Legendary Ford President Lee Iacocca Passes Away at 94
Iacocca was Time’s ‘Man of the Year’ in 1964 for his role in the Mustang’s birth, rescued Chrysler from itself in the 1980s.
The Mustang is the only one of its kind to survive every passing decade of its life unbroken. The Challenger has three generations to its name, each marked by huge gaps in time, while the Camaro returned in the 2010s after going on hiatus in 2002, and the Firebird and Barracuda both became a part of history.
The man behind the first two generations of our beloved Mustang (and the reason the car’s lineage was able to remain unbroken), Lee Iacocca, is now among the stars himself, having passed on the morning of July 2 at the age of 94 according to Jalopnik.
Iacocca was born on October 15, 1924 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Upon graduating from Allentown High School, he attended Lehigh University and Princeton University, where he ultimately obtained his master’s in engineering. Soon after, he joined Ford as an engineer, but asked to be moved to sales, where he would make his biggest marks on the Blue Oval and the industry as a whole.
By 1970, Iacocca became Ford’s president, built on the successes of cars like the Mustang. His chief engineer, Donald N. Frey, helped bring the original pony car from the whiteboard to production in 18 months, while Iacocca also oversaw the 1967 refresh, which grew in size, though nothing compared to the ’71-’73 behemoths at the end of the first generation.
In response to complaints about said growth, Iacocca ordered the development of the second-gen pony, dubbed the Mustang II. Based on the Pinto — another car Iacocca was responsible for — the smaller Mustang returned the steed to its small-car roots, and arrived just in time for the 1973 oil crisis. Though some of us may not be huge fans of this generation now, it was the right pony at the right time at the right place, allowing our beloved brand to exit the Seventies into the future it has now.
Lee Iacocca himself left the 70s with a new gig upon given the boot by Ford CEO Henry Ford II in 1978, landing in Chrysler to save the company from itself. He and Hal Sperlich took an idea Ford II had rejected, and gave the world its first minivans. Along with the K-Car (another idea Ford II spurned at his company’s expense) and a successful loan request before the United States government, Iacocca brought Chrysler so far into the black that the company paid its loan back seven years early.
Of course, he never forgot the Mustang. On its 45th anniversary, California-based Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters took 45 examples of the then-current Mustang, and reworked them into the Iacocca Silver 45th Anniversary Edition. Iacocca himself was given No. 1 of the 45 stallions, each packing a 4.6-liter V8 making 320 regular horses or 400 supercharged ponies, all sent to the rear through a five-speed manual.
Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company, made the following press statement regarding Iacocca’s passing:
“Lee Iacocca was truly bigger than life and he left an indelible mark on Ford, the auto industry and our country. Lee played a central role in the creation of Mustang. On a personal note, I will always appreciate how encouraging he was to me at the beginning of my career. He was one of a kind and will be dearly missed.”
From all of us, thank you for everything, Mr. Iacocca. Tell Carroll Shelby we said hello.
Photos: Ford, Barrett-Jackson and Mustang 360