Father of the Mustang: A Tribute

Lee Iacocca had the passion and creativity to withstand the constant ebb and flow in the automobile industry.

by | Jul 3, 2019 | Journals

Father of the Mustang: A Tribute

Lee Iacocca had the passion and creativity to withstand the constant ebb and flow in the automobile industry.

by | Jul 3, 2019 | Journals

Lee Iacocca’s attitude of “lead, follow, or get out of the way” ruffled feathers, but he stayed true to his vision. Iacocca was an inspiration for others to transform their ideas into reality – regardless of whatever the boss had to say about it! With great spirit and determination, he started his engineering career with Ford and decided to shake things up in sales and marketing.

With his “56 for ’56” campaign, which offered loans on 1956 cars with a down payment and $56 in monthly payments for three years, he demonstrated that he knew what he was doing. Year after year, he he officiated over the styling department that designed iconic Ford automobiles; the Mustang is undeniably the best car design from Ford during his time as a leader. Iacocca’s Mustang changed the car world forever when it made its debut pace car appearance at the Indianapolis 500 in 1964. 

Haapsala, EE - JUN 18, 2016: Ford Mustang GT 5.0 V8 burnout with smoke

Ford Mustang GT 5.0 V8 burnout with smoke Photo Credit: BoJack

The Mustang appeared on the drag racing scene as well, and the demand for these hot rods increased sales significantly. From 1965 to 1973, Iacocca brought a fast, luxury car to Ford, all while using parts from the Ford’s Falcon and Fairlane for efficient production. He also wanted to increase the power, so Mustangs were upgraded from the I6 to a V8 engine. Mustangs changed in size, getting bigger and bigger, but the power wasn’t there. Iacocca knew something needed to change, but with the oil crisis, there were new U.S. emissions and safety regulations to take into consideration.

During the second generation evolution between 1974-1978, the oil crisis influenced the redesign, where the market demanded a smaller version than the 1965 model. It still didn’t have the performance power Iacocca wanted, until the 1978 King Cobra model was built with more horsepower under the hood.

Although he eventually became the president of the Ford Motor Company, Iacocca and Ford II didn’t get along and Iacocca was fired in short order. Iacocca’s pride led him to fight fire with fire and he became a trailblazer at Chrysler. He learned to go where his worth was respected and he was given the freedom to grow.

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Iacocca saved the Chrysler Corporation when he restructured with former Ford employees, introduced his “Mini-Max,” a project Ford initially rejected, and later introduced the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager to compete with Toyota. It was Ford’s loss, and that made his success even sweeter.

Iacocca took his success as a leader beyond car design and sales. He served on the board of MGM grand, to demonstrate his love for gaming industry growth, too. In addition, Iacocca appeared on the 44th episode of Miami Vice, and oozed with cool points. This visionary included Snoop Dogg in his 1995 ad campaigns to bring back customers to Chrysler! All of these things demonstrated that Iacocca possessed the passion and creativity to withstand the constant ebb and flow of the automobile industry.

On July 2nd, 2019, Iacocca died at his home in Bel Air, Los Angeles, California from complications of Parkinson’s disease. The prestigious father of the Mustang may be gone, but thanks to Lee Iacocca, the need for speed in a pony package lives on forever.

lineup of vintage Ford Mustangs

A lineup of vintage Ford Mustangs

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