A Little “American Motors” Canadian History

Jean Beliveau and AMCIn a book entitled Behind the Superstars – The business side of Sports by Gerry Patterson, he wrote about Jean Beliveau who was a very famous Canadian hockey player with the Montreal Canadiens from 1950 to 1971, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972. In February of 1969, Jean met with Gerry to discuss developing his own company. They decided to work with a few companies doing commercials. Late in March of 1969, they met with Larry Rice, the president of American Motors and his decisions makers. When they walked out of the building, they had signed a contract with American Motors. He played the lead role in 16 commercials for American Motors. He ‘posed’ while photographers clicked away for ads which eventually appeared nationally on billboards, in daily newspapers, weeklies and monthlies. Personal appearances included sales meetings and plant tours.

One of the American Motors ads was dubbed “Gump’s Pumps”. Gerry had negotiated a contract for Gump Worsley also a famous hockey goal tender with the Montreal Canadiens – to appear as a gas station attendant, pumping gas and checking under the hood of a new Hornet driven by Beliveau.

Jean’s closing line was, “You know, I’ve seen that guy somewhere before.”

The commercial was scheduled for a 10pm start at a Sunoco stations in Toronto, and lasted until 5am because Gump kept screwing up his lines in the French version. Jean helped Gump with his French delivery, but it required 14 takes before it was perfect. Gump pawned off the blame by saying, “Jean, you gotta improve on your French teaching.”

Back in Montreal, the company took out key-man insurance with Sun Life, obtained an Ambassador for Jean, an AMX for Elise (his wife) and a Javelin for Gerry and checked out office space, knowing the future income was secure in the long term contracts they had signed.

  1. (it appears to be Jean’s 1969 Ambassador in the background of the above picture)

From another book entitled Jean Beliveau: My Life in Hockey, there was a transcript that I found of interest. Jean noted that his most exciting foray into another sport occurred in the late 1960’s, when he was filming a commercial for American Motors at the Mont Tremblant racetrack. Al Unser Sr. was feature in the commercial as well. When they broke for lunch, Al invited him to play ‘his’ game for a couple of laps – using a regular North American compact car. Al took him around the track at about 150 miles an hour – or so it seemed to him. He wouldn’t open his eyes to look at the speedometer! Jean told him that car racing would never be a serious second career option for him.

I love stumbling across these little ‘snippets’ of history surrounding American Motors.

Submitted by Jodee Scott