September '18

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56 THE SHOP SEPTEMBER 2018 56 THE SHOP SEPTEMBER 2018 And after Richard Petty retired from driving the #43 STP car, his new driver, Bobby Hamilton, won in 1996, which was a big deal to again see the STP Petty Pontiac in victory lane. Drag racing was a focus for STP as well in this era, as 1990 saw the familiar STP red and blue hues on a Pontiac Firebird Pro Stocker, driven by Rickie Smith. STP also participated in Sprint Car racing and IMSA sports car racing. STP changed ownership a few times over the years. When Studebaker quit making cars, STP turned into an independent pri- vate company, and in the late 1970s it was bought by Esmark, then Beatrice purchased it in the mid-'80s and soon after, it was sold in a leveraged buyout by Union Carbine, becoming First Brands. Clorox took it over in 2010 and later STP became part of the Armored AutoGroup, which was then acquired by Spectrum Brands Holdings in 2015 (see sidebar on page 54). STP has a worldwide presence and its Oil Treatment is sold all over the globe, along with other products including engine coolant, oil, oil filters, air filters and general auto parts. It has remained a trusted brand name for over six decades, and in its heyday the logo was all over the place. In fact, the letters STP became so mainstream popular that back when America was plan- ning on landing on the moon, there was a New York Times cartoon depicting Neil Armstrong exiting his spacecraft and encountering an STP sticker! MAGIC POTION OR SNAKE OIL? Did the STP products, and particularly the oil treatment, work as well as the adver- tising claimed? Endurance Insurance was just one of the headlines of an STP print advertisement and, in general over the years and particu- larly during the late 1960s, the claims that the ads made were simply along the lines of, "add this to your engine oil and every- thing is going to be better," as in longer engine life, cooler running temperature, less friction, quicker starts, less burning of oil, and on and on. The credibility of seeing STP logos on winning race cars did much to convince motorists that buying the product could only be a good thing, and it sure was a lot cheaper than having to do mechanical work inside the engine to bring it back to original condition. The Federal Trade Commission had its Bureau of Consumer Protection depart- ment investigate the STP corporation in 1977 after complaints about STP's adver- tising claims that it "reduces oil consump- tion by 20 percent." STP lost the battle and as part of a $500,000 penalty, the settlement required that STP carry messages to a minimum of 78 million adults noting: "The road tests on which we based our claims were unreliable; our prior statements were in violation of the law." Then, in 1995, STP had to pay out another $888,000 to settle a different charge of false advertising. This one was for STP motor oil and advertising messages that claimed that XEP2 additive would protect engines from wear at start-up, and that regular, non-STP oil would not. The charges seemed to have little or no effect on sales of the products, and today there are online message board testimonials from drivers young and old proclaiming their good results and loyalty to STP. (Adversely, there are also groups that cite studies that oil additives, regardless of brand, are a waste of money with today's high-quality motor oils.) Regardless of any controversy, however, it's undeniable that STP has had a major impact on American motorsports for the past 60 years. JAMES MAXWELL is an automo- tive writer and historian based in southern California. He can be reached at The Story Even though the STP Turbine car didn't win the 1967 Indy 500, it generated more media exposure than the actual winner. Parnelli Jones drove the innovative entry in the famous race and led most of the laps before a $6 ball bearing failed with just three laps to go. The aircraft design and side-mounted engine was the talk of Gasoline Alley. Maynard Rupp and Roy Steffey ran this 1967 Mercury Cougar-bodied injected Funny Car sponsored by STP, here showcased on the cover of the August '67 issue of Car Craft magazine. On the track it ran in the 8.20-second range at over 170 mph. Donny Schatz's STP World of Outlaws Sprint Car was a rolling billboard for STP, and for more exposure with the WoO circuit, starting in 2012 the company also became the title sponsor of the series.

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