Lee Iacocca

The week before Labor Day weekend, my better half and I spent some time driving around. We noticed two things, incredible weather and every imaginable iteration of the Ford Mustang, from the Shelby convertible to the original “1965”.

It got me to thinking about the man responsible for getting these cars onto the streets, Lido Anthony “Lee” Iacocca.

Try misspelling his last name.

Try misspelling his last name.

Born on October 15, 1924 in Allentown, Pennsylvania to parents, Nicola Iacocca and Antonietta Perrotta, Italian immigrants.

If you want to know what kind of impact this man had on our society, try misspelling his last name and see if your spell checker doesn’t autocorrect you . . . I’ll wait. 😉

And he brought us the Ford Pinto with the controversy over the fuel tank design. And was quoted as saying “Safety doesn’t sell”.  And was the impetus for engineering ethics courses to use it as an example of poor cost-benefit analysis.

A lesson in spontaneous combustion or a lesson in engineering?

A lesson in spontaneous combustion or a lesson in engineering?

In the late 1970’s Chrysler Corporation verged on collapse. They courted Iacocca to take over. The company losing millions from the recalls of the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare—the jingle from the commercial is still stuck in my head to this day. Volaré oh oh . . .  sorry I digress.

Henry Ford II fired Iacocca and Hal Sperlich because he wanted nothing to do with the Mini-Max project, a re-invention of the mini-van. Iacocca took the job at Chrysler, hired Sperlich and several other former members of his team at Ford.

He pared down Chrysler. Realizing this would not save the company he did something very controversial, he asked for government guaranteed loans. At the time, Chrysler did not borrow a dime from the government, but that’s not how the public perceived it.

With the guaranteed loans, he introduced the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager—the direct descendants of the Hal Sperlich’s Ford Mini-Max project. They led sales for Chrysler for 25 years. Followed by the subcompact Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon—again a Ford rejected project.

In the midst of this, his wife of twenty-seven years, Mary, died in 1983 from complications of Diabetes. Before and after her death, Iacocca was a strong advocate for better medical care for diabetics. He founded the Iacocca Foundation for Diabetes research. He married two more times but neither marriage lasted.

In 1987 he lead the acquisition of AMC bringing Jeep under the Chrysler umbrella.

He retired in 1992 from Chrysler as President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board.

But he didn’t stop there. In 1995 he assisted Kirk Kerkorian’s hostile takeover of Chrysler. The take over failed. But the next year Kerkorian and Chrysler came to a five-year agreement, which included a gag order preventing Iacocca from discussing the deal.

In 2005, Iacocca returned to the airwaves as the Chrysler pitchman. Part of his agreement with DaimlerChrysler—a $1.00 per car donation for every car sold between July 1 and December 31, 2005 to the Iacocca Foundation.

Iacocca wrote books, created businesses, remained an active philanthropist, advised Presidents. He’s even got his own blog. And he turns 90 in less than a month.

Tracy – Fannie Cranium’s Guide to Irreverent Wisdom

About Fannie Cranium

Writing since she could first hold a pen, Tracy Perkins formed her alter ego, "Fannie Cranium" at the suggestion of her husband. Tracy understands smiling makes people wonder what she’s been up to.
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14 Responses to Lee Iacocca

  1. Dave says:

    Wow, awesome background info! I learned a ton. You keep choosing the good names too – Lee Iacocca has been on my mind a lot, and needed to be chronicled in this blog! 🙂

  2. kerbey says:

    I feel like you should dismiss us from History class now and let me go have a soda. I learned more about Lido Anthony than ever before. Did he inspire the Lido Deck on “The Love Boat”? No, that wasn’t his kind of transportation. Growing up in Texas surrounded by Spanish, I learned the name Lee Iococca right about the time I learned “caca.”

    • One of my favorite kid TV shows growing up had a co-host who was an ex-marine. He was always telling us “dismissed” at the end of the program.

      Lido deck, maybe it was invented in Italy around the same time as “caca” became popular in Spain?

  3. Reblogged this on Fannie Cranium's and commented:

    Lee Iacocca, this month’s contribution to the Blog of Funny Names.

  4. ksbeth says:

    he was a local hero here in detroit –

  5. Bumba says:

    I remember the bailout/guaranteed loan. It was what they call corperate welfare. Tom Paxton had a fine song:”I’m Gonna Change My Name
    to Chrysler”

  6. This might just be my favorite funny name!

  7. Liz says:

    Vroom vroom, Fannie 🙂 Way back when, read a biography of Iaccoca and remember being impressed. But after reading your post, thinking he was more of a hard-nose business guy a la Donald Trump than he was a nice guy. But who am I to judge. Jealous really, that he’s rich and I’m not. Love that his name is Lido. How awesome would it be if his last name was Decker?

    And wow–spellchecker totally caught me! Too funny.

    • Lido Decker? OMG, I just sprayed my monitor with tea! *Fannie wipes up the improprieties*

      Don’t you love spell check!?! Sometimes it is the bane of my existence.

      Mr. Iacocca has done some phenomenal work funding research towards curing/preventing diabetes. It’s the disease that took his first wife. And a passion for he and his family.

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