My recollection matches what Bruce says (and I have been
using unix since when version 7 was the latest and greatest).
At least the SUN OS 5.6 man page I could locate online says

 The o function modifier is only valid with the x function. p
 Restore the named files to their original modes, and ACLs if
 applicable, ignoring the present umask(1). This is the
 default behavior if invoked as super-user with the x
 function letter specified. If super-user, SETUID and sticky
 information are also extracted, and files are restored with
 their original owners and permissions, rather than owned
 by root.

This superuser behavior is what allows one to use tar as an
archiving program.

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