SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (Jan. 7, 2014) — Motorsports icon Anthony “Andy” Granatelli died Dec. 29 in Santa Barbara from congestive heart failure. He was 90.
The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) described him as “a pivotal force in the earliest days of the specialty-equipment industry, building a business out of selling speed equipment to new automotive enthusiasts who wanted to modify their cars.”
Mr. Granatelli’s company, Grancor—short for Granatelli Corp.—was a warehouse distributor that served the Midwest by importing products from California manufacturers such as Edelbrock, Winfield and Belond, according to SEMA.
In addition to supporting the industry’s earliest companies, SEMA said Mr. Granatelli became a household name in the late-1960s through the 1970s with TV commercials promoting his STP fuel and oil additives. He was CEO of the STP motor oil company.
According to the online Wikipedia website, Mr. Granatelli’s sponsorship of race teams included cladding his pit crews in white coveralls with the oval STP logo scattered all over them, and he once wore a suit jacket with the same STP-laden design.
In 1948, according to the Wikipedia profile, Mr. Granatelli “decided to try to qualify as a driver (in the Indianapolis 500), and nearly did so, but a horrendous crash during his qualifying run ended that part of his career.”
He went on to promote racing teams, and backed the turbine-engine STP-Paxton car of race driver Parnelli Jones that pushed the field at the 1967 Indianapolis 500 until the failure of what was described as a $6 transmission bearing ended his hopes of winning that race. (Mr. Jones later operated a New York State tire dealership that bore his name.)
In a 2001 interview with the SEMA News upon his induction into the SEMA Hall of Fame, the trade association said Mr. Granatelli “provided this answer when asked what he considered his proudest accomplishment: ‘My sons,’”
“In the business world,” he continued, “it would be the job I did at STP. I took a little-known company and made it into a household name in nine years….
“There were (STP) decals on every kid’s motorcycle, bicycle, notebook, wagon and car,” he added.
Born in Dallas, Mr. Granatelli bought an automotive chain called Tuneup Masters in 1976 for $300,000, selling it 10 years later for $60 million.
He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2001, according to Wikipedia. Mr. Granatelli was inducted in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2011 and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2013.
Mr. Granatelli leaves his wife Dolly and sons Vince and Anthony.