Bob Rohrman, iconic Chicago area car dealer, dies of natural causes at 87

Chicago News

CHICAGO —  Bob Rohrman, the legendary car salesman whose comic presence and well-worn catchphrase are so familiar they became part of the fabric of Chicago, died of natural causes Tuesday night at the age of 87.

Born in a log cabin in Lafayette, IN, Rohrman started his first auto dealership there in 1963 and eventually built an auto sales empire that stretched across the Midwest, including 32 dealerships from Kenosha to Indianapolis and several in the Chicago suburbs.

“Working endless hours, he grew his operations to the current 27 franchise new car dealerships; one of the largest privately operated automobile dealer groups in North America,” according to a press release.

Rohrman, the president and founder of the Bob Rohrman Auto Group, was known for his quirky and entertaining TV commercials.

From the circus to “Star Wars” and Halloween to a helicopter, no premise was too kooky, no idea too zany if he thought he could make a sale. The ubiquitous ads always had humor and heart.  

In some ways, one measure of a true Chicagoan – at least one who had turned on a TV in the last 40 years – is the ability to recite the Empire Carpet phone number, the address of Cellozi-Ettleston Chevrolet and the name of the madcap marketer with a simple catchphrase: “there’s only one Bob ROHR-man.”  

Rhorman was also a frequent guest at Chicago’s breakfast table, appearing numerous times on the WGN Morning News.  

He died peacefully Tuesday night of natural causes.

In a written statement issued Wednesday, a spokesman said: “his family will remember him most for his unending love and loyalty, generous heart for philanthropy, feisty spirit, contagious laugh, and love for Purdue football.” 

Funeral arrangements are still being worked out. 

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