A Piece of Motor City History

“The Motor City.” The name is part and parcel of life here in the Detroit area: a source of pride and recognition worldwide. There were, and continue to be, countless hard-working Detroiters, beyond those named Ford or Chrysler, who put their hearts into building and maintaining our reputation as the automotive capital of the world. This is the story of one such pioneer:

In 1957, as an employee of a small local automotive trim shop, James P. Kraft, Sr. had a problem: his shop and others like it were finding it difficult to replace worn or damaged automotive interior fabrics with a matching original fabric. This was due to the lack of available information about the original materials, as well as a lack of available inventory of original fabrics for replacement. So Mr. Kraft created a solution: the “Detroit Book.”

The Detroit Book was the first ever year-by-year original automotive interior trim catalog that displayed physical samples of every interior trim material used in every model vehicle made in the United States and included identification coding. Mr. Kraft then supported the book by acquiring a massive inventory of these original automotive fabrics, vinyls, headliners and leathers. The Detroit Book, and the inventory that backed it up, were revolutionary in the automotive trim industry because for the first time the automotive interior of any American-made vehicle could be repaired or replaced with an original fabric. The book soon became the most useful tool available to trim shops across the country, and its effective design is still in use today, almost 60 years later.

That trim shop, Detroit Body Products, soon became the largest national warehouse distributor of original automotive interior trim materials, and Mr. Kraft eventually became President and part owner of the firm, which remains open for business to date.

Two of Mr. Kraft’s sons, and our clients, J.P. Kraft, Jr. and Steven Kraft, retain a very valuable, very rare, complete set of Detroit Books dating from 1957-2013. And this spring, J.P. and Steven have generously agreed to donate this set to The Henry Ford Museum, the world’s most famous automotive museum. The Henry Ford will honor James P. Kraft, Sr., for his contributions to the auto industry, and The Detroit Book, as the only resource anywhere in the world that precisely tracks and displays the complete history of the American car interior from 1957 to the present.

Congratulations Mr. Kraft and thank you for your remarkable contribution to The Motor City!

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