As they became common in the 1900s, automobiles spawned numerous car care inventions. If your car got stuck in a muddy ditch in Chattanooga, a locally made Ernest Holmes wrecker could come to your rescue. Was one of your tires damaged in that accident? A tire-changing machine was faster and easier than the old way of changing the tire manually. Need to get all that mud off your vehicle after it was back on the road? Stop by the Minit Car Wash which opened in 1948 in the West Side at Eighth and Pine streets.
This was in an old three-story brick building constructed about 1926 for the Chattanooga Garage.
That company, operated by the Foust family, featured parking as well as gasoline and vehicle service. The handsome building had a set of five arched windows on the top floor above another set of five windows. The address was 715-723 Pine.
There had been earlier forms of “automated” car washes elsewhere such as workers pushing a car down the line to be sprayed, lathered, sponged, and dried. Minit Car Wash, though, featured modern automation according to their advertisement in the September 23, 1948 Chattanooga Times. They took your car wash experience “out of the horse and buggy stage.”
Rolling, hydrated, soft brushes washed your vehicle in two minutes for $1.25 for cars and $1.50 for panel trucks and station wagons. The car or truck or van was pulled through the line by automated machinery, but the process ended with employees who cleaned the windows, vacuumed the interior, and polished the exterior. The advertisement noted that the car wash took “less time than it takes to smoke a cigarette or fill your gas tank.” (Not at the same time, hopefully.)
Despite using automation, Minit still required workers and often ran Help Wanted ads. James M. Ballinger managed the employees in the early years of the enterprise.
Minit Car Wash began small daily advertisements in 1952 in the Times’ Classifieds section with to-the-point wording of “cars washed, dried, and vacuumed.” Minit later began offering more intensive care for customers who preferred that their vehicles receive a manually applied Simonize waxing along with steaming of tires and removal of road tar.
In the mid-1950’s, the West Side location of Minit was surrounded by other businesses and a few churches. Chattanooga Garage and an Esso gas station were automobile related. Noland sold machine tools. The Production Credit Association provided funding to farmers. St. Paul’s Episcopal and Second Presbyterian were community churches which are still there today.
The West Side community that included Minit began to disappear in the mid-1950’s as the West Side Urban Renewal began. The buildings which housed the car wash and other businesses were demolished but the nearby churches were left in place. The former James A. Henry Elementary School at 1200 Grove St. was among the few West Side structures that escaped the wrecking ball. The Chattanooga Housing Authority now owns the building. It was built in 1937.
The June 16, 1960 Chattanooga Times reported that the Minit Car Wash would be moving to 120 Market Street where the Mertin’s Dry Cleaning business had been located.
The car laundry was renamed “Nu-Minit Car Wash” after the move to Market Street. The suds kept flowing until the property was redeveloped during riverfront renovation of the 2000’s. Buffalo Wild Wings is located there today.
If you have memories of the Minit or Nu-Minit Car Wash, e-mail [email protected].