76 (gas station)
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|Founded||1932(as Union 76)|
Number of locations
76 (formerly Union 76) is a chain of gas stations located within the United States. The 76 brand is owned by Phillips 66 Company. Union Oil Company of California, dba Unocal, the original owner and creator of the Union 76 brand, merged with Chevron Corporation in 2005.
In 1997, Unocal sold its western United States refining and marketing operations and the rights to the Union 76 brand for use in refining and marketing operations to Tosco Corporation. Tosco has since been purchased by Phillips Petroleum, which merged with Conoco to form ConocoPhillips.
As of May 1, 2012, the "76" brand is owned by the Phillips 66 Company, which was spun off from ConocoPhillips. Unocal continued to own the "76" trademark for use in its operations, with the exception of the divested refining and marketing business. On August 10, 2005, Unocal Corporation and Union Oil Company of California were acquired and merged into a subsidiary of Chevron Corporation.
76, Conoco, and Phillips 66 market their brand of gasoline under the brand name PROclean. The previous brand name for their gasoline was Propower. 76 gasoline stopped being marketed under the Propower name after the termination of the commercial relationship between NASCAR and 76 after the end of the 2003 season, when the firm discontinued all motorsport fuels. As of October 2004, PROclean brand fuel was included on the list of fuels recognized as "Top Tier".
In the 1970s and 1980s, the company used the slogan "Go With the Spirit...the Spirit of '76." This has been shortened to "Get the Spirit".
The Orange Ball
Union Oil (for many years based in El Segundo, California) introduced "76" gasoline in 1932. The name referred to the 1776 United States Declaration of Independence, and was also the octane rating of the gasoline in 1932.
76 signs are orange balls with "76" written on them in blue. Many stations had the 76 ball rotate when the signs were illuminated. The first such sign was designed in 1962 by advertising creative director Ray Pedersen for the Seattle World's Fair.
In 2005, new corporate owners ConocoPhillips began a rebranding campaign to unify the design elements of each of the merged brands (76, Phillips, and Conoco). As a part of this re-branding, there was an initial decision to pull down all the Orange Ball signs and replace them with monument-style signs in the red-orange and blue color scheme. In response to overwhelming negative publicity generated by a grassroots "Save The 76 Ball" campaign, ConocoPhillips backtracked on this decision in January 2007, agreeing to donate several of the classic orange 76 balls to museums and to erect approximately 100 balls in the new red-orange and blue color scheme.
The 76 ball made a brief appearance in the 1991 film Point Break during the final airport escape scene, in 1997's The Lost World: Jurassic Park during the Tyrannosaurus rex chase in San Diego, California, and close to the dam in 2014's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It made an appearance in the 1998 movie Lethal Weapon 4, in which a gas station was blown up due to characters Riggs and Murtaugh shooting an armed man with a flamethrower into a tanker truck on the lot. It also made an appearance in Sid and Marty Krofft's 2009 Land of the Lost movie.
Until the end of 2003, 76 balls were located at the Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway in all four of its turns. They were used as scoring points, had portholes, and were capable of holding a few people inside. One of these balls was given to the owner of Brumos Motor Cars in Jacksonville, FL, and now sits atop a building on the premises after ConocoPhillips terminated its NASCAR sponsorship. Another was given to Dale Earnhardt Jr. that is currently displayed on his property. Similar balls had been placed near pit entrances at most NASCAR circuits until the sponsorship ended, but unlike spheres, they were flat on both sides and illuminated at night during races.
The 76 ball is also a landmark at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, where the only gas station on the premises of a major league ballpark is visible from the park beyond the outfield stands. Union Oil was a longtime sponsor of the Dodgers baseball team, beginning with their relocation to Los Angeles from Brooklyn in 1958. The sponsorship by the 76 brand continues to this day.
Union 76 invented the antenna topper concept. Beginning in 1967, Union 76 distributed tens of millions of orange 76 styrofoam antenna balls. These were popular, especially in the Greater Los Angeles area, where they are still seen. In the winter of 1968, they also proved to be safety aids in northwestern US cities such as Spokane, Washington, when wind and snow created drifts that made it difficult to locate cars without whip antennas and the ubiquitous orange 76 ball on them. 
In recent years, 76 has appeared in certain areas in the eastern United States. Since 2013, they have returned to the orange ball imagery as part of the "Experience 76" program.
- Top Tier Archived 2013-08-15 at the Wayback Machine
- Sign of the 76, Los Angeles: Union Oil, 1976, p.203.
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