The business of washing cars has come a long way since 1914 when J.W. Hinkle and Frank McCormick opened the first "fast car wash" in Detroit, MI. In the years following, this simple production-line car wash inspired the beginning on an industry.
By 1953, professional car washing had become so widespread that the need for communication among its far-flung participants became evident. Answering that need, Robin King founded Auto Laundry News that year and remained its publisher and editor through 1959.
The magazine — and Robin King, personally — provided the impetus for the formation of the first car wash association. The American Auto Laundry Association was formed at the industry’s first convention, held in 1954 in Mexico City. At the end of the decade, the association changed its name to the Automatic Car Wash Association (ACWA). Twenty years after its founding, in 1974, the association became the International Carwash Association.
Change and innovation are the hallmarks of every vibrant industry, and professional car washing has seen both in appreciable measure. Advances have been chronicled in the pages of Auto Laundry News over the years. Few current operators, for example, will have had hands-on experience with conveyor pull-chains or with the “pusher” that presumed to replace them. The front-wheel-pull and rear-wheel-push rollers that superseded these cumbersome pieces of equipment are still the most-used mechanisms today, while the newer flat-belt conveyors represent the latest innovation in through-the-tunnel conveyance.
An anniversary is a time to look back, to reminisce. It’s a chance to celebrate our successes — and, perhaps, to quietly blush at our foibles. The following pages offer readers the opportunity to do just that. Not only do we recall events from the past as recorded in the pages of Auto Laundry News, we also share this opportunity to recollect with many of our industry vendors. For their special stories, you can turn to the pages indicated.