I was sorry to hear that racing legend Andy Granatelli passed away late in December because I was trying to get in touch with him to answer a question that had come up two weeks earlier.
The question was not the meaning of the initials STP. After it was founded in 1953, the company said the name stood for Scientifically Tested Petroleum. When Studebaker-Packard brought STP, lots of people thought STP stood for the first two letters in Studebaker and the first letter in Packard. Studebaker-Packard boss Sherwood Egbert said it meant “Studebaker Tested Product.”
My question was about who made the famous STP pajamas that Granatelli and his crew wore when they ran the STP turbine car at Indy.
During the Performance Racing Industry show in mid-December I was searching around for racing uniform companies because we are going to need a uniform for our college team’s Bonneville car. At the USAC Awards Dinner on Friday, I happened to sit next to Nancy Chumbley, who owns Hinchman Racing Uniforms. She told me I should come by their booth for an interesting story.
The next day the Hinchman staff told me about how the company had been making racing uniforms in Indianapolis since the 1920s. When fireproof suits became mandatory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Hinchman, was on the “inside track” and became the main supplier. The new uniforms cost $75 then and many drivers could not afford them.
So, Andy Granatelli came into the picture. He knew Mr. Hinchman and he offered to buy racing suits for any driver that would put an STP patch on the suit. The driver could have other sponsors, as long as the STP patch was somewhere on the suit.
On Saturday night I left the show and stopped to see my old friends Jack and Nan Martin. For many years, Jack was director of special events and the Hall of Fame Museum for the Speedway. He was also president of the Society of Automotive Historians for a time and ran the Indy Bench Racing League until last year. Jack knows history and he told me that he thought Hinchman made the STP pajamas for Andy Granatelli.
This gave me the idea to do a story on this topic, but I still couldn’t prove that Hinchman made the STP suits for Granatelli. The staff there even checked the records to see if they could find a bill for the job, but there was none. So, my next step was to try to contact Andy himself. I looked him up on the Internet and discovered he was still living then and my next step . . . .
Well, I just never got there. So, I’m still wondering who made those “Scientifically Tested Pajamas.” If someone reading this knows, please get in touch.