Cars

Hertz Implementing Waterless Washing; Dodge-Plymouth Combo

Years ago, body man Doc Lowe welded the front halves of a Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon together and the result still gets lots of attention.
Years ago, body man Doc Lowe welded the front halves of a Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon together and the result still gets lots of attention.Credit: BILL GRIFFITH

Years ago, I had a part-time job with Hertz at Logan Airport. I worked the night shift, jockeying cars to pickup points near the terminal and, as needed, to other locations in Eastern Massachusetts.

Once customers returned a car to the Hertz lot, the car was vacuumed, gassed up, and checked for fluids. Then it went into the car wash line.

There was no automatic car wash in those days, just troughs of soapy water on each side of a long bay with long-handled brushes. You’d soap up the cars, then rinse them off and drive them, still dripping, back to the parking lot.

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So I had more than passing interest in the story last week that Hertz was introducing a waterless, non-toxic, car-washing process at more than 220 of its United States sites.

The company plans to expand the system to all viable neighborhood locations in the US and Europe in 2014. We’re guessing that very high volume sites may not qualify.

Still, Hertz anticipates using the process in nearly 3,700 locations and saving as many as 130 million gallons of wash water each year.

Hertz has collaborated with Green Team Partners to develop the biodegradable, concentrated, waterless formula and dispensing system.

The companies say an entire car can be washed with six to eight ounces of the solution in approximately eight minutes. Once the solution is sprayed onto the car, it lifts dirt off the surface. A high quality microfiber towel is used to wipe off those particles.

A second microfiber towel is used to polish the surface, leaving a protective coating that preserves the finish.

For starters, Hertz gets a big thumbs-up for this environmental initiative.

However—and isn’t there always a however?—you have to wonder: 1) How the process will work on a salt-encrusted vehicle after a major snowstorm, and 2) how much water the company will need to wash the towels.

And, of course, will the product will go out to the consumer market, especially for those towns that ban outdoor watering and car washing during water shortages?

For Sale: A Used Eye Catcher

A few weeks back, I took the Scotland Road exit off Rte. 95 heading towards Newburyport and Plum Island.

There aren’t any used car lots on the route, but there was a most unusual vehicle for sale in front on one multi-use facility—a double-ended mid-’80s Dodge Omni-Plymouth Horizon that had been created by cutting two of those vehicles in half and welding the front halves together.

It was worth stopping to check out.

As luck would have it, owner Rob Germinara was on site.

“I found it behind a building in Rowley,” he says, “and picked it up. I see value in stuff. It’s fun to reclaim something, then recycle it either in total or for its parts. I hate to junk things.”

An old Bill of Sale was left in the vehicle.

Figuring there had to be a story behind the story, I Googled the names on the document and scored a hit when I called David “Doc” Lowe in Tamworth, NH.

“Yes, I made ‘em,” he says. “I was an auto body guy for years up here, running Doc’s Collision Repair. “My shop was across the street from G.P. Auto Salvage, run by my friend Guy Pennell. Back then, the Horizons and Omnis had become throwaway cars, so I cut a couple apart and put them back together with a gas tank behind the seats on each so you could drive the vehicle from either end.

“We had a lot of fun with that car. It got a lot of attention when we drove it in the Sandwich (NH) Fair Parade, and the July 4 parade,” he recalls.

“Another time we were invited to serve as the pace car for the annual Latchkey Cup stock car ice races on Berry Pond in Moultonborough. We put chains on it, and everything worked out great because we never had to turn the car around.”

The races are a benefit by the Lakes Region Ice Racing Club for cancer patients at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.

Lowe’s sense of humor was apparent in the badging on the cars.

With a junkyard of parts at his disposal and four front fenders, he came up with model names such as BEagle (from and AMC Eagle), Grand-Ma (instead of Grand Am), 4-Wheel Drive, and ToyOmni.

The project was a lot of work … and a lot of fun.

“It ended in 2001 when we sold the car on eBay to a fellow in Southern New Hampshire,” says Lowe.

If he had a do-over, Lowe would do one thing differently.

“I’d use better cars,” he says, “though I had a plan to mate a couple of K-Cars—a convertible front and station wagon back. But it got busy, and I never got around to it.”

Besides, he says, “then the price of scrap metal went way up and old cars were crushed instead of being used for parts.”

Meanwhile, the originals are still available. Germinara promises they’ll be running and for sale for (relatively) small money.

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