Lee Iacocca and the Ford Mustang

Greg Zyla
Q: Greg, I enjoyed your article on the Chrysler Imperial and Lee Iacocca. But didn’t Iacocca start with Ford Motor Company and help bring the Mustang to market as well? Charles, Ithaca, New York.

A: Charles, you are indeed correct. Matter of fact, Iacocca’s rise to automobile executive prominence started when the Allentown, Pa. resident and industrial graduate of Lehigh University (and a political fellowship at Princeton) took a job at Ford as an engineer in 1946, and then moved into sales. By 1970, he was President at Ford Motor Company. He left in 1978 after clashing with Henry Ford II.

As for the Mustang, Iacocca pushed to have a new sporty car for $2,500 or less, and actually spearheaded a concept Mustang that was a two seater powered by a V4 engine. The all fiberglass two seater, originally designed to replace the long lost Thunderbird two seater that sold from 1955 to 1957, didn’t go over well at car shows, and many concepts were to follow. Finally, Iacocca and team introduced the all new four passenger 1964 ½ Mustang, and it was an immediate hit.

Not only did the new Mustang, with its' steel body, attract the younger set, it also attracted huge sales from all consumer demographic groups and ended up selling 680.989 units by the end of the 1965 year, more than six times Ford’s expected sales of 100,000. To this day, the Mustang is revered as the original “Pony Car,” and is still one of the most popular cars (if not the most popular) ever built by Ford.

Mustang engines that first year were a small 170 inline-6 putting out 101 horses, or a 260-V8 that delivered 154 horses. Soon after, the horsepower wars were on, and Mustangs roaming the boulevards came in many flavors, including Boss 302, 351 Clevelands, 390 Wedges, 427 and 428 Wedges, and the massive 429 Boss Hemi, to name just as few.

Today, your Ford dealer can fix you up with a nice Jack Roush model that will run circles around the older and more rudimentary models. However, if you ever see a 1969 Shelby 500 GT or one of the only 500 1970 Boss 429 Hemis go through a Mecum or Barrett Jackson auction, you know how valuable the early Mustangs are.

As for catchy names, Boss, Mach I, Cobra Jet, GT, 2+2, Cobra, SVO, Saleen and aforementioned Roush and Shelby nomenclature come quickly to mind.

Thanks for your letter.
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