Hooniverse Asks- Who's Your Favorite Minor Celebrity Car Dealer?


Here in Southern California during the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, you couldn’t sit through a midnight movie or Saturday afternoon ballgame without catching an ad for Cal Worthington. Whether riding a hippo or being chased by a hungry looking tiger (all of which were named my dog spot), Cal was an icon of local LA TV.

Back then the comedic animal interplay was intermixed with images of sparkling Fords and Dodges spinning on a dais while Cal told you about easy financing and extended warranties. Worthington, 90 this year, served in the Army Air Corps during WWII – flying 29 missions over Germany in a B17 – for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. After the war he did to late night TV what he had to the Germans, carpeting the airwaves with 30- and 60-second spots for first his Hudson, and then Ford, Dodge, and eventually damn-near everything dealerships.
Other character dealers had preceded Worthington, and a few others have followed. Mad Man Muntz sold not just cars, but TVs, radios and car stereos. The old story goes that Muntz would hover around the electronics R&D department with a pair of wire cutters in his pocket. He’d be constantly looking over the shoulders of the engineers and asking them what does that do? pointing at a wire or tube or something. When the engineer would describe the function, Muntz would reach over and cut the connection. If the TV kept working, Muntz would demand that part be removed, if all that was left on screen was the white center dot, he’d instruct them to put it back. Supposedly that’s how he was able to get the cost of his TVs down so cheap. Muntz was not only noteworthy for being certifiably nuts, but also as a car maker, having bought the Kurtis 500 and renaming it the Muntz Jet. Hopefully for drivers of those cars, he left the dykes at home during the engineering process.
Those are only a couple of the characters that have promised to do whatever it takes to get you behind the wheel of a new or used car, and under the yoke of lucrative dealer financing. Whether Cal Worthington, or Mad Man Muntz, or someone else, they make thinking about buying a car fun, although actually having to deal with one of their well-oiled money machines would probably not give you much joy. Despite that, is there any dealer that you remember fondly for their TV antics or dealership shenanigans? And would you ever have bought a car from them?
Images sources: [TheCarConnection.com, Wikipedia]

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  1. tonyola Avatar

    Art Grindle was a successful Dodge dealer in Central Florida in the '60s and '70s. His hyperactive TV ad shtick was to leap up on the roof of a car, tear a price placard in half, point to the camera, and shout "I want to sell you a car!". He became something of a local celebrity and he erected a huge statue of himself with a moving, pointing arm in front of his Orlando dealership.
    <img src="http://farm1.static.flickr.com/29/35425191_7bedfe6a39.jpg"&gt;

  2. Tim Odell Avatar

    Also: Truckee rules.
    My folks live up in Meadow Vista (outside Colfax), and I love being able to head up into the Sierras from there.
    We'll be stopping by on our way to Thunderhill. You going to T-Hill?

  3. HDCS Avatar

    I say this with all due respect: SCREW YOU HOONIVERSE!
    I've now got "GOSEECAL-GOSEECAL-GOSEECAL stuck in my head again. After finally getting rid of it after a childhood in SoCal and being subjected to that ad nauseum. So take this and stick it in your pipe.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9N8AzoDzQhM
    Now we're even.

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