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Tributes for VBRA founder Sunderland

Bill Sunderland, founder of the Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association, has died at the age of 84 after long suffering Alzheimer's disease.

Described by many as the single most influential person in the history of the UK vehicle body repair industry, Mr Sunderland joined the former National Employers Association for Vehicle Builders in 1959 as general secretary.

He quickly recognised the need for a specialist trade body to reflect the emerging influence of body repair specialists and persuaded powerful repairers from the south – including Bill Markham, Harry Pilling, Cliff Griffin and Ken Harvey – to abandon plans for a southern-based association and form the VBRA.

Industry expert Robert Hadfield, a former VBRA director, said Mr Sunderland was “revered by motor insurers as a man of principle and integrity” who could articulate repairers' concerns.

His strategic vision saw the VBRA beat the MAA (now the RMI) to the launch of an Office of Fair Trading backed code of practice for repairers in 1976. He also masterminded the first International Conference and Exhibition for the body repair industry in 1978, the forerunner of NACE.

Mr Sunderland leaves a daughter, Anne.

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