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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Let's Remember Lee Iacocca

Our guest today is Roger Carlton.
Roger retired to Robbinsville, NC and now is a columnist for the Graham Star. Thanks Roger for letting us post this article.

If you believe that this area of the world is Ford Country. If you lusted after a Ford Mustang or possessed the joy of owning one of these Pony Cars. If you know who Carroll Shelby is. If you drive the macho Ram pickup. Or if you know today's SUV's morphed from the Chrysler K cars and minivans then you should mourn the passing at age 94 of Lee Iacocca whose innovation and marketing genius created all these American automobile icons.

Lee was born Lido Anthony Iacocca, the son of Italian immigrants. His family lost everything in the Great Depression which gave him his drive for economic success. He attended Lehigh University in the steel producing area of Pennsylvania and eventually earned a Masters Degree in engineering from Princeton. His mentor was Robert McNamara who had been named President of Ford Motor Company and within a year was tapped by President Kennedy to become Secretary of Defense.

My first experience driving a Mustang occured in 1964 when this amazing vehicle debuted. As a high school kid, I worked on weekends at a company on Miami Beach that sold sheet music to music stores and marching bands throughout the United States. The company had exclusive rights to the Beatles sheet music and the Mary Poppins tunes so we were very busy. My boss had a 1964 Mustang convertible with the 289 V8. He handed me the keys and said "bring this package to the company president's house and be careful with my car." The top was down and off I went...hooked forever on fast cars with lots of horsepower. To this date one horsepower is called a "pony" derived from the Mustang name and badge. To be declared a "muscle car" requires 0ne horsepower per ten pounds of vehicle. More than 400,000 units were sold the first year. It took General Motors three years to catch up with the Pontiac Firebird and the Chevy Camaro.

Eventually Lee's ego and abrasive manner put him in conflict with Henry Ford's grandson who had become CEO of the company and he was fired. Chrysler was on the ropes and close to bankruptcy. Lee was hired and he turned Chrysler around with the K cars and minivans. The federal government loaned Chrysler $1.5 billion to develop the K cars and that loan was repaid seven years early. Lee's ads on TV were very popular with his slogan "If you can find a better car buy it." He also wrote a very successful book entitled "Iacocca An Autobiography." In 1992 he retired from Chrysler after acquiring American Motors to capture their Jeep brand.

He was courted to run for President and thankfully took the advice of his friend Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill and did not get involved in politics. He also declined an appointment to the US Senate.


If you love fast cars or macho pickups and respect titans of industry who innovate and save their near-dead companies, stop for a moment and mourn the passing of Lee Iacocca.

First published July 11, 2019, Graham Star Newspaper

3 comments:

faizan said...
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Glenda Beall said...

Nice post. I had the pleasure of owning an '87 Chrysler Town & Country, the little station wagon with fake wood paneling-- loved it. Kept it for a few years and sold it off to another fan. Richard Cary

Glenda Beall said...

We had several emails from those who read Roger's post. All are favorable. We will have more of Roger's words for you in the coming weeks.