Show & Shine: The Carwash Turns 100
This past Wednesday, the International Carwash Association closed out its annual convention. Upon hearing this, my first thought was “there’s a Carwash Association?” Yours might be too, but it called into question this celebrated item of car care, and its origins. 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the car wash, and the Chicago show was meant to showcase the latest in an industry that has grown to an estimated 150,000 locations around the world. Paul Eisenstein of The Detroit Bureau notes that the centennial is specifically in relation to the “production line” carwash, and has dug up some great information on this first carwash facility. PHOTOS: See More Car of the time- the 1914 Ford Model T
This has been oft disputed, but a place called an “Automobile Laundry,” is generally credited as the first carwash. It was opened in Detroit in 1914 by Frank McCormick and J.W. Hinkle, and was not very sophisticated. In this Automobile Laundry, cars were pushed through manually, and workers at several stations were assigned different tasks.
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It would take several decades for the first automated carwash to come to fruition, but it was still primitive. In this system from 1940, the car would be towed through the wash, but workers still washed and dried the cars manually. In 1946, Thomas Simpson added a sprinkler system, but as Eisenstein notes, workers still had to scrub and dry by hand.
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The fully automated carwash finally came in 1951, in Seattle. Three brothers added soap nozzles, automated brushes, and finally, a 50-horsepower blower for drying. Perhaps ironically, 100 years after the first, new “laser” car washes have high speed fans, but many of these still require some manual drying.