time. I spent hours looking through these manuals as I was coming up in the service and repair industry.

All of this got me to wondering what technicians today like to look. Do you still have an interest to go thumb through old print manuals? I know the web has so much more to offer and most of that can be accessed through a cell phone. Yet, perhaps there is a certain nostalgic experience in looking at the old print manuals. For me, it is still interesting to look through the old 2-cycle Detroit Diesel engines or an old Hall Scott gas engine that was in a 1950 Peterbilt fire truck I used to work on.

But how about you? Do you enjoy browsing through service information new or old? If so, what are you looking at to feed your interest and curiosity in this ever-evolving industry?



Throwback Thursday: We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

We’re throwin’ it back to 1989 this time, with a look at the original On-Demand CDs. Back then, CD-ROM was the latest and coolest technology — and quite revolutionary.

What were some of the features causing this “revolution in the automotive industry”? Well, for starters, the discs made it possible for the first time to access repair data digitally, not in printed books.

As our marketing brochure at the time said, “Instead of using multiple manuals with countless indexes, On-Demand gives you virtually everything Mitchell publishes in one convenient location.” Those original discs contained 40,000 pages of data and 50,000 illustrations — staggeringly large and impressive numbers at the time.

The original On-Demand CD kit

The system interface used a light pen (remember, this was in the early mouse days). The pen sensed a beam of light coming out of the screen. When you pressed the pen on the screen, the tip retracted, operating a switch to tell the computer which choice you made. As you moved the pen around the menus, the choices would light up in color. The result was the same as if you pressed a key on the keyboard. The light pen thing may make us chuckle now, but was actually VERY cool in its day. No keyboard skills were required to operate the system!

The super cool light pen came with the system

And to highlight the state of technology at the time, here are some of the original On-Demand system requirements:

  • PS/2 Model 30 PC, Minimum of 400KB of RAM
  • Hard disk drive with at least 5 MB of free space available
  • 5.25” (1.2 MB) or 3.5” (1.44 MB) floppy diskette drive

Those compact discs were just the first digital baby step in the evolution of or Mitchell 1’s automotive repair information. To put things in perspective, here’s a glimpse at some of the content and features we’ve got today in ProDemand:

  • Tens of millions of pages of repair data
  • Millions of graphics
  • Many hundreds of thousands of TSBs & recalls
  • Over 14 million Real Fixes in SureTrack based on actual repairs
  • Tens of millions of common replaced parts graphs that guide techs to the most likely diagnosis
  • Library of known-good waveforms and PID graphs
  • Interactive community of thousands of professional technicians

We’ve definitely come a very long way since 1989, but what hasn’t changed since those early On-Demand days is our effort to innovate and continuously improve the way we deliver repair information to help techs repair cars faster.

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