This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Dave Neff knew there was a big problem during ceremonies earlier this month in Ogden that marked the opening of Jiffy Lube's first store about 30 years ago.
Neff, who owns several Jiffy Lube franchises, pulled aside Rick Altizer, president of the world's largest fast lube company, to tell him that the founding date was wrong.
"He seemed dumbfounded," said Neff, who owns seven Jiffy Lube franchises. "It would have been nice if someone had talked to a few of the Utah people."
The story of how Jiffy Lube was founded in Ogden --at least five years earlier than the 30-year anniversary date -- has been mostly forgotten as owners sold out and companies bought or merged with competitors.
One Jiffy Lube employee handbook from a Virginia-based franchise got the story right. The man who pioneered the concept of a speedy oil change was named Ed Washburn, who coined the name and franchised a small number of service centers in Utah.
Jiffy Lube headquarters in Houston marks its founding from 1979 when self-made millionaire Jim Hindman bought out Washburn, moved the main offices to Baltimore, and established hundreds of franchises throughout the United States in the 1980s.
"We date our founding to 1979 when Jim Hindman founded Jiffy Lube International," said Virginia Sanchez spokeswoman for Shell Oil, which owns Jiffy Lube. "We're sticking with the 30-year date but we're also acknowledging that the brand indeed is 35 years old."
Sanchez said little is known about Washburn, who founded Jiffy Lube in 1974. Documents with the Utah Department of Commerce, however, show he incorporated the Jiffy Lube name in 1973, and friends say he opened the Ogden store even earlier.
Other national chains do better with their Utah founding stories.
The KFC restaurant in South Salt Lake posts mementos of the world's first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, which opened here in 1952. And the Merrill Shoes company touts the start of its outdoor footwear in 1981 to the rugged terrain in Utah where it was once headquartered.
Conversely, during the celebration of the first Jiffy Lube opening, no mention was made of Washburn.
The Virginia Jiffy Lube handbook tells how Washburn got his novel idea. He was recovering from back surgery, puzzling how he would take care of his vehicles now that he couldn't get down under his car to drain the oil.
But that's not how Washburn's competitor, William Gee, remembers the story. Gee, who spoke by phone from Southern California, headed Minute Lube when it was owned by Arctic Circle, said Washburn told him that he had gone to an Ogden tire store that had an outside pit to change the oil on his motor home. The pit enabled vehicles to be serviced from underneath, rather than lifted on risers, reducing the service time.
Washburn, a retired military man, started changing oil for his old Army buddies and eventually developed fast oil change franchises. Gee said that he bought 13 franchises from one of Washburn's miltary friends in Arizona.
"Washburn sold most of his franchises to his military buddies," said Gee, who retired from the fast lube industry in 1986. "There's no doubt that he developed the concept of the fast oil change."
The story of Hindman buying the Jiffy Lube franchise is better known. In the 1970s, Hindman, already a millionaire, was working as an unsalaried head coach at Western Maryland College when one of his football players challenged him to make another million, according to a New York Times article published in 1987.
Hindman recruited one of his players, Stephen Spinelli Jr., to go to Utah to help develop the franchise. Spinelli in turn, made a fortune and today is president of Philadelphia University. He is listed on the university Web site as a co-founder of Jiffy Lube International.
For his part, Washburn became a widower in 1980, a year after he sold his business to Hindman. He was born in Eldorado, Kan., and reared in Missouri before moving to Utah. He was a veteran of World War II, serving with the U.S. Army in Burma and India. His obituary in a 1990 Ogden Standard-Examiner said he founded both Jiffy Lube and Pride Truck Center after retiring from Hill Air Force Base.
Washburn's only child, a daughter, died in South Ogden in 2007.
Jiffy Lube owner Shell Oil is asking for information on Edwin H. Washburn, the man who coined the Jiffy Lube name and the concept of the speedy oil change. "There's just not a lot of information on Washburn out there. We'd like to know more," said Shell spokeswoman Virginia Sanchez. E-mail information to Virginia.Q. Sanchez@Shell.com.