Andy Granatelli

   

Andy Granatelli
Former CEO & President (Retired)
STP Corporation
Italian
2003 Recipient

  

Andy Granatelli has a long and accomplished career in business, most notably as President and CEO of STP Corporation, and holds a distinguished and broad-ranging record of achievement in virtually every aspect of motor sports – as an award winning auto racing driver, race car owner, promoter, marketer, creative automotive designer, and inventive automotive engineer.  As one of the captains of the automotive industry and precedent-setting innovator in the motorsports establishment, Andy has justifiably earned numerous prestigious honors and awards, including Knighthood by the Italian Government and induction into over ten separate Halls of Fame.

Andy’s life story, much of which is detailed in his autobiography, They Call Me Mister 500, is a true “Horatio Alger” phenomenon.

Reared in the slums of Chicago to a widower father during the Great Depression, Andy began his career in 1943 at the age of 20, when he and his brothers pooled their meager resources to purchase a Texaco gas station on the north shore of Chicago.  Here at “Andy’s Super Service,” Andy initiated the concept of a “pit stop” gasoline service station and repair, using four to five mechanics working on a car at one time – a unique service concept which drew customers in lines often a block long, waiting for the true “super service” experience.

At the same time – aspiring to raise public awareness and improve the quality of motor sports – Andy formed and became President of the Hurricane Hot Rod Racing Association.  In that capacity, in 1947 using his penchant for showmanship, promotion, and advertising insights, Andy single-handedly created a series of hot rod and stock car racing events.  Held at Chicago’s Soldier Field, these events packed in an all-time record for a single event of 89,560 fans, the biggest crowd to this date, exceeding by at least tenfold the attendance at any stock car auto racing event for a quarter mile track.  He advertised and promoted his first drag race at Half Day Speedway as “the first nationally advertised drag race,” and successfully drew a historical crowd of over 26,000 race fans for the first event, a remarkable feat compared to the meager attendance of approximately 1,500 persons at his only competition, a Santa Ana, California drag strip.

In 1945, Andy and his brother Joe formed Grancor Automotive Specialists in Chicago’s north side.  This is where he first introduced the concept of mass merchandising of performance products, becoming the leading national manufacturing, distribution, and sales organization for automotive power and speed equipment.  An inimitable marketing genius and entrepreneur, Andy successfully demonstrated that basic need and public interest can be combined to provide high quality, consistent products and service on a grand scale.  Andy began wholesaling to jobbers and warehouse distributors, proving to his critics that traditional auto parts outlets would purchase on a large scale.  By 1957, his company’s annual sales were greater than all the competition combined.  By introducing and opening the normal retail and wholesale automotive distribution outlets to sell his power and speed equipment, it is said that the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Marketing Association) Show may never have existed if not for Andy’s foresight as the first individual to develop a booth at the regular wholesale automotive parts warehouse shows.  For his pioneering efforts in the development of the power and speed business as a multi-billion dollar industry, Andy was inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame.  During his years as President and CEO of Grancor Automotive Specialists, Andy was also actively racing as Vice Chairman of NASCAR, President of California Muffler Sales, Hurricane Hot Rod Racing Association, Half Day Speedway, and Chicago Auto Racing.

In 1946, Andy and his brother Joe designed and built the only successful rocket car in history which Andy drove at state fairground races.  A sensation if ever there was one.

In 1958, Andy and his brother Joe bought Paxton Products, a floundering engineering firm that manufactured superchargers.  Within the first seven months under Andy’s leadership and guidance, Paxton Products became highly successful.  Andy’s prompt success in the redevelopment of this company brought him instant industry recognition and the invitation to become engaged as a performance engineer consultant to several automobile companies.

Following the sale in 1961 of Paxton Products to Studebaker Corporation and while still CEO of Paxton Products, Andy took on the responsibilities of Vice President, Chief of Performance Engineering, Chief Driver, and Chief Engineer.  At Studebaker, Andy personally directed engine and chassis development, setting more than 400 world land speed and endurance records, driving and setting many of the fastest records himself.  Andy developed the first prototype Chrysler 300, Cadillac Eldorado, Studebaker Avanti, and R Series engines, owned and ran the immortal NOVI race cars (for which he is laureate in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America), and designed, ran, and campaigned the world famous controversial STP Turbine Car, which is, without dispute, the more creative, innovative, spectacular, forward-thinking racecar in history.  His associations with Studebaker in 1963 led him to become President and CEO of a company subsidiary called Chemical Compounds, whose only product was STP oil treatment.  His first official act was to change the name of the subsidiary company to STP and he was soon to make STP a virtual household word.  This is where Andy was to make his most significant and lasting contribution to the business and auto-racing world.

As President and CEO of STP, Andy, in fewer than seven years, raised the company from a level of virtual obscurity to a position of dominance in the world market with exponentially skyrocketing sales controlling 85% of market share.  Using his inimitable business acumen, advertising insight, intuitive promotional principal of “grand scale,” spectacular, mass merchandising to sports activities in general and to motorsports in particular, Andy took the unprecedented, controversial action in the 1960s to assign a disproportionately large percentage of his advertising budge to include STP promotional items such as sample products, decals, banners, and assorted memorabilia, all of which he distributed to the public by the hundreds of thousands at no charge.  (His competitors thought he lost his mind.)  Such global vision and broad-based identity expansion was manifested by permeation and saturation of STP decals and paraphernalia into all aspects of society, involving all age ranges, educational levels, and financial strata, imposing the STP logo in absolutely every aspect of life.  STP decals literally become a part of the world pop culture.  STP decals appeared on bedroom doors, walls, notebooks, lunch boxes, bicycles, scooters, tanks in Vietnam, pedicabs in Singapore, tractors, refrigerators and much more.  At one time, over 30 million cars were estimated to be bearing STP decals.  A measure of the advertising genius of STP was confirmed by the New York Times famed cartoon depicting Neil Armstrong landing on the moon where the first thing he saw was an STP decal.

Additionally, Andy applied money from his STP advertising budget to promote auto races free, giving radio, television, and free printed advertisement to auto race promoters in order to build up their crowds.  This included the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which in those days, spent absolutely no money on advertising.  Moreover, Andy pioneered auto racing on television, initiated the concept of major corporate sponsorship in auto racing, having entries in almost every major racing event on four continents (expanding STP to 93 countries).  He conceived and produced award-winning 24-minute movies depicting segments of the Indy 500 and Daytona 500 races from 1963 to 1973 (still regular features on sports station to this day) and designed, created, and fabricated the famous multiple logo’s STP jackets, suits and pajamas which distinguished his racing teams across the globe.  His racing team won the Indy 500 in 1969 and again in 1973, while he continued to make record wins with himself as driver on the Bonneville Salt Flats and El Mirage Dry Lakes in Daytona, and NASCAR, where Richard Petty drove Andy’s own car.  

Andy, while CEO of STP, was the true quintessential ambassador to the media, penetrating all media – radio, television, outdoor billboards, banners, mailings, and print – using himself, the CEO, as spokesperson, and placing himself distinctively on a par with the fan; the common man.  Appearances in high-profile TV shows and some movies soon gave Andy an image synonymous with auto racing and STP.  He achieved, in a national poll, a personal recognition factor of 87% by simply showing his picture, superceded only by a few movie super stars and recent Presidents and Vice Presidents of the United States.  

Surely no individual has done more than Andy has to popularize a product and in doing so to promote an entire product-associated industry; in this case, to enrich the entire motor-racing establishment.  Andy has exemplified the ideals, captured the essence, and experienced the rewards of our free enterprise system.  He appropriately is credited with bringing unparalleled exposure, innovation, public interest, spectacle, and media coverage to motor sports.  Largely through his efforts, auto racing has become the biggest spectator sport in the world.

 

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