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The Legacy of John Steen

A vintage can of Steen C synthetic motor oil.

This is the history of John Steen and Steen’s Chemical and Lubricants Company. A So-Cal company in the ’60s that (by all accounts) made and sold the first synthetic oil in America, not to mention creating one of the greatest ’60s mini bike brands of all time, the TACO. John Steen created the company in the late ’50s by selling used speed equipment and the synthetic oil formulated by his father in the ’40s while working for Standard Oil as a chemist.

John Steen and Steve McQueen somewhere in Europe, early ’60s.

Prior to this in the early ’50s, John Steen was an off-road motorcycle rider. John rode with legendary riders Ed Kretz Jr., Cliff Coleman, Dave, and Bud Ekin and Steve McQueen and others. These are some of the guys who created the Motocross sport on the west cost. Around this time, John’s Dad passed away, leaving him his formula for synthetic oil.

You would think that with John’s Dad working for Standard Oil, they would own the formula for synthetic oil. Well they did, but they told him that they were in the oil business not the synthetic oil business, and he could have the formula. So John’s Father took it. John talked to Union Carbide and worked out a deal to start making small amounts of this synthetic oil and asked people he knew to try it. Some people known to try Steen C were… read more >

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