After more than 40 years, end of the road for Southern California’s Cal Worthington car dealership

A duplicate of a giant {photograph} of Cal Worthington contained in the Worthington Ford dealership on Saturday. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Instances)

Make no mistake about it, bub, Southern California is automobile nation.

So car supplier Calvin Coolidge Worthington determined to have a bit of enjoyable, appeal to consideration, and empty his heaps with “My Canine Spot” TV commercials that includes a dwell, snarling gorilla.

The commercials, wherein he additionally used different animals as a canine named Spot — a penguin, camel, elephant, bear, lion, hippopotamus, and tiger — helped Worthington construct an empire of 27 dealerships that offered greater than 1 million automobiles.

Worthington Ford dealership on Saturday.

Worthington Ford dealership on Saturday. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Instances)

Lots of these commercials had been filmed below the big “Worthington Ford in Lengthy Seaside” signal on the dealership he purchased in 1963.

Now that signal has come to mark the tip of an period. Worthington’s household mentioned they’ve offered the 3-acre enterprise, the final dealership nonetheless bearing the identify of the legendary automobile salesman who died in 2012.

“It’s very unhappy,” Nick Worthington, Cal’s grandson, mentioned in an interview with ABC7. “Our staff have been with us 40 plus years.

“It’s part of everybody’s childhood and life rising up right here,” he added. “It’s exhausting to shut that e book for everyone.”

On Saturday, Shawn Abdallah, finance director on the dealership, mentioned information of the sale “got here as a shock, though there had been rumors for a few months that one thing like this was within the works.”

“The rumors had been confirmed on Thursday,” he mentioned, “when Nick had everybody collect in a convention room right here for an vital message.

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“He mentioned, ‘You in all probability heard the rumors and immediately I’m right here to verify them.’ ” Abdallah recalled. “He was very emotional. And yeah, there have been tears throughout.”

The client, Nouri/Shaver Car Group, plans to maintain all of the Worthington Ford staff, however they should reapply for his or her jobs, Abdallah mentioned.

The enduring massive blue “Worthington” signal overlooking Bellflower Boulevard, Abdallah mentioned, “gained’t be taken down till March 1.”

Worthington Ford dealership on Saturday.

Worthington Ford dealership on Saturday. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Instances)

Within the meantime, guests don’t must go far to see reminders of the flashy stunts utilized by the Oklahoma transplant to make the exhausting promote throughout a 65-year profession that made him an icon of quirky Southern California tradition.

The showroom of gleaming new Ford fashions, as an example, encompasses a floor-to-ceiling {photograph} of Worthington cheek-to-cheek with a tiger: essentially the most personable of all of the animals that helped him construct a cult following.

It is a reminder of a unusual period when car salesmen right here, within the capital of automobile and freeway tradition, dressed like Napoleon, wore halos, and adopted unique animals for a sale.

Worthington’s signature gimmicks had been the “Canine Spot” advertisements, which first appeared on-air in 1971. They had been initially meant to be spoofs of two rivals: Ralph Williams and Fletcher Jones.

Williams had launched an advert marketing campaign with a German shepherd named Storm, and Jones appeared on TV cuddling puppies.

Anthony Crawford looks at new vehicles at Worthington Ford on Saturday.

Anthony Crawford appears at new autos at Worthington Ford on Saturday. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Instances)

“I made a decision I’d mimic them,” Worthington recalled in an interview. So he borrowed a gorilla, chained it to a automobile bumper and let the cameras roll.

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Making an attempt to look unruffled, the lanky pitchman with a cowboy hat and an ear-to-ear grin launched that characteristically folksy tactic with welcoming phrases: “Howdy, I’m Cal Worthington and that is my canine Spot.”

“I discovered this little fella on the pound,” he added, with a smile, “and he’s so full of affection.”

The brand new house owners of the dealership will change the identify to BP Ford.

This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Instances.