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

Health-care consumers need to take the lead, so get smart

David Russian, CEO of Western Washington Medical Group, writes our third essay about fixing health care.

More business, more competition for Everett kidney dialysis center

Nonprofit Puget Sound Kidney Centers sees large for-profit competitors enter state market.

Molina Medical holds fall carnival for families in Everett

Molina Medical is hosting a free event for families in the Everett… Continue reading

Leadership Snohomish County celebrates 20 years of service

Leadership Snohomish County is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The organization was launched… Continue reading

Snohomish, Monroe manufacturers honored for innovation, excellence

Two Snohomish County companies have been honored with Manufacturing Excellence awards at… Continue reading

Remodeled home tours planned this weekend

This weekend, Edmonds-based Chermak Construction will participate in the 2017 Remodeled Homes… Continue reading

Barron Heating to celebrate anniversary at Marysville showroom

Barron Heating and Air Conditioning is celebrating its 45th anniversary from 10… Continue reading

Robots on Wall Street: Slow-footed regulators lose ground

Watchdogs have to figure out how to check computers running lightening-fast algorithms.

US budget deficit hits $666B, an $80B spike for the year

The deficit issue has largely fallen in prominence in Washington in recent years.

Most Read