PHOTOGRAPH BY STUART FUNK
The giant pachyderm perched above Highway 111 near the intersection of Indian Trail has unofficially welcomed visitors — and dirty cars — to Rancho Mirage since the late 1960s.
The neon sign’s history dates back to Seattle in 1951 when brothers Dean, Archie, and Eldon Anderson opened the first hands-free, automated car washes and parked splashy pink elephant signs outside their locations to attract attention. (The original iconic rotating version in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood was removed late last year and donated to the Museum of History and Industry.)
Richard Fromme, whose wife was a daughter of one of the Anderson brothers, launched his own location in Rancho Mirage in 1966 using one of the same signs first designed by Seattle’s “Queen of Neon” Bea Haverfield.
Today, Randy Barnes and his wife, Lorraine, now own the Rancho Super Car Wash, simply known to most as the “elephant car wash.” After retiring from the food service distribution industry in Portland, the Corvette buff moved to the desert with Lorraine and bought the car wash in 2008, becoming only the third owners in the car wash’s 55-year-old history.
Rancho Super Car Wash still offers several services for automobiles, including hand waxing and custom detailing. The Instagram hot spot also sells merch if you wanna load up your trunk with keepsakes. ranchoelephant carwash.com
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