Sixty-Six on Sixty-Six
Which Came First, the Gasoline or the Road
Well, what’s the name going to be? Time’s running out and we’ve got to make a decision. The year was 1927, and some executives of the newly formed Phillips Petroleum were driving on Route 66 from Tulsa, Oklahoma to company headquarters in Bartlesville to present a name for their new gasoline that would soon be on the market.
Most gasoline stations in those days were individually owned and without ties to any particular distributor. Phillips Petroleum planned to expand throughout the country and build brand recognition with stations standardized in appearance and offering a high-grade of gasoline with a name that drivers would recognize and develop a loyalty to. Phillips 66 had been suggested as a name because the company headquarters and refinery were located on Route 66, but it was felt that this name was too limiting. The new gasoline needed a distinctive name with flare. Why use “66”, which meant nothing to most people and related only to a road through Oklahoma that had just been designated the year before and was mostly dirt.
While driving to the meeting, a member of the group commented that the car in which they were riding was “going like sixty” on the new gas. The driver, glancing at the speedometer, replied, “Sixty nothing, we’re going sixty-six!” During a discussion just before the meeting with a chemist who had helped develop the new gasoline, the coincidence of doing 66 on Route 66 was mentioned, and the chemist commented that another coincidence was that the octane of their new gasoline was also 66. When the meeting started, one of the executives was asked what name they had chosen for their new gasoline. Without hesitation the reply came back, “We’re calling it Phillips 66, and soon it, as well as this new road, will be known throughout the country.”