Free Vacuum System

By Wes Dawson

In early part of 2005 I got an opportunity to work with Charlie Gates and Joel Jurgens of Octopus Car Wash. Charlie and Joel were developing their first exterior car wash at a rundown car wash in Farmington, New Mexico. Joel and Charlie own and operate multiple high volume, full serve, touchless car washes in New Mexico and Colorado. This project was their first venture into the express exterior with free vacuum model.

ARCH Sketch 1

It became evident early on that all rules were off the table and everything was questioned. On the way back to Albuquerque from Farmington, after the first site visit, Charlie and I discussed options for the free vacuum area. I had an idea of making the function the form. Instead of building a structure and then attaching the vacuum lines, why not have the structure be the vacuum system? The other issue was to create a “cool” factor. When we got back to Charlie’s office, I drew a few sketches and we talked about my thoughts. I flew back to Dallas, continuing to work on the idea. A week later, Charlie and I met at the ICA convention in San Antonio where we took my sketches and idea to John Tucker at Vacutech. After about five minutes, John said he was on board. More amazingly, Charlie said to go for it.

ARCH Sketch 2

At this time, my biggest concern was not fabricating the arches; we could have done this in my shop. I understood that this had to be a complete system. If it didnít work, it didnít matter how ”cool“ it looked. I had worked with John on another complicated system on which he guarantied it would work. I needed that guarantee. Also, I knew, based upon our workload and focus, I would not be able to consistently reproduce the system for other clients. With Vacutech, I got a partner that could design and grow the idea. I believed in this system and wanted it to be marketed and used. I needed to be able to call John with a project and have Vacutech deliver a finished product.

After the show, John and I communicated back and forth. Based upon a refined sketch, John built a working prototype. Now understand that we are doing the rehab of the Farmington site at this time, including the area designated for free vacuum - all based upon an idea that has never been used before. One weekend during the rehab I drove to Denver from Farmington to pick up the vacuum producers and inspect the prototype. After one change, I gave the okay to produce. We installed about six weeks later Ė Our very first working system.

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The evolution...

The next project was for Victron Energy on the Wash Ďn Run project in Grand Prairie, TX (360/Mayfield). Victron was developing a large convenience store, express tunnel w/free vacuum, and an oil change on a large site. Based on a dozen 5” x 7” pictures of the Farmington free vacuum, Victronís owner, Ali Sharif, gave me the go ahead to design a system for this location. After installing the system at the Farmington location which was a double sided layout, I saw the need for a smaller one-sided system. More importantly, I saw the need for a more modular system. I also wanted to incorporate an awning with the system. Again, John was able to work with me on this design. We are now working on our third location for Victron, their new Fuel City Wash in Dallas, which will have a 24 car underground free vacuum system.

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Evolution continued...

John has continued to improve the system. Based upon client requests, John worked on implementing curved awnings. Additionally, based upon manufacturing efficiencies and delivery restraints, John made the arches with more components to enable quicker assembly on the job site. Now the arches are available with separators, as well as underground plumbing, and mounted lights.

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Evolution continued...

Fuel City Wash, 25 Car Underground System

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With thanks...

I would like to express my gratitude to Charlie, Joel, and John for taking a leap of faith with me and this idea. I appreciate the opportunity they have given me. Even more, I am thankful I can call these men of character, my friends.

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