TV's ten greatest automotive pitchmen

The pitchman is an American icon. When we sit in front of the TV, we trust and adore these characters committed to selling us a magical fantasyland during every commercial break. And nowhere is that lie more apparent than in the world of cars. According to Jalopnik readers, these are the ten best men and women at pulling the wool over our eyes.

Welcome to Answers of the Day — our daily Jalopnik feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It's by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!

Photo Credit: Isuzu

10.) Joe Garagiola

Suggested By: tankman

Why he rules: People tend to remember former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca on TV in the early ‘80s as the champion of a reborn all-American company taking on the best from Japan.

But they forget that what actually got them into the showroom was former Major League Baseball player and hired hack Joe Garagiola telling America Chrysler'd give them a check just for buying a car. It was the first time cars came with rebates, and it totally worked, at least until everyone else caught on.

9.) Mike Rowe

Suggested By: jnewman1991

Why he rules: Mike Rowe deserves a medal just for making ads that aren't soul-suckingly dull to watch.

His ads for Ford aren't the best in the world, but like Honda's new ads with Puddy, they actually trigger some of the synapses in your brain that tell you you're having a good time.

8.) Madonna/Clive Owen/Guy Ritchie

Suggested By: Gamecat235

Why he rules: BMW made eight of these short films back on 2001 and 2002, produced for distribution through dealers and online. They trickled down to the everyman after a little while, and everyone got a taste of how good they were.

Clive Owen played the driver in all of the "The Hire" shorts, but the one with Guy Ritchie and Madonna was by far the best.

7.) Catrinel Menghia

Suggested By: ThatDamnDrunk

Why she rules: Sex sells. That pretty much sums up Romanian model Catrinel Menghia's role in this year's too-hot-for-TV 500 Abarth ad.

Take that Jill Wagner and Kate Walsh.

6.) Lee Iacocca

Suggested By: 900 Turbo

Why he rules: Lee Iacocca, keen automotive executive who helped shape the modern American car in his years at Ford, went on TV back in Chrysler's post-bailout years with the slogan, "If you can find a better car, buy it."

We remember him best for his pastel country club ads with Snoop Dogg, but we should really pay tribute to Iacocca for his stunning acting ability. I mean, do you think you could call a two-door '82 LeBaron a "sporty coupe" with a straight face?

5.) Ricardo Montalbán

Suggested By: oa5599

Why he rules: The late Ricardo Montalbán was a man worthy of your respect. Born in Mexico, he worked his way up as an actor, typecast by his ethnicity, but still able to work out a notable career in television and movies from the 1940s through the early 2000s. Particularly aware of how Mexicans were treated in Hollywood, Montalbán helped found Nosotros, an advocacy group for Latinos who worked in film and television.

We all remember him for these cheesetastic ads he did for Chrysler, above all his emphatic praise of the 1975 Chrysler Cordoba's soft Corinthian leather. Also, you know, KAAAAAAAAHN!

4.) Steve McQueen's reanimated corpse

Suggested By: BtheD19

Why he rules: Even as a zombie, Steve McQueen is cooler than you.

When Bill Ford Jr., then CEO of Ford, dug up the body of Steve McQueen back in 2001 for the Puma ad above, everyone thought that it wasn't going to be worth it. The price Bill Ford would pay for hiring that voodoo shaman was too high, they said. He'll lose control of the company, they said.

Well, it was all worth it, when Ford made this Field of Dreams-style 2004 ad for the '05 Mustang.

3.) Dinah Shore

Suggested By: $kaycog

Why she rules: Long before Bob Seger was wailing "Like a Rock," Dinah Shore was playing the role of pioneer for Chevrolet's first big pro-America ad campaign, "See the U.S.A. in Your Chevrolet" from 1952.

Shore was a big TV star back then, and her spots for Chevy through the early ‘60s helped cement the bowtie brand with Americana in buyers' minds for years to come.

2.) Joe Isuzu

Suggested By: salynch

Why he rules: We all know that everyone involved in the car business is a crook one way or another, and we really want nothing more than to just hear some sleazy salesman admit it.

That's exactly what Isuzu gave us in the late ‘80s and the early ‘90s with Joe Isuzu. These ads, more than any car Isuzu ever sold here in the US, established the brand and made us think about a quirky little Japanese carmaker no one had ever heard of.

1.) Cal Worthington

Suggested By: dal20402

Why he rules: Car dealerships are one of modern America's great institutions, and one of their classic features was the owner of the dealership, usually a respected and well-known man in his community, going on television and generally making an ass of himself.

Nobody did that better or with more style that California's Cal "Go see Cal" Worthington. He started doing commercials in the 1950s, but even I know his jingles from TV in the ‘90s and 2000s. Somehow all his tigers, elephants, and other ridiculous stunts netted him over $300 million by the late ‘80s. He's well on his way to becoming an American folk hero.