Fords Forever   For the Enthusiast  

Lee Iacocca, Father Of The Mustang, Has Passed Away
by Dean V. Ricci

July 2, 2019 -- A giant in the automotive industry has passed away. Lee Iacocca has died at 94-years-old in his Los Angeles home. A family spokesman has announced that Iacocca died from complications of Parkinson’s disease. Iacocca was part of the automotive industry for most of his life and had a significant influence at Ford where he was known for his hand in the Ford racing program of the 1960s, and as being the father of the Ford Mustang.

Lee Iacocca and the Ford Mustang appeared at the same time on the covers of Time and Newsweek; the stories inside were later said to essentially be unpaid commercials credited with selling an extra 100,000 Mustangs. Iacocca was also part of the Ford and Ferrari battle for Le Mans glory that led to the production of the Ford GT40. John Bernthal plays Iacocca in the film “Ford v Ferrari” that hits theaters in November of 2019. Lee Iacocca was also known at Ford for being fired by Henry Ford II in 1978.

He landed next at Chrysler in the early ’80s where he became the best known automotive executive around by staring in commercials for Chrysler with his famous “If you can find a better car, buy it” sales pitch. Iacocca was key to saving Chrysler from bankruptcy and secured congressional funding for massive $1.5 billion in loans from Congress that Chrysler used to build its K-car.

Under his leadership, Chrysler was able to repay the Congressional loans 7-years early. Lee Iacocca also helped to raise money to refurbish the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in the mid-1980s and discouraged talk of a run for President when Democrats of the era began to talk him up as a potential candidate. He also turned down an appointment to the U.S. Senate from his home state of Pennsylvania. Showing that he had truly entered pop culture, he made a cameo on the iconic ’80s hit “Miami Vice” and turned down an offer to host “Saturday Night Live.”

The Mustang will live on as Ford’s best sportscar and Lee’s legacy with it for years to come.

Press introduction of the Ford Mustang held at the World's Fair in New York.

The Ford Mustang broke every Sales Record there was and sold its One Millionth edition in 1966.

Serial No. 1 Mustang the first car off the assembly line on March 9, 1964 was trucked to Newfoundland (serial No. 2, a blue hardtop, went to Alaska), where Stanley Tucker, an airline pilot, saw the Wimbledon White convertible at the dealer and said, I want it. Not realizing it was the first of a legendary line of cars, and doing what it was supposed to do, the dealership sold the car to Tucker. When Ford found out what happened, they wanted to get the car back. So, when the Millionth Mustang was built, a trade took place between Pilot Tucker (shown above in the driver's seat) and Ford Motor Company. Serial #1 now resides in the Henry Ford Museum, next to the Mustang 1 Prototype two seater.

The Iacocca. A Special Edition Ford Mustang built by Galpin Autos of California. A very beautiful rendition of the Ford Mustang that remains in high demand today, with recent values north of $145,000

Lee with the 1965 Mustang - the car that made both of them American ICONs

Donald Frey (left) and Lee Iacocca pose with Ford Falcon and Mustang.
The Falcon served as the base platform for the new Mustang that, upon release, captured America by Storm.

Ford sent this 8 x 10 photo of Lee Iacocca and Don Frey and the 1965 Mustang to Ford dealers during the April 17, 1964 introduction promotions. The "417 by 4-17" was a goal: sell 417,000 Mustangs by April 17, 1965. Ford dealers made it happen.  

It all started with a letter to Henry Ford II from Anna Muccioli from East Detroit, Michigan. She wrote that the Mustang started out as a small car, and asked why had it ballooned into such a big car, speaking of the 1971 - 1973 Model Mustangs. As the 1974 models were announced, the Mustang II debuted. It was a smaller, more fuel efficient edition of the famous Ford Mustang. Not only was the car a hit with Mrs. Muccioli, its was again a sales leader for Ford.

Iacocca leans on the Mustang while introducing the new Ford Granada and Mercury Monarch vehicles to the Media

Lee Iacocca, living the life of a Rock Star !

As things progressed at Chrysler, the two old friends teamed up once again to build some landmark vehicles for the Pentastar.

The Dodge Viper, the sequel to Carroll Shelby's Cobra was the ultimate car to come out of the renewed relationship between the two.
Because the Government bailout Chrysler received stipulated the company could not build V8 powered cars for 25 years, the Viper
received a V10 powerplant, based on an engine from one of its subsidiaries, Lamborghini.

Riding a wave of success at Chrysler, the Democratic party came calling for Lee to take the highest office in the land. Iacocca declined any run for public office. His exact words were "There is too much humidty in Washington D.C. in the summer time"

Hobnobbing with (from left) Jerry Lewis, Frank Sinatra and Astronaut Alan Shepard. The life of a Rock Star

An appearance on Jay Leno's Garage

Meeting Pope John Paul II with George Steinbrenner

In one of his books, Iacocca wrote that meeting Sophia was one of the most memorable moments of his life.

Quite a life indeed !


Last updated: All Rights Reserved
Since March, 2016