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By WILLIAM GRIMES
Published: September 9, 2013

Cal Worthington, a car dealer whose off-the-wall commercials, first broadcast in the 1950s, bombarded California television viewers for more than half a century and made him a pop culture legend, died on Sunday at his ranch in Orland, Calif. He was 92.

His family confirmed his death.

Mr. Worthington sold a lot of cars — more than a million of them, by his count — and at his peak in the 1960s ran an empire of 29 dealerships from San Diego to Anchorage. But it was the way he sold them that made him a byword for creative hard-sell salesmanship in the great American tradition.

Stuck with a dud location when he bought his first dealership, Mr. Worthington decided that the only way to attract customers was to hit the airwaves hard with radio and television commercials that stood out from the pack. This turned out to be his ticket to fame and fortune.

In relentless campaigns that treated television viewers to as many as 100 commercials a day, Mr. Worthington proclaimed the virtues of the latest gem on the lot while, for example, strapped to the wing of a soaring biplane or standing on his head on the hood of a car — a visible demonstration of his motto, “I will stand upon my head until my ears are turning red to make a deal.”

In the background, a chorus of male voices and frantic banjo pickers sang a jingle to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” each of its many verses ending with the tag line: “Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal.”

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