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Known for silly stunts with animals and jingle 'Go see Cal'

“Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal.”

That commercial jingle is unmistakable to anyone who lived in Southern California and owned a TV set in the 1970s and ’80s. Cal Worthington, proprietor of used car dealership Worthington Ford in Long Beach, died Sunday at his home in Orland, Calif., near Sacramento. He was 92.

Worthington Ford wasn’t just a heavy local TV advertiser in its heyday — in the era before cable TV took root, the dealership saturated the airwaves on L.A.’s independent stations, buying seemingly every other commercial spot in key daytime periods in order to hammer home the message that Worthington Ford was the only place in town to buy a used car on a budget. There were other dealerships that favored heavy rotation spots, but none approached the level of Worthington Ford.

Cal Worthington himself, wearing a 10-gallon cowboy hat, starred in the blurbs, making testimonials about the value of his used cars, with his “dog Spot,” who was never a dog but often a tiger, or lion or elephant. He promised in song to “stand upon my head until my ears are turning red” until he moved enough cars.

Born in 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, the Oklahoma native founded his first dealership in Southern California and was quick to take advantage of broadcast advertising.

Worthington Ford still stands in Long Beach, though Cal Worthington’s presence on TV waned in the 1990s.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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