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Car Wash Industry’s Founding Father Honored Posthumously

One hundred years ago, Leo Rousseau invented a way to wash cars that was so useful to consumers and profitable for businesses that it has been the century-long centerpiece of an entire industry. For inventing the automatic car wash in Detroit, Rousseau was admitted to the Car Wash Hall of Fame this week by the International Carwash Association.

The car wash industry is celebrating its 100-year anniversary. (Photo: Screenshot/Vimeo)

The car wash industry is celebrating its 100-year anniversary. (Photo: Screenshot/Vimeo)

He called his invention the Minit Man. According to a statement from the ICA:

Rousseau developed the Minit-Man system, a five-step car washing production process that took the industry by storm after World War II. Prior to this, car washes, known as “automobile laundromats,” consisted of men washing the cars by hand as it was moved from station to station. The Minit-Man system revolutionized the industry by providing a chain conveyor, side brushes, a top brush, vacuums and blowers for $16,000.

The announcement came on the final day of The Car Wash Show, the industry’s annual convention, held this week in Chicago. More than 5,600 people attended the show this year. Now, with this year’s show behind the ICA, they’ll start getting ready to host the first European rendition of The Car Wash Show next October in Amsterdam.

Rousseau’s granddaughter, Cynthia Watson, accepted the Hall of Fame honor on his behalf. “Given that the car wash industry is celebrating 100 Years of Car Washing in 2014, we thought it was fitting to recognize one of the industry founders,” said Eric Wulf, CEO of the International Carwash Association, in the statement. “His invention literally spawned an industry.”

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