Which Car Is Mentioned by Name in the Theme Song of TVs “All in the Family”?

Dustin Hawley | Feb 15, 2021

There is something uniquely romantic about cars from film and television, as many have become immortalized in American culture. There aren’t many people who haven’t heard of General Lee, Herbie, or that cool Ferrari Testarossa from Miami Vice. But even as iconic as these examples are, one car arguably eclipses them all: the LaSalle.

Buick LaSalle

History Behind the “LaSalle” Reference

Unless you are of a certain age, you probably don’t remember the LaSalle. A car brand from the 1930s, the LaSalle was honored in a single line of the theme song from the CBS hit TV show “All in the Family” that ran during the 1970s.

The LaSalle was referenced in a line that reads:

“Everybody pulled his weight.

Gee, our old LaSalle ran great.

Those were the days.”

Archie and Edith Bunker (Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton) of “All in the Family” sang the lyrics every Sunday night, enchanting viewers across the country. The theme song’s name was “Those Were the Days,” and LaSalle became synonymous with this family show.

Interestingly enough, producers mildly changed the theme song for the final three seasons of the show. Apparently, the line “Gee, our old LaSalle ran great” was somewhat challenging to interpret. In an attempt to make the bar easier to understand, Archie Bunker changed the enunciation and articulation, making the words far more palatable.

However, the story about the LaSalle is far more complicated than you might imagine. 

LaSalle: An Overview

First released to the public back in 1927, with a Series 303 sporting a powerful Cadillac-inspired 90 degrees V-8 that was eye-candy to gearheads of the era, the LaSalle was a pioneer with a secret never seen before. It was arguably the first fully stylistically designed vehicle. It could be said that LaSalle completely broke the principle of “form following function,” as it was the first car where “function followed form.”

The man behind such a massive shift in automotive car design was none other than Harley Earl. You may have heard of him, as he was the man that famously designed the Corvette in later years. But he was also the father of the LaSalle car brand.

With its prominence in the hit TV show that aired from 1971 to 1979, the LaSalle soon became collectors’ sweetheart. Built by the same people and in the same factories as Cadillac’s, the LaSalle was known for its reliability and well-built stature. GM positioned the brand as a subdivision of Cadillac, but a slightly elevated brand to Buick. After all, it was a car designed to attract a younger, more stylish customer base.

LaSalle Cars

With its 13 year run, LaSalle produced more than 200,000 vehicles. They shared parts and chassis segments with Cadillac’s (including the engine), but they did attract a younger customer base. After introducing the first 303 coupe convertible on March 5th, 1927, GM and Cadillac found itself in a bit of a pickle. During the first year production run, GM produced over 26,000 LaSalle’s, making it one of the automaker’s most important products. However, they could barely keep up with demand.

In the early years, LaSalle offered five different body styles and 11 individual models:

  • A roadster
  • A coupe
  • A convertible coupe for two passengers
  • Four-place phaeton, victoria
  • Dual-cowl phaeton
  • A five-passenger sedan
  • A town sedan
  • Two-place coupe
  • A sedan
  • Town cabriolet
  • Transformable town cabriolet

Over the years, particularly after the Great Depression, LaSalle had to adapt to survive. In reality, this meant that it had to share even more components with Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles, and Buick’s, yet it did retain its stylistic prowess over the others. At the time, Harley Earl, head of the GM style department, continued to source inspiration for LaSalle cars from the Europeans. 

If you look closely, you can see some Hispano-Suiza influences on LaSalle cars produced after the Great Depression. The cars looked so well rounded that some of them even became immortalized as “gangster cars” during the era. Apart from the LaSalle name being mentioned in the “All in the Family” theme song, an actual 1932 LaSalle Model 345-B appeared in the Francis Ford Coppola classic “The Godfather.”

Discontinuation Was Its Undoing

LaSalle proved to be a very successful brand. In fact, it was so successful that instead of cutting into the sales of its main rival Packard, LaSalle started to cannibalize the customer base of its parent brand, Cadillac, as well. After all, LaSalle cars were well-built, good looking, and had fantastic engines. 

By the early 1940s, with the threat of World War II looming over GM’s head, the LaSalle brand was discontinued. However, its inclusion in the “All In The Family” theme song (and its reference to reliability) symbolizes the brand’s strength and popularity. From the very start, GM had a plan to position LaSalle as a powerful, well-respected brand. In fact, the LaSalle name was derived from the French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. It is the same line of thought as with the Cadillac, named after French explorer ser Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac.

Summary

LaSalle is a brand that will live on forever in the hearts of many, particularly those who were blessed with the opportunity to drive one. At one time, GM had plans to revive the LaSalle brand. Back in 1963, when the Buick Riviera was first released, GM design chief Bill Mitchel said that the Riviera was designed to be a La Salle, which is why it had two narrow grilles in the front fenders. Even more intriguing was that internally, the car was referred to as the LaSalle II. 

While nothing ever came of the reboot, “All In The Family” helped keep the namesake intact with its reference to the iconic brand, making it an outstanding ambassador to this classic franchise.

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