Auto dealer and TV figure Cal Worthington dies

LOS ANGELES — Cal Worthington, who built a fortune from a series of West Coast auto dealerships and became a TV fixture thanks to folksy car lot commercials urging customers to “Go see Cal,” has died. He was 92.

Worthington died Sunday after watching football with family at his Big W Ranch in Orland, Calif., north of Sacramento, said Dave Karalis, general manager of Cal Worthington Ford in Long Beach.

The cause of death has not been determined, family attorney Larry Miles said.

The Oklahoma native, who was a decorated bomber pilot during World War II, founded his first dealership in the late 1940s in Southern California and quickly took advantage of broadcast advertising.

As his business empire grew to other western states and Alaska, Worthington starred in a series of TV and radio spots that featured him in his ever-present big white cowboy hat and his “dog” Spot — which would turn out to be animals ranging from tigers to elephants.

He also wrestled a bear, handled a snake, rode a hippopotamus and a pig, and almost had his hand bit by a mountain lion. Viewers frequently saw him trying to stand on his head, including a stint atop the upper wing of a biplane that turned him on his head. All of it was set to a speedy banjo tune with the refrain, “Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal.”

At one point, Worthington owned more than 23 dealerships in five states, according to a family statement.

Born Nov. 27, 1920, Worthington joined the Army and became a B-17 bomber pilot, flying 29 missions over Germany and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and other honors.

After the war he continued to fly a variety of aircraft, including a Lear 35, a twin-engine jet that he based at his sprawling ranch, which is a large producer of almonds and olives.

Last year, he addressed a Federal Aviation Administration seminar at the Aerospace Museum of California in McClellan, Calif., on how he managed so many years of flying safely. His last flight was from Anchorage, Alaska, to California, 10 days before his death, Miles said.

He is survived by six children and nine grandchildren.

More in Herald Business Journal

Nordstrom suspends buyout after struggling to get financing

A buyout was meant to help the company continue turnaround efforts outside the glare of market scrutiny.

More self-awareness could help build a better medical system

Marcy Shimada of Edmonds Family Medicine writes the second in a series about fixing our health care system.

Scratch-and-sniff brochures aimed to prevent disaster

Puget Sound Energy has distributed more than a million scratch-and-sniff brochures to… Continue reading

Jewelry, accessories store Fuego opens second site in Snohomish County

Northwest-based jewelry, accessories and gifts store Fuego opened a new outlet store… Continue reading

Extreme cleaning company Steri-Clean opens in Mukilteo

The first Washington franchise of the Steri-Clean company will celebrate its grand… Continue reading

Justices to hear government’s email dispute with Microsoft

A lower court ruled emails in a drug case couldn’t be searched because they were in Ireland.

Bombardier to partner with Airbus on C Series program

The move by Bombardier could possibly circumvent duties being imposed on the C Series.

Everett’s Access Laser sells majority stake to German company

Everett firm with 50 employees makes lasers for scientific, medical fields and self-driving vehicles

Most Read