Andy Granatelli has a long and accomplished career in business (most notably as President and CEO of STP Corporation, but in numerous other endeavors as an entrepreneur as well) and in virtually every aspect of motor sports-as a race car driver, race car owner, marketing and sales promotion genius, creative automotive designer, and inventive automotive engineer. His celebrated record of distinguished leadership and achievements in business are legendary.
Andy has highlighted our free enterprise system by combining with inimitable style his role as corporate executive in large, paneled, thickly carpeted offices with life on the reckless outer edge, made up of every increasing speed, competitive racing, fast cars, and high winding engines, with unique flare, finesse, and aplomb. Arguably the most dogged, controversial figure at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, sporting an insatiable desire and relentless determination to win, Andy always has thrived on contest, rivalry, promotion, and exposure-all traits which uniquely have characterized and peppered his successful business career.
Andy’s remarkable accomplishments exemplify and serve as inspiration for the just rewards induced by consistent hard work, self imposed demand for high standards, drive for perfection, dedication to customer satisfaction, concern for employee welfare, thirst for challenge, courageous risk taking strategy, creative thinking, and unlimited broad vision.
Obviously, it comes as no surprise that, as one of the captains of the automotive industry and precedent setting innovator in the motor sports establishment, Andy repeatedly has been recognized and honored, justifiably and appropriately, for his dedicated efforts in and unique contributions to this discipline. He was knighted by the Italian Government with the title of Cavalieri nel Ordine della Republica Italiana in 1993, and will have been inducted into eighteen separate Halls of Fame by January, 2003.
His enormous success in numerous business ventures, coupled with his ardent passion for philanthropy and sense of social responsibility, distinguish him and set him apart as a true folk hero in our time.
The Early Years
Andy Granatelli’s life story stands as a true “Grapes of Wrath” phenomenon. Along with his father and two brothers, Joe and Vince, young Andy, the middle child, came out of Texas during the Great Depression.
He grew up in the slums of Chicago-pitiful, ragged, entirely penniless, and literally starving, but with that unmeasurable recipe of courage, creativity, tenacious, eternal optimism, supreme confidence, high ideals, unbridled imagination, passion for hard work matched by physical stamina, drive, and endurance-those only God given ingredients essential to make history, not to be victim of it.
Andy’s father Vincent, a dignified, austere, kind gentleman with greying hair and imposing stature, had immigrated from Sicily at the young age of 17, leaving the small town of Campo di Felice, near Palermo, to seek fortune in America. He had taught himself to read and write English, and, in the years before 1929, had established himself as a grocer in Dallas, Texas, and was a well-respected advisor to families in the Italian community there.
With the stock market crash in 1929, the family lost everything-the store, the little house, and any minor savings. With nothing but the clothes on their backs, they traveled to Chicago, living briefly with relatives part of the time, and on Relief, NPA, and WPA, most of the time-existing on a sparse diet of old oatmeal and worm infested farina.
Andy’s mother died when he was twelve years old, and his father spent most of his adult life trying to rear, guide, and control his three roughneck sons.
In Chicago, the family lived huddled in the slums not far from Soldier Field, sustaining themselves by the few pennies collected from recycling of old Coca Cola bottles discarded at the Chicago World’s Fair. Andy and his brothers would hike eighteen miles round trip to fill shopping bags with bottles gathered from garbage cans, lawns, and grandstands to generate a mere eight dollars a week during times of peak sales.
In the mid 1930’s the family fell in with the many caravans on a California trek-father Vince anxiously in search of some work or promise of that elusive golden opportunity out West, only to experience failure and starvation yet again-and returned empty handed to Chicago where young Andy found employment for six dollars a week as a delivery boy by day, collecting added pennies as a clerk and stocking grocery shelves also at night.
Dropping out of school at age 14 to help feed his family, Andy also took on extra work hauling coal up flights of stairs in the neighborhood tenements in winter months. Also, the Granatelli brothers sold produce out of an old 1927 Buick and started cars on the coldest of Chicago mornings to get that badly needed extra cash.
This was the start of Andy Granatelli. Through hardship, he somehow, as if miraculously, combined his inimitable business acumen and now legendary salesmanship to produce so many varied careers, some of which seem downright unbelievable, that each is a virtual Horatio Alger epic in its own right. Andy unquestionably was born supercharged.
Andy Granatelli 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, which he called “Andy’s Super Service.” From the outset, on Chicago’s lakefront, Andy proved to be a high profile trend-setter; he initiated the concept of a “pit stop” gasoline service station and repair shop, using four to five mechanics working on a car at one time. This unique service concept drew customers in, willing to wait, sometimes in lines a block long, just to appreciate the true “super service” experience.
Ironically, this was truly a case of people buying the “sizzle, not the steak,” since the benefit of the rapid customer service which Andy provided was defrayed by the extended wait in long lines. But the super advertising phenomenon never failed to please the crowds. They loved it, and Andy prospered from it.
Two years later, in 1945, Andy and his brothers formed the Granatelli Corporation, naming their business “Grancor Automotive Specialists.” This is where Andy first introduced the concept of mass merchandising of performance products, quickly 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 recognized early on that if you give the customer what he needs, you make a living; if you give the customer what he wants, you will make a fortune. 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 Market Association) show may never have existed if not for Andy Granatelli’s foresight and boldness in being the first to develop a booth at the regular wholesale automotive parts warehouse shows. People professed that he was crazy to try this. Today the power and speed business is a multi billion dollar industry.
Combining his business ventures in the boardroom with his passion for auto racing engineering and motor sports promotion seemed to come naturally. In 1946 Andy and his brother built the only successful rocket car in history that was run on oval tracks. It was driven by Andy himself (promoted as “Antonio the Great”) on state fairgrounds throughout the Midwest and South. And what a true sensation it was!
At Grancor, Andy built and sold hundreds of Ford V8 hopped up flat head motors to customers in the Southeast and throughout the United States. These engines were used by moon shiners as well as running stock car races on the sand at Daytona Beach, Florida, and other races throughout the South. Granatelli built motors repeatedly dominated qualifying and set world records.
Enjoying a passion for building hot rods, and aspiring to raise public awareness and improve the quality of motor sports, Andy, in 1947, formed and became President of the Hurricane Hot Rod Racing Association. In that capacity, using his penchant for showmanship, promotion, and advertising insights, Andy single-handedly created a series of hot rod and stock car racing events that were held at Chicago’s Soldier Field, packing in an all time record of 89,560 fans, the biggest crowd to this date, exceeding by at least 10 fold the attendance at any stock car auto racing event in history for a quarter mile track.
Also in 1947, at Soldier Field, with a meager advertising budget of only $1500, Andy held the first hot rod race outside California, generating a record crowd of 24, 962 race fans. This attendance was over six times larger than any California hot rod event. A year later, Andy started promoting stock car races to crowds that averaged 10 times higher attendance than that at any other quarter mile track in the United States.
In 1952, at Half Day Speedway in Libertyville, Illinois, Andy pioneered and ran the first drag race outside of California. He advertised and promoted his first race at Half Day drag strip as “the first nationally advertised drag race,” and successfully drew an historical, record crowd of over 26,000 race fans for this first event, a remarkable feat by comparison to the meager attendance of approximately 1500 persons at the California tracks. Once again, Andy proved to be a master at sales, engineering, advertising, marketing, innovation, and promotion-a skill that served him well as his career progressed.
During this years as President and CEO of Grancor Automotive Specialists, Andy was actively racing as Vice Chairman of NASCAR, President of California Muffler Sales, Hurricane Hot Rod Racing Association, Half Day Speedway, and Chicago Auto Racing.
Andy took his first race car to the Indianapolis 500 in 1946-a prewar Miller Ford, an historic car even in its day. Two years later Andy, himself, drove in the Indy, wearing his good friend Bill France’s borrowed helmet to pass his rookie test.
The Birth of STP
In 1958, Andy and his brother Joe bought Paxton Products, a floundering engineering firm which manufactured superchargers and had experienced an abysmal operating loss in the last five months of operation alone. In the first seven months under Andy’s leadership and guidance, employing Andy’s aggressive, innovative advertising and sales promotion techniques, Paxton Products became highly profitable, almost immediately recouping the entire business losses, and even posting a considerable profit.
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 lucrative sale in 1961 of Paxton Products to Studebaker Corporation, 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. In 1961, Andy in his 300 F Chrysler, ran a record return speed of 179.472 mph, the fastest time ever recorded by NASCAR on the sands of Daytona Beach.
Also at Studebaker, Andy developed the first prototype Chrysler 300, Cadillac Eldorado, Studebaker Avanti, and R Series Engines; redesigned the immortal Novi racing engine, increasing the horsepower from 450 to 837; and owned and ran the immortal Novi race cars both at the Indy 500 and in Atlanta, Georgia’s Hi-Bank Track (for which he is laureate in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America).
Moreover, at STP in 1967, Andy completely designed, built, ran, and campaigned the world famous, controversial STP Turbine Car without dispute, the most creative, innovative, spectacular, futuristically engineered, forward thinking race car in history-the subject of over 30,000 articles worldwide, pictured on the cover of hundreds of magazines, and currently on display at the Smithsonian Institute.
Andy’s associations with Studebaker in 1963 led him to become President and CEO of a company that was a partially owned subsidiary and whose only product was STP Oil Treatment. This is where Andy was to make his most significant and lasting contributions to the advertising process and the automobile racing world.
At STP, Andy combined his inimitable business acumen, advertising insight, intuitive promotional abilities, salesmanship, and innovative marketing strategies, first to change the name of the company from Chemical Compounds to the name of the product, STP, and soon to make STP a virtual household word.
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. The company quickly expanded from 7 to over 2000 employees as sales skyrocketed; profits grew exponentially, and market share increased from 7% to over 85%. All the while, Andy’s name recognition and his accomplishments in the auto racing world rose to new and monumental heights on a worldwide basis.
Just how did Andy accomplish his monumental success at STP, and what was the eventual impact of his remarkable achievements in the business arena? Andy was arguably the first person to apply the principle of “grand scale,” anywhere, and clearly stand alone in distinction
and in historical importance.spectacular, “mass merchandising” to sports activities in general, and to motor sports in particular. Andy made his mark in auto racing, but his operating principles could have been applied anywhere, and clearly stand alone in distinction and in historical importance.
Since Andy initially was allowed only a minuscule advertising and sales promotion budget, he adopted a quadripod theory of advertising and marketing, a “Granatelli theorem,” it might be called, which included a product log (in this case STP), a product (oil treatment), a product spokesman (himself), and a raison d’etre (auto racing).
Andy personally redesigned the STP logo and changed the color from a deep, dark maroon to a more identifiable, more spirited dayglo red with white and blue trim. He removed the name “oil treatment” from the product logo, in spite of vehement opposition from the Board of Directors of the company.
Cleverly, Andy was able to apply his STP logo on every type of race car in every type of car and boat race by offering contingency products, trophies, and/or cash prize money to the winners, provided they used his product, and displayed the STP decal. This created unparalleled demand for his nameless product decals. Andy distributed literally several hundred million free STP decals to fans at auto, boat, and air races, as well as offering decals through mail-in coupons in advertisements which provided free decals with the purchase of STP Oil Treatment.
Soon, the program expanded further when STP Oil Treatment and free STP decals were available in 99% of the more than 238,000 gasoline stations and 37,000 automotive parts wholesalers across the nation. Most of these locations exhibited large, colorful banners, along with STP Oil Treatment on display racks provided at no charge, meanwhile distributing free STP decals to anyone who wanted them.
Andy sent teams of salespeople along with local automotive jobber salesmen into gasoline stations across the country, first starting at the less densely populated perimeters of towns in order to demonstrate how to sell his product directly to the consumer. He showed the jobber salesperson, as well as the gasoline service station attendants, how to sell STP directly to the car owner. His men then took fistfuls of orders from gas stations to the jobber, and then STP asked the jobber for an order. Having established its quality, consistency, efficacy, and popularity, Andy used the established success and credibility to continue into mass populated urban areas. Sales and profits skyrocketed.
Andy was unique in the way he marketed a product. He took the totally unprecedented, bold initiative, in the face of the most severe opposition, to lower the discount provided to his highest volume customers who normally supplied their jobbers (called warehouse distributors) from 60% to the 40% off provided to jobbers, thereby effectively making everyone jobbers. Andy used the extra 20% savings for advertising and sales promotions. It was unprecedented not only to produce such a radical elimination of the “middleman,” but also to add all this new found money to an advertising and sales promotion budget, raising the budget from the usual 10% to an astounding 30% of sales.
Andy used his advertising money to get the consumer to come in to ask for his product rather than to rely upon a warehouse distributor to sell the product to jobbers who in turn sold to dealers (gas stations). He very effectively reversed the demand to flow directly from the consumer.
Moreover, Andy championed and pioneered the unprecedented concept of committing his entire annual STP advertising budget to be spent in the first nine months, and took the equally boldfaced, controversial action in the 1960’s to assign a disproportionately large percentage of his advertising budget to include STP promotional items such as sample products, decals, banners, and assorted memorabilia (including baseball style caps, tee shirts, jackets, duffel bags, ties, pens, etc., all bearing STP logos predominantly on them), which he distributed to the public by the hundreds of thousands at no charge. Using this advertising strategy, Andy succeeded every year in meeting or exceeding his annual sales and profit in the first nine months.
In addition to billboards being placed around the country, Andy conceived a 4 by 8 foot “Welcome Race Fans” banner which was placed by the thousands in gas stations, on motor homes, fences, trucks, etc., displaying large STP logos, which served to raise public awareness, create excitement, and ignite enthusiasm for STP and auto racing. Coveted and highly prized by adoring fans, the banners would invariably disappear at night.
People wanted to collect anything they could with STP on it, starting on a large scale basis the national pastime of collecting racing memorabilia and creating the multi-billion dollar merchandising industry that is enjoyed today.
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. Andy succeeded in achieving an incredible advertising phenomenon by literally indulging the visual senses, by imposing the STP logo in absolutely every aspect of life.
STP decals appeared on children’s bedroom walls, notebooks, lunch boxes, bicycles, go karts, wagons, scooters, tanks in Vietnam, pedicabs in Singapore, trucks, refrigerators, and much more! At one time, over 30 million cars were estimated to be bearing STP decals. In fact, STP decals literally became a part of the world pop culture.
For several years in the mid nineteen sixties it was not uncommon for almost all motor sports publications to show STP decals on drivers or cars that appeared on almost every page of the magazines. In some cases over 100 STP decals appeared prominently in each magazine and numerous times on the cover. Andy also had free STP decals inserted in the motor sports magazines.
Amazingly, under Andy’s direction, in only four to five years, the product STP rose from a state of trivial insignificance to become a virtual household word. In a national poll, STP was identified and recognized on a par with Coca Cola-a high profile product since the turn of the century, with an obviously unlimited advertising budget. A measure of the advertising genius of STP was confirmed by the New York Times famed cartoon depicting Neil Armstrong landing on the moon and the first thing he saw was an STP decal.
Additionally, Andy took the audacious, once again unprecedented action to apply money from his STP advertising budget to promote auto races free-to give radio, television, and print free 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.
Andy’s company, STP, supported NASCAR racing in every way possible as an accessory company, including product and prize and point money. For the NASCAR short track program, when it was struggling, 100% of all NASCAR tracks were covered by STP from coast to coast. NASCAR owned and operated “Motor Racing Network” which was primarily sponsored by STP.
Moreover, and perhaps most significantly, Andy pioneered auto racing on television and initiated the concept of major corporate sponsorship in auto racing-having entries in almost every major racing event on four continents, including Indy, NASCAR, Formula I, and Tasman Cup championships, expanding STP to 93 countries worldwide. He personally designed, created, and fabricated the famous multiple logoed STP suits and pajamas which distinguished his racing teams across the globe.
Andy conceived and produced 24 minute movies depicting segments of the Indy 500 races from 1963 to 1973 (all exhibiting STP logos), which he sent to servicemen abroad, distributed free to television stations worldwide, and which remain regular features on sports stations to this day. Andy literally ignited the fire and fanned the flames of enthusiasm for motor sports with his short subjects about the Indy 500, Bonneville Salt Flats, and NASCAR stock car racing.
Andy’s racing team won the Indy 500 in 1969 and again in 1973. He continued to establish records with himself as driver in the Bonneville Salt Flats (this CEO of STP driving an amazing, record 241.731 mph on pump gasoline in his street legal passenger car), and El Mirage Dry Lakes, and in Daytona. He made record wins with NASCAR, with Richard Petty driving Andy’s own car.
Always an advocate for safety, Andy spearheaded the use of Nomex fire retardant driver uniforms by giving all drivers entered into the Indy 500 race and NASCAR participants free suits with the STP logo prominently embroidered onto them-on the shoulders and upper body (front and rear) to ensure their display in press releases. He pioneered the concept of advertising on driver uniforms and race cars en mass. This advertisement appropriately associated STP with safety and security, while at the same time, increasing product recognition among fans, competitors, and media, who visually, almost unknowingly, registered the STP patches.
All of this made the STP logo one of the most recognizable in sports history!
In order to establish an identifiable, notionally, and internationally recognized product, with a characteristically distinctive logo, Andy perceived the advantages of providing a readily identifiable spokesperson. Having no budget for a spokesperson, what more novel approach to advertising than to use the CEO himself.
And indeed, Andy, while CEO of STP, was the true quintessential ambassador to the media. He penetrated 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. His ads appeared mostly in gas stations, garages, racetracks, or on his car.
Andy’s concept in advertising the products was to talk to viewers as peers. His flamboyant style, seemingly simple personality, sense of humor, quick wit, and genuine sincerity served to add charm and charisma, captured the imagination, and endeared him to the public. His grand stature justified his popularizing everything in a big and grandiose fashion.
One of the longest lasting images in motor sports history is that of Andy Granatelli planting the big kiss on the cheek of Mario Andretti in victory lane after the 1969 Indy 500.
Appearances on Laugh-In, Johnny Carson, and other high profile television shows and in some movies, including The Love Bug, 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, superseded only by a few movie superstars and recent presidents and vice presidents of the United States.
The Advertising Legacy
How have Andy Granatelli’s efforts impacted the advertising process over time? What notions did Andy bring, and what legacy did he leave to the advertising industry?
Just imagine sports activities today without sales promotional items jackets, tee shirts, hats, decals, banners, flags, and assorted memorabilia.
Just consider sporting event press rooms without colored pictures and brochures, and unique, flamboyant, sales promotional items and propaganda.
Just visualize a time without the interlude of periodic television filmstrips (which Andy pioneered in auto racing), and controversial broadcast race sports programming, reviews, and multi-sportswriter media exposure, which Andy introduced and developed.
Realize, above all, that this was the world before Andy. These were the advertising principles entirely conceived, designed, modulated, and expanded by Andy as vehicles for advertising his product STP.
It is impossible to ponder how the sport can ever repay the legendary Andy Granatelli for what he has done to popularize racing. Surely no individual could have done more to popularize a product, and in doing so, to enrich the entire motor sports industry and racing establishment.
Andy appropriately is credited with bringing unparalleled exposure, innovation, public interest, spectacle, and media (especially television) coverage to motor sports. Arguably, it is through his contributions, his historic efforts, that auto racing has become the biggest spectator sport in the world.
Another Business Venture
Somewhat later in his career, by using his advertising and sales promotion genius as the owner of Wilcox and Wilcox Advertising Agency, Andy conceived and popularized the concept of the “while you wait” tune-up and lube-oil change at another of his companies, TuneUp Masters, Inc.
Andy purchased, built, and expanded the fledgling business in less than a decade from 18 locations to 278 company owned locations in eleven southwestern states and eventually sold the company in 1986 for over 60 million dollars. Again, Andy developed and paved the way for another “while you wait” automotive service.
Throughout his illustrious and high profile career, Andy has maintained a keen eye for social awareness, for the needs of the less fortunate, and for social justice. In spite of his many accomplishments in the executive office at Tune Up Masters, Andy still credits his most significant business achievement as the ambitious, innovative Youth At Risk program which he developed at Tune Up Masters, whereby literally thousands of disadvantaged young people, through on the job training, mentoring, encouragement, and support, were able to develop technical skills, self esteem, and self reliance necessary to lead meaningful and productive lives.
Over a period of nine years, Andy personally interviewed and selected thousands of young people of all race, color, and creed (many gang members marked by society as unemployable, undesirable, undependable, and untrustworthy) to participate in his program of computer, public relations, mechanics, technical, and vocational training which produced remarkable results.
Andy would, on a quarterly basis, travel to 17 cities or provide educational and motivational video presentations to the young people in all 278 company owned shops of Tune Up Masters, inspiring them to believe in themselves, to maintain a positive attitude, to recognize their potential, develop their talents, and never to abandon their dreams. Many of these trainees went on to pursue advanced degrees, to hold leadership positions in well established industries, or to create and operate their own corporations and businesses.
Corporate Culture and Management Style
Throughout his illustrious career in auto racing and in the executive offices as CEO of thriving businesses, including Grancor, Paxton Products, TuneUp Masters, and especially STP Corporation, Andy demonstrated effective, inspiring leadership and exhibited a managerial style conducive to innovation, employee participation, loyalty, and enthusiastic support.
Andy always was a hands-on mentor, willing to delegate responsibility, without relinquishing control, offering opportunity for growth to individuals with thirst for challenge, willingly providing guidance, counseling, and instruction, always accessible, quick to award praise, happy to reward work well done, buffering any critique or discipline with a gentle, warm, and forgiving heart, and fully accepting of criticism, even flexible, and amenable to change himself.
A self made giant in American business, Andy achieved success by values which he acknowledges he learned from his revered father. By his own predictable example, Andy used his magnetic personality and persuasive powers to set a climate which fostered integrity, creativity, and credibility, He offered management staff freedom and responsibility, but demanded accountability. He encouraged action on the part of all employees, focusing on values of simplicity, quality, cost management, excellence, and efficiency.
Every business with which Andy has been involved as CEO experienced prompt and exponential growth, organized expansion, rapidly increasing sales, and concomitant escalating profit margin and market share. This success, as with any business, was due, in part, to enhanced productivity achieved by proper employee training, incentive compensations and rewards, use of good machinery and development of modern industrial plants, continuous quality control and quality improvement, and purchases of supplies on a high volume, low cost basis.
At STP, over a period of nine years, Andy absolutely never accepted a price increase for any product, even though sales and profits of STP went up, and prices of goods and services rose with time. If vendors wished to increase prices, Andy looked to alternate vendors, or more imaginative and ingenious alternative solutions which produced no price increase (cardboard versus metal containers, etc.). Profits were enhanced further by an instinctive, forward thinking approach to human nature and intuitive response. A true visionary, Andy was able to anticipate public interest, and consequently, to create appropriate supply and demand.
Good customer relations was the hallmark of all of Andy’s businesses. Most assuredly, none of his businesses could have achieved the rapid sales increases and consistent high profits which they repeatedly exhibited without proving good and predictable service. At TuneUp Masters, Andy initiated a program whereby every customer vehicle had a TuneUp Master decal applied to the rear window lower left corner. Each of Andy’s 2500 employees in all eleven western states was instructed to stop to assist any individual whose vehicle exhibited the TuneUp Master identifying marking and had broken down at the roadside, whether by virtue of an accident, flat tire, lack of gas, or problem unrelated to tune up service. This gesture of kindness, and at no charge, produced predictable customer good will.
While Andy was chief executive of several corporations, he was especially sensitive to the needs of his employees. In all of his companies, Andy brought his staff together in a family atmosphere, in a helpful, nourishing environment. Within this framework of cooperation, teamwork, and commitment, Andy was able to motivate and identify talent and stimulate potential. When he retired, he kept or found placement for many employees, and has remained close to others, as a teacher, counselor, and special friend, in spite of the fact that they moved away or worked in other locations.
When Andy sold Grancor, he gave controlling interest of the company to his employees, free of charge. When he sold TuneUp Masters, he offered a two million dollar bonus to the employees if they increased sales minimally for the new owners for the following year.
Always a champion of women’s rights, Andy in all his companies, provided women equal pay for jobs and equal responsibilities, and provided stock options to executives as well as to secretarial staff. In the early 1960’s, Andy set the unprecedented action of using two women race drivers to set records in the Bonneville Salt Flats, and in 1964, Andy used the first woman driver ever to compete in an Indianapolis race car.
No individual has been able to respond to and recover from unanticipated and repeated crisis more than an auto racing driver and car owner, having confronted conditions on many occasions requiring immediate decision making and reflex action, having experienced repeated engine failures and malfunctions, having endured multiple crashes and incurred sometimes serious bodily injuries, in addition to tackling the standard business technical, legal, and employee concerns. Andy perhaps excelled in every one of his endeavors because of his uncanny ability to actively and intuitively respond to, and to teach his employees to adapt to enormous stress.
Humanitarian and Philanthropist
Especially since his retirement from the business sector and racing community, and following his relocation to Santa Barbara, California, almost 15 years ago, Andy has dedicated himself primarily to giving back to society from which he credits his fame and fortune. An avid and selfless supporter of numerous local charities who never has forgotten his own modest and humble beginnings, Andy has donated-quite literally on a daily basis unlimited time, extensive financial resources, boundless energy, and passionate fund raising talent to over 100 local organizations, as well as to numerous regional and national organizations.
Andy’s peerless determination to assist and contribute to the disadvantaged members of his community prompted him almost immediately to involve himself directly in a broad spectrum of philanthropic endeavors encompassing all aspects of society including the arts, community health, local schools, medical and scientific research, alcohol and drug abuse, public safety, child welfare and development, and youth mentoring.
Recognizing that an investment in public safety, education, community health, and young people is key to our community strength, Andy has generated unprecedented aid to others by gathering corporate and private donations, offering matching grants, conducting numerous auctions, giving inspirational talks to schools and juvenile detention centers, establishing auxiliaries, hosting local telethons for food, clothing, national disaster relief, and mentoring of children, as well as for local hospitals, medical equipment and research.
On a National level, Andy has served as Chairman of the Institute of Cancer and Blood Research since 1979, and has served on the Advisory Boards of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Boy Scouts of America since 1960. He was involved with the National Kidney Foundation, and for many years worked as a volunteer for, and benefactor of, the Child Welfare League, and worked also for several years on behalf of Child Help USA.
In Santa Barbara, Andy actively has been involved with the Ben Page Youth Center, Christmas Unity/Unity Shoppe, United Boys and Girls Clubs, Girls Incorporated, Rehabilitation Institute of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Chapter of the American Heart Association, Fighting Back Youth Mentoring Program, U.S. Navy League, Laguna Blanca School, Bone and Joint Institute, Institute for Cancer and Blood Research, Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, and the National Kidney Foundation, only to name a few.
Andy has been actively involved as an energetic, vigorous fundraiser, benefactor, spokesperson, and volunteer in all aspects of law enforcement and the Fire Department in Santa Barbara County and in all communities where he has resided in the past. He has served as Director and chief fund-raiser for the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Council since its inception, and was co-founder of the 11-99 Foundation for the California Highway Patrol-dedicated to raising money for families of firefighters, policemen, and highway patrol officers in California who have been injured or killed in the line of duty.
Andy has extended charity beyond the bounds of the usual non-profit organizations and activities. He has provided financial support and enlisted contributions for local individuals who have been severely injured in automobile accidents or who have required organ transplants, but lacked the financial resources to care for themselves.
While Andy was chief executive of several corporations he was especially sensitive to the needs of his employees. When he sold Grancor, he gave controlling interest of the company to his employees, free of charge. Always a champion of women’s rights, he offered equal opportunities, responsibilities, stock options, benefits, and salaries regardless of gender.
Within his businesses, Andy conceived, promoted, implemented, and conducted ambitious, innovative, highly organized and carefully structured Youth at Risk Mentoring programs which provided emotional support as well as sales, mechanical, and vocational training for literally thousands of disadvantaged youth.
Andy has been able consistently and repeatedly to use his flamboyant theatrical style, penchant for showmanship, promotional and marketing genius, creative salesmanship, along with his beneficent, gentle spirit and generous heart very effectively, not only to generate money, but to attract needed public interest and embrace enthusiastic volunteers to benefit his local community. There rarely exists a local charitable event that is not attended by him, chaired by him, sponsored by him hosted by him, or conceived in honor of him.
Almost single-handedly, Andy has been responsible for millions of dollars provided in contributions to local charities. His energy and generosity truly are contagious. One of his many repeated and remarkable feats was the acquisition in April, 2001, of over $250,000 in donations to the Rehabilitation Institute of Santa Barbara in less than 30 minutes at an item less auction with Andy serving as the celebrity auctioneer.
A truly incomparable inspirational leader and gentle giant, Andy has been comfortable not merely in the limelight, but has enjoyed working in the trenches and behind the scenes as an unsung hero providing wisdom and new ideas, offering challenges and support, garnering sponsorships, igniting enthusiasm, motivating and generating unrivaled degrees of active participation and unprecedented hard work by others to achieve his lofty goals. He commands the admiration, affection, devotion, and respect of all persons he encounters in all walks of life.
His has been, and continues to be, a legacy of charity, not merely of business success.
Andy Granatelli ranks among the most ingenious, insightful, magnetic, colorful, impetuous, and highly publicized individuals in American business.
With uncanny foresight and brilliant fitness, he was able, throughout his celebrated, high profile career, to use his charismatic persona and persuasive powers to create a flawless, seamless blend of the sophisticated world of business acquisitions and mergers of corporate America with the unruly, undisciplined, rough and ready motor sports establishment, bringing singular honor, fame, and fortune to himself, and at the same time, accelerating auto racing by a media rocket to the level of empire status.
Throughout his involvement in motor sports and in business, Andy was the hallmark of technological change and industry innovation. From the outset, at “Andy’s Super Service,” he conceived and established the concept of “pit stop” automobile service. At Grancor, he initiated the concept of mass distribution of automotive power and speed equipment, popularized and reconfigured the famous “flathead” Mercury and Ford powered engines, and revitalized and redesigned the immortal Novi racing cars-all vehicles which he was first to run and which captivated crowds unlike any other at Indy. He was the acknowledged giant in the development of hot rod, sprint car, stock car, and drag racing, and was an engineering wizard at the forefront of race car engine design-culminating in his sensational, incomparable, unsurpassed, legendary STP Turbine Car. He allocated extensive funding to research and development, aspiring through creative automotive engineering in racing to bring innovation and safety features to traditional passenger cars.
Andy was the innovator and popularized the concept of “while you wait” tune-up and lube oil change at TuneUp Masters, Inc.
As CEO at STP, Andy really showed his stuff as a bold and inventive pioneer in grand scale, mass media merchandising of a product, specifically oil treatment. His advertising concepts were personified in the image of his grand frame in the pits of the Indy, sporting a business suit, but conspicuously white and bedecked with colorful STP decals. He wore the Badge Number 500-was proud of it and forever brought honor to it.
The life and times of Andy Granatelli, the rags to riches, guts and glory story, is intimately reviewed in his own words and defined by his own terms, in his highly acclaimed autobiography, They Call Me Mister 500.1
Controversial to some, beloved and revered by all, this magical, Houdini-like hero undeniably made his mark as decidedly the most resourceful advertising genius and the most masterful marketing legend of his time.
The informational material used in the preparation of this article was obtained from numerous conversations with Andy Granatelli, survey of many media news reports, numerous press releases, and multiple magazine articles as well as the analysis of corporate annual reports, examination of videotapes and films, and review of Andy Granatelli’s autobiography, They Call Me Mister 500 (Henry Regnery Company, Chicago, 1969).
This article was written by Barbara E. Mathews, M.D., FACS, FACOG – It originally appeared in the Journal of Business Leadership. (STP Corporation: Profile of a Phenomenon, Fall 2002)
1. Andy Granatelli, They Call Me Mister 500, Henry Regnery Company, Chicago, 1969