MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian & Researcher
Images Courtesy of Chrysler Archives/Tessa Digital Collections of the Los Angeles Public Library
Published 11.2.2022

Kathryn Minner sitting inside 1960s Dodge Dart 1 

During the 1960s, Chrysler Corporation’s Dodge brand introduced an advertising campaign that featured the popular little old lady from Pasadena. Her name was Kathryn Elizabeth Minner (January 3, 1892 - May 26, 1969), and she was often featured driving Dodge performance cars on racetracks or drag strips.

While she got a late start on her acting career in 1957, Minner played a series of little old ladies in movies and television shows. She proved to be a well-respected and talented actress who earned many fans around the world.

Kathryn Minner with Dodge models Chrysler Archives 2Kathryn Minner with Dodge models (Chrysler Archives)

The origins of the little old lady from Pasadena idea came from a very popular Dodge advertising campaign in Southern California launched in early 1964. That spring, Minner came to the attention of the Kohner Agency in Hollywood after she answered a casting call. The commercial featured Minner delivering the line, “Put a Dodge in your garage, Honey!”

Kathryn Minner 3Kathryn Minner

The ad campaign inspired a popular song “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” written by Don Altfeld and Jan Barry, along with Roger Christian. The song became national hit recorded by the popular surf duo of Jan and Dean.

Kathryn Minner in Dodge ad Chrysler Archives 4Kathryn Minner in Dodge ad (Chrysler Archives)

The Dodge campaign featuring Minner ran from 1964 to 1969. Throughout the 1960s, Dodge introduced many great high-performance vehicles that pushed them to number one in the category. Minner received several awards for her work on the campaign, and she became an in-demand celebrity, making guest appearances on television shows like “The Dating Game” (their highest-rated episode) and “Batman” (where she drove a hot road).

Kathryn Minner standing with Charlie Allen Tessa Digital Collections of the LA Public Library 5Kathryn Minner standing with Charlie Allen (Tessa Digital Collections of the LA Public Library)

In 1964, Dodge celebrated 50 years of dependability with the Golden Anniversary Dodges. The 1964 Dodge line offered three different model lines using three separate wheelbases that many consumers really liked and admired.

Jan and Dean with Kathryn Minner 6Jan and Dean with Kathryn Minner

In conclusion, Kathryn Minner was an American character actress, who specialized in playing little old ladies in movies, TV shows and commercials for the Southern California Dodge Dealers. Her husband of almost 53 years, Sam Minner, died in January 1967 at the age of 80. A little more than two years later on May 26, 1969, Kathryn Minner died of a heart attack in Van Nuys California at the age of 77.

Kathryn Minner on the cover of the Jan and Dean album 7Kathryn Minner on the cover of the Jan and Dean album

On a historical note, Minner will always be a part of Dodge history as a spokesperson for their great looking 1960s models on the racetrack.

Kathryn Minner with Ted Musicant of Musicant Dodge Tessa Digital Collections of the LA Public Library 8Kathryn Minner with Ted Musicant of Musicant Dodge (Tessa Digital Collections of the LA Public Library)

Bibliography

Just a Car Guy. “Mrs. Kathryn Minner, the Little Old Lady at the Age of 65 Broke into TV, Movies and Dodge Publicity and Commercials.” Friday, January 24, 2020.

Wallace, Dave and Rickman, Eric. “The Little Old Lady Put New Dodges in Garages in Southern Cal and Beyond.” Hot Rod Features. February 9, 2019.