• Sep 9th 2013 at 7:44PM
  • 23
Cal Worthington in one of his early car ads. (YouTube)
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. The Los Angeles Times said the ads started in 1971, mocking other local dealers who'd included puppies in their car ads.

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.

L.A. TV station KCAL said Worthington divorced his third wife, Icelandic jazz singer Anna Mjoll, in December 2011 after less than a year of marriage. They'd fought over his Beverly Hills home and his wealth, the station said.

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.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      I wish I could pay those prices today!!
      • 1 Year Ago
      wow its fun to see cars that look different from each other
      • 1 Year Ago
      RIP Cal.... my father RIP worked for Cal in the 60's and 70's. I use to fly with his son out of a small airport in Huntington Beach. I helped my dad set up a dealership for Cal in Costa Mesa in the late 60's. The coolest part was all the new cars we got to drive....a different one almost every week. You will be missed Cal Worthington !
      • 1 Year Ago
      Johnny Carson's biggest fan....Lot$ of free advertising for Cal in Carson's opening jokes,.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I remember coming home from my second tour in Vietnam in late 1972 and visiting my parents place in Los Angeles. It was a Saturday and my dad and I were wtching some movie on TV when this guy comes on screaming about how his cars were the best. I found it odd but my dad found him ridiculous. Needless to say, we went down to Cal Worthington in Long Beach and actually bought a new Ford Maverick. However, I thought he must have died years ago because he already looked like he was hugging the grave even back then.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I remember his commercials when I was living in Rosemead California in 1978. He would ride elephants, walk tigers and just be a trip to watch in the pre 998 channels of crap cable era. Seemed like a nice enough guy and don't think anyone found any dirt on him. I wondered from time to time what happened to him. Glad he had a long life and hope he didn't suffer. So long "Cal".
      • 1 Year Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      that was great guy i 75 i rember him wll
      • 1 Year Ago
      I watched his commercials 40 years ago when I was in the ARMY in El Paso Texas. We got KTLA on cable and I caught all those late night commercials.
      • 1 Year Ago
      this guy was the real deal, we'll never see another like him
      Garry Carlson
      • 1 Year Ago
      Cal touched many. My Father-in-law was from Kentucky and a school principal in California. Cal Worthington was one of his favorite TV personalities. I think it was that "down home", "good ole boy" atmosphere that attracted them to one and other. BTW, yes, my father-in law- bought cars from Cal! May they both RIP!
      • 1 Year Ago
      Wow...I remember those commercials when I lived in S. California....waaay back in the 70's~!! Ol' Cal lived a great life selling all of those cars~!
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