Lido Has Shuffled

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Lee Iacocca just died. And with him, an era.

The era of the car guy executive.

Iacocca wasn’t a transplant from a toothpaste company – and he was an engineer, not a “human resources” manager. He smoked cigars, told ribald stories.

Most of all, Lido knew cars – and the car business. Put more precisely, he knew how to sell cars by making cars people wanted to buy; this is an art less practiced today.

He is most famous for two cars – the Mustang and the K-car (which became the basis for the tsunami-successful Caravan and Voyager minivans of the Reagan Years) though he had a hand in many other cars  as well.

Both cars were just right – their timing, their execution; everything. Proof of this being the incontestable fact that they changed everything.

Before the Mustang – which made its formal debut mid-way through the ’64 model year – there was no such car as a “pony” car. That is to say, a perky, personal car that could be almost anything needed by anyone. There was the GT version – with its famous “Hi-Po” 289 cubic inch V8, rumbling at idle, vacuum hissing through its Holley four barrel carburetor. Or get a convertible with an economical six.

Or something in between.

Like the VW Beetle, the Mustang was a car for pretty much everyone – but especially the young. Iacocca saw what others were blind to: The coming-of-age cohort of postwar baby boomers, who were looking for the kind of car their parents didn’t drive.

Lee built it for them.

And – per Field of Dreams – they came. In their hundreds of thousands. Each year, for years ongoing.

The Mustang became – and still is – one of the greatest sales success stories in the history of the car business; it is one of almost no other cars that is still in production today – going on 60 years after the fact – without any interruption of production during that entire time.

The rest of the car business bum-rushed to copy the Mustang – the sincerest form of flattery – but none of them nearly as successfully. GM scrambled and got its Camaro/Firebird twins to market; Dodge came later, with the Challenger. Of these, only Camaro survived the brutal ‘70s – and only just barely (GM almost cancelled Camaro in 1972 and did cancel the performance-minded Camaro Z28 for 1975 and 1976).

Challenger didn’t make it past 1974 – to be resuscitated decades later. Firebird last until 2002 and then was – and is – no more.

The ‘70s, of course, were funerary times for everyone in the car business – chiefly because the government had gotten into the car business, decreeing design (via bumper-impact and saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety standards) that added weight, expense – and ugliness – as well as other things, such as the gas mileage cars would be forced to deliver and the emissions they’d be allowed to emit.

This forced premature re-engineering of whole product lines as well as Band-Aid engineering of engines not designed to be Uncle-complaint. They didn’t run so well as a result.

These things – along with obstreperous unions – dealt an almost mortal blow to the car industry, or at least the American car industry.

The Japanese made small cars only. They had no capital investment in big cars. They weren’t that well-made, either. But they were light and cheap and easy on gas – which made them more readily Uncle-compliant. Plus, no unions. This gave brands like Honda and Toyota and Datsun (today’s Nissan) an exposed belly to kick, so to speak.

Which of course they did kick.

It was around this time that Iacocca jumped ship from Ford to Chrysler – something which Ford probably regretted after the fact.

At the time, it probably seemed like a sound idea.

Late ’70s Chrysler was slow-motion croaking; it lacked money to reboot and it was having a time selling outdated Cordobas, even when saddled with the infamous “Corinthian” leather seats and anointed by Ricardo Montalban. The cars actually weren’t that bad, relative to the other cars of the time. But they were “gas hogs” at a time when hogging gas was not tenable because of extortionate gas prices – and  gas lines – as well as government regs.

But Lee had another car in mind – one he’d tried to pitch to Ford management but which they foolishly (as it tuned out) rejected.

The minivan.

It was based on the K-car, Chrysler’s new line of then-very-new (for American car companies) front-wheel-drive small cars, engineered to save the company – and pay back the loans the company secured via the government, persuaded by Iacocca.

The K-Car and Voyager/Caravan minivans are today the punchlines of countless jokes and their names synonymous with enfeebled shitbox transportation modules. Which is exactly what they were – but that was exactly what Americans wanted and needed at the time.

People were dealing with double-digit interest rates and Weimarian inflation and the last thing they needed was a single digit MPG dreadnought they couldn’t afford to buy – or feed.

The mid-late ‘60s were a time of exuberance and passion; the mid-late ‘80s were a time of austerity and necessity.

Lee saw this, too.

Once again, he changed the entire car business – because the entire car business wheeled around to imitate what Chrysler was doing. Within a few years, everyone else was selling Me Too minivans, too. But Chrysler’s vans always sold better and – like the Mustang – they have lasted longer.

Chrysler still sells minivans. GM and Ford no longer do.    

Lee Iacocca was the kind of car executive the car companies no longer want. Which explains why the car business isn’t doing so hot.

He brought sense to the table as well as passion – each at exactly the right time.

Anyone who feels something for cars owes Lee a salute. Here’s mine.

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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137 COMMENTS

  1. In the early 80s I worked at a biz called Douglas & Lomason in Georgia that made the bumpers for the Omni and Horizon, along with the huge flat metal panels that went on the tailgates of the lariat F-150
    the bumpers got stamped out, polished, and anodized, a process in which they sit in battery acid for 10 minutes with a 200 amp 12 volt charge going to them, they they get washed and set in boiling water for 20 minutes and then some poor minimum wage schmuck has to take the bumpers off the rack and hang them on a conveyor. that was my job.
    my best friends parents had traded their Gran Torino Wagon for an Omni
    I still remember seeing the first one, a guy was showing us how the engine was installed sideways

  2. Don’t forget he figured out a way around fuel economy standards by convincing regulators that minivans should be classified as light trucks.

    And thanks to the 25% “chicken tax” foreign manufacturers couldn’t immediately compete with the above.

    • Thanks for point out that gaming the system was not something Elon Musk invented. Actually, it might be something Henry Ford invented. What I remember of a museum tour I took in Reno NV Ford took advantage of heavy tariffs on cars not assembled in the US. The tariff law as designed to protect US makers but not to injure Rolls Royce, and piss off the British Empire. RR sold kits that your chosen coachbuilder would customize. RR did not produce completed cars until after WWII

      I hate him, Musk is now the wise old man of autos, the new Iacocca! FWIW, at the time I remember people saying it would be better if Chrysler went bust and that Chrysler would never remain independent and Chrysler did not remain independent.

      Tesla’s (TSLA) Elon Musk is currently the auto industry’s most tenured CEO
      https://www.teslarati.com/tesla-tsla-elon-musk-most-tenured-ceo-auto-market/

  3. The K Kar was the biggest pile of junk this side of the F-35. Iacocca forced the American people to bail out an outdated and antiquated automobile company that should have been allowed to fail. the same for Ford and GM. All three automakers were producing third rate junk and it’s with little wonder that Iaccoconuts attacked the Japanese auto makers…they were kicking his arse.
    This is a nice tribute to Iacocca over at the Mises Institute: https://mises.org/power-market/lee-iacocca-american-crony-capitalist?utm_source=Mises+Institute+Subscriptions&utm_campaign=930670a8fa-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_9_21_2018_9_59_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8b52b2e1c0-930670a8fa-228628557
    The American people should never be forced to bail out poorly run companies….or banks.

    • Iacocca was no libertarian but the point of the article is, he knew cars and he knew customers. He knew how to identify a market and then build a car which would be laser-focused on that market. Nothing like the SJWs and homosexuals running car companies today. Lido, for example, would never have allowed the touchy-feely “focus group” ads which are still dribbling out of GM’s marketing department (and which they are apparently still proud of!) even though those became the butt of jokes years ago.

      • True, Chuck, but such was also true of pretty much every businessman of the time. They had to earn their keep and make a profit by selling actual products to consumers. They did that, or they were gone. And even then, they certainly didn’t shy away from the encroaching mandates and gubmint schemes of the day; heck, they even took advantage of the ones they could.

  4. I too worked in Belvedere during the “Lee” years building Bic disposable Omni-rizons 90 an hour. Felt like Lucy at the chocolate factory.

    The 2.2 L 4 banger lines were being built by a former employer but not completed yet, so early Omni’s got VW engines. German engineers selected dyslectic hose placement vs. Chrysler engineers. Couldn’t see the engine for the plumbing. VW wouldn’t sell additional engines to Chrysler when the Omni was the only profitable line Chrysler had, needing ’em for the Rabbit. There were 2 plants gonna make 2.2L 4’s, one in New Jersey (?) and one in Mexico. As a cost savings measure, the Mexican plant had no “material handling” tooling to move blocks between milling stations, relying instead on a series of strong men to pick ’em up and move ’em manually.

    Mrs. Lee got a 2nd generation, more rakish 2 door model walked through the line by a series of foremen inspecting every step of the build.

    If you knew you hadn’t installed your assigned part correctly and needed to move on, you’d tag your defective work for someone else to fix. The tag would read simply “Safety Item” in case it somehow remained with the car and got out of the plant.

    No A/C in the plant, so summer 2nd shifts were brutal.

    Still, the most remunerative unskilled labor ever due to the UAW. Between Holidays, vacation and shutdown periods, I worked an annual average 4 days a week for 5 days pay. Bribe of the month club. An example: Sometime in October everyone got an additional 8 hours pay for your “Birthday”. We won’t even speak of the quarterly COLA checks during that high inflation period.

    • Interesting stuff, Nightraker! I love hearing things from people who were actually there, in the trenches; they know the real story.

      “Not being able to see the engine for the plumbing”- Ha! I had picked up a minbt car (K-cart, I believe) for junk in the 90’s….seemed to just need a starter; and I had another 2.2 sitting around that I could’ve pulled a starter from. Try as I might, I couldn’t FIND the starter on those things! -So I just took the car to the crusher (They were almost impossible to sell anyway- and ya
      d be lucky to get a few hunnert bucks for ’em -even when in perfect condition)- Which shows ya the power of advertising/salesmanship: People will pay thousands for ’em when they’re new….but when they’re a few years old, no one’ll pay $300 cash for one…)

    • The dealer told us the story of how many of the cars out of that plant said Omni on one side and Horizon on the other. Apparently there was a one letter difference on the build order, and it was something like a Q/O or B/D and easy to mistake.

      We had one of those VW equipped Omnis and a later 2.2 L Horizon. Dad always called the Horizon “the cheap Plymouth” with a wink.

  5. Eric, Japanese cars indeed “weren’t that well-made” in the 1960s, but by the late ’70s their quality matched or exceeded US-made cars. That, at least as much as price and fuel efficiency, caused millions of Americans to say “I will never buy a domestic car again!” Their children and grandchildren have followed in their footsteps. A massive market that GM, Ford & Chrysler forfeited.

    Also, from an article I read yesterday Iacocca did not “jump ship” from Ford — he was fired.

    • You’re right, Zenit.

      That is exactly why the domestic manufucturers finally started making small cars (as opposed to just “downsized” versions of their bigger cars) and talking about [but not actually delivering] ‘quality’. Business in general at that time (early 80’s) was becoming interested in Japanese management techniques, because they saw the way the Jap cars were crushing the domestic in sales and quality.

      And get this: Henry Ford II fired Iacocca from Ford , even though under Iacocca’s watch, Ford made several BILLION dollars in profits, because he “didn’t like him”!

  6. He also offered a glimpse at an alternative for how to run big national pubic spaces when he took on the task of restoring the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Remember that Lady Liberty was falling apart, poorly maintained and probably a hazard. His oversight of the fundraising campaign and personal pitches probably kept it from collapsing into the harbor.

  7. “He is most famous for two cars – the Mustang and the K-car (which became the basis for the tsunami-successful Caravan and Voyager minivans of the Reagan Years)”

    I found it hard to believe that the shitbox K-car became the Car of the Year. A full-sized car on a Pinto drivetrain, it’s AC had to cut out to allow it to make it up hills. I rented one right after it came out and it was a real dog.

    So how was it possible an even-heavier Caravan could be related to it in any way?

    • A guy I worked with had a Fairmont and took the wife and kid on vaca to Colorado. It wouldn’t get up Pike’s Peak…..transmission problems he said. Back in Texas at the shop the transmission was found to be fine. It was the engine that wouldn’t get it up the mountain…..and he traded in a perfectly good Chevelle for that POS.

      • My parents had 200cid Inline 6 Fairmont and we took that car to Yellowstone. It made through and over mountains just fine.

        • One of the people living on my street had one too; they had burgundy colored Fairmont with the 6. I liked how the shift indicator was in the middle of the instrument cluster… 🙂

          • I would have to look at a map. The small block six in smog for is little low on hp compared to pre smog form but torque was still fine.

          • Back in my gas station days in the mid-seventies, we used to find a dirty air filter pretty reliably when a customer would complain about their car not running well at the high altitude.

    • Hi Bob,

      The Pinto was a Ford – and rear-drive. The K-car was made by Chrysler and FWD. Sure, it was a dog – but that was true of almost every car of that period. Even cars with V8s, most of which also sucked gas in addition to not hauling ass! The Aries K was capable of 40 MPG, which is doubly impressive when you consider this was almost 40 years ago and the cars did not have overdrive transmissions.

    • Caravans were rarely ordered with the base 2.2 L engine. They almost always had the Mitsubishi 2.5 L with a turbo, or later on the V6. I was “gifted” an Aries station wagon with the 2.2. If you knew how to modulate the throttle it would get through an intersection pretty easily, at least below 5000 feet. But remember too that the national speed limit was still 55 MPH, so there wasn’t much incentive to build fast cars.

      • Ready, I think you’re mistaken. The optional Caravan motor was the 2.6 Mitsubishit, naturally-asperated….which wasn’t much more powerful than the 2.2, and nowhere near as durable (The loooong timing chains would eat away the long guides, and the metal particles would clog up the oil pump).

        A lot of the early Caravans were indeed 2.2’s…used to pick a lot of ’em up for junk. Wasn’t till the second generation that the V-6’s started becoming the norm- There was a 3.0 and a 3.6…one a Chrysler and one a Mitsubishit- I forget which was which- and one’a them was a real pike- you could tell which vans had ’em, ’cause ya’d see them belching smoke.

          • Tu,

            Do I?!

            I rebuilt one of them things c. 1995 -I still remember what the front of that injun looked like….the shafts just had these little gears on ’em…must’ve only had about 7 or 8 teeth if memory serves.

            I think the shaft elimination kits were already out at the time, but I had just bought the van to fix and flip, so didn’t want to put any unnecessary moola into it (Bad enough I had to buy new chain guides and tensioner thingy). I always wondered if they’d shake a lot without the shafts…I tend to think that the shafts didn’t do much good.

            And the freaking carburetor had a coolant line going to it! What was the purpose of that? Vaporlock?

            Weird engines! -But a perfect fit for Chrysler!

            And let us not forget the disposable Omni/Horizon!

            I knew someone in the early 80’s who bought a Colt, brand new…. to replace her reliable old Valiant that faithfully took her from Lawn Guyland to Manhattan every day, and everywhere else. That Colt was such a pile of steaming crap, she got rid of it within months!

        • Well, I stand corrected. At the time my motoring interest was not minivans. Just remember hearing about my parents’ adventures in purchasing them!

        • The 3.0 V6 was Mitsubishi-designed (IDK if they were built here by Mopar under license or simply imported) and it was a decent engine, though prone to oil pump failure. Had one in an ’89 Chrysler New Yorker “Mark Cross” Edition (with the electronic dash with all the ‘gizmos’ and leather everywhere), sad to say, it got totaled in a freak accident back in early 2000. They were ubiquitous in Chrysler Corp. minivans (standard in the Chrysler T&C), and almost all Dodges and a majority of the Plymouths had them until about 1990. When the line was somewhat redesigned, and included a longer wheelbase version (the “Grand” Voyager or Caravan, all T&C models were the long WB), the new domestic 3.3 OHV V8 (the Mitsubishi V6 was mostly a SOHC, but some performance cars got the DOHC, 24-valve version) was standard. It was a bit of a dog, though reliable and tough, so a 3.8 liter version was adopted and an option for most Dodges and standard on the Chrysler minivans. This was a decent line, soldiering on for nearly twenty years. The 3.6L you mention is the successor engine to the 3.3/3.8 family for minivans, being in use since 2012. You might be confusing it with the line, started in 1993 for the “Cab Forward” line Chrysler “full sized” cars (Chrysler Concorde, Dodge Intrepid, Eagle Vision), these used a SOHC V6 derived from the 3.3/3.8 OHV line. They came in 3.2, 3.5, and 4.0 liter displacements (I had a 2007 Pacifica which had the 4.0), starting in 2010 they were available as an option engine for the minivans until the OHV line was discontinued; that’s when the 3.6L V6 became standard.

        • the belcher was the Mitsu. some issue with the intake valve stem seals, they sucked oil pretty badly once they got worn, which was pretty soon in their life. I seem to remember that one was the 3.0, later redone with newly engineered heads and slightly bigger jugs, the 3.3 Now THAT one was a strong one. The early Mitsu V 6 also had a miserable habit of the hydraulic tappets, marvels of miniature engineering, become clogged if one did not change the oil often enough, or once they began to suck oil past the valve guides. The tappets would then fail.. and that distinctive CLACK CLACK CLACK would be discernble from a long ways away by we who knew the sound. Replacing them was a job, as the cams had to come off…… the tappets were tuny things that lived in a blinc bore in the head, and carried one end of the cam follower, a la Mercedes SOHC engines, but about a quarter the size. And Mercedes used an adjustable solid tappet… with a recommended check-reset intrval of 25K miles. I’ve come across over a dozen of those cars with 300K plus miles on them and still running strong, if a bit noisey. The Mitsu did well to survive 100K without needing the stupid tiny tappets replaced….if I was doing a prepurchase check for someone and heard those tappets snapping away hard, I’d recommend a walk. Not only the KNOWN tappet issue, but it is a result of other issues that spelled a fairly close doom.

          • The 3.0L V6 was an Itchi Bitchi, the 3.3L V6 was a totally 100% MoPar design. Both were 60 degree and 6 cylinders, and the resemblance ended there. The 3.3L was a good, solid engine with no real vices in its minivan incarnation. The 3.3L begat the 3.8L V6, BTW. The Mitsu 3.0L, on the other hand…

            Oh yes, the 3.0L Mitsubishi V6 did have a habit of burning oil very early on, either from deteriorated umbrella valve stem seals (yep, been there, replaced those without pulling the heads), or recessed valve guides. The valve guides would sometimes drop into the head farther, causing massive oil leaks into the intake/exhaust. The water pump driven from the timing belt was a true joy to change out, and the steel water inlet tube running in the valley springing leaks was another.

            • The 3.0, wasn’t that related to the one in the 3000GT?

              And they were available with AWD in the vans?

              VR-4 van. It has to happen.

    • Hard to believe that they actually had the 2.2 as the base motor for the Caravan for the first several years! -With the almost-as-gutless POS Mitsubishit 2.6 as the optional upgrade. 4 cyl. Caravans back then didn’t get good MPGs at all- high teens in real life, if you were lucky (Heavy vehicles being lugged around by struggling li’l engines).

      The V-6’s helped the performance…but still got crappy mileage- which always made me wonder how it was that those minivans became so popular, when you could just get a full-size van with much more room, and a capable engine (V8) and still get nearly the same MPG as the minijunk.

      The 2.2 though….dayum! I remember driving a stripped down early Caravan with the 2.2 and a MANUAL tranny (Must’ve been the only one in existence!) and I have to say, it was the second slowest vehicle I’ve ever driven. (THE slowest was an 80’s diesel Audi….whose pedal you could stomp to the floor, and it would take about 10 seconds just to get up to 30MPG…nice car, coulda had cheap; a friendand fellow tow-truck guy ended up buying it instead….and of course regretted it!)

      • A box-on-four-wheels to haul groceries or the kiddies from soccer practice, or deliver flowers, don’t need much “giddyap”, Nunz! Keep in mind that Chrysler was STILL, though the K-cars sold well and saved them, at least for about 25 years, from being acquired by someone one, they were still cash-poor and lacked the capital to develop a decent enough engine. The original Mopar minivan is actually a stretched K-car chassis, which at the same time they “went back” and developed a line of “Extended-K” cars like the Plymouth Caravelle, Dodge 600, and, (gasp) Chrysler LeBaron. This would go further in 1988, as Mopar came out with the “EEK” line, e.g, Dodge Dynasty and Chrysler New Yorker/Fifth Avenue, and even stretched THAT further with the Fifth Avenue and Imperial as of 1990.

        • Yeah Doug- the K-cars got a lot of hate- I think mainly because of their granny-ness -but they were good reliable basic economical transportation – much like the old VW Beetle. Why was the Beetle so loved while the K was so loathed- espeicallyu considering that performance-wise, the Beetle was even more of a dog? Probably because the Beetle was “cute” and different, while the K had absolutely no style.

          If I were going to be in an accident, I’d much rather be in the K!

          The K’s sure were a step above the next generation of basic transportation: The Neon (Which weren’t all that reliable, nor durable…)

          The K wagons were actually pretty cool! When gas had gotten up to $4/gal, I was wishing I could find one! They could haul a lot for their size; get good MPGs, and were tough little buggers and very mechanically simple.

      • Good friend of mine bought a new caravan with the 3.6 fourbanger, and the three speed hydraulic gearbox (as opposed to the electronic nightmare four speed), drove it to above 200K< did almost nothing to it, it returned a constant 26 mpg, was not fast, but then. he'd also had a Morris Minor, a VeeWee microbus (early 1750), and so the Caravan was a step UP. He had decided to sell it, and I was interested.. roomy, decent mileage, still ran like a top, traight clean all one colour body with no rust. Then he had it parked downtown, door slightly ajar, he in it (thankfuly his left leg also inside….) and some half blind old woman wove her way down that narrow street and cleaned the driver's door off the car, bending up te A pillar pretty badly. He got out the portapower ,bought a used door for $25, and made it work again. Then someone plowed into the back end of it on the freeway when following too close. He drove it home, parked it in front of the house , waited for the insurance check to come, pulled the near new tyres off it puttting on rags, and then drive it off to the knackerman and collected his $200.

    • The Bobster July 4, 2019 at 3:22 pm

      “He is most famous for two cars – the Mustang and the K-car (which became the basis for the tsunami-successful Caravan and Voyager minivans of the Reagan Years)”

      I found it hard to believe that the shitbox K-car became the Car of the Year. A full-sized car on a Pinto drivetrain, it’s AC had to cut out to allow it to make it up hills. I rented one right after it came out and it was a real dog.

      So how was it possible an even-heavier Caravan could be related to it in any way?

      The K-platform was stretched for all it was worth. Up until the generation before last, the M-vans were still using the twist-beam rear axle originally designed for the K-car.

      • Hi RS,

        The K-Car was a “shitbox” – to people who see cars as more than transportation. But it was a value-priced, economical to drive and very practical car – which caused it to sell, in very large numbers.

        • I had a Dodge Aries K. The paint was faded to nothing, and it had a ton of miles on it, but that little car made twice-monthly four day round trips from Georgia to Nebraska for about a year, with no problems except replacing a fan belt. If I remember correctly, I paid $900 for that car. Thanks, Lee !

          • I like vehicles like that. You know no matter what, you can only lose $900…..well, hopefully. It’s one of those cars that if it gets towed and you have nothing in it you want, it’s a no-brainer to let the tow company have it if it’s broken.

            Hey eric, you need to do an article on tow company scams. I saw a video of a McDonald’s that evidently the owner(most of them are franchised)had a deal with a tow company. Go in to get a burger and come out to find your car gone. A sweet little $450 charge for driving a few blocks and grabbing cars parked in the parking lot.

            • Probably the owner’s brother-in-law or wife “owned” the tow company, and his cousin was the local police chief.

              • When I owned tow trucks, I learned early on to tell people that I only did private towing and hauled junk, because as I found out, “tow truck drivers” are universally hated because of schemes such as 8 described; and the ubiquitous one of being on the police dept. tow list, to pick up vehicles after an accident.

                Talk about scams! The “tow list” is crony-capitalism for the little guy. The municipality sets the rate (Which is often ridiculously high, when factoring in storage charges and other fees – In many places, it can cost one $1000 or more just to get their car back after it’s been towed from an accident!) and the drivers get lucrative kick-backs from the body shops for bringing the cars there (if it’s not the shop’s own truck getting called to the accident).

                Much of the towing industry is just another form of legal robbery created by government.

                Then there’s the direct government rip-off on Long Island…..where in fatal accidents and other cases, the pigs impound one’s vehicle “for a safety check”- with their own tow trucks. They can end up keeping vehicles for months (!), and then charge ludicrous fees for towing and “storage”- so, some pedestrian runs out in front of you; or some drunk dude on a Harley T-bones you when he runs a light….and they croak, or have life-threatening injuries, YOUR car gets impound for a “safety check”- Your car could be sitting still when someone decides to off himself on it…and: “Safety check”!

                Seriously, stories I’ve heard from any Third-world banana republic can not beat the level of corruption which impregnates every strata of society and government here.

                Learn the details of virtually any industry, and you will see exactly the same BS. Most people don’t swee it, ’cause they only know one little tiny area of life and business.

                My truck said “NOT FOR HIRE” on the sides; and I’d laugh when others would tell me “You should get on the accident list!”- Uh, no- that is for thieves who don’t have the guts to rob banks, and who get to be protected by the pigs while they engage in their state-sponsored robbery.

                • No truer words ever spoken. A very secure area where you car gets it own spot, right between a couple others. The “secure” part is to stop you from retrieving your own car and those egregious fees are downright theft. A good car’s worth, minus the “storage fee” can reduce it to a negative quickly.

                  It’s no wonder the owners of towing services have a great many nice cars for sale and drive whatever they like. Nothing like govt. sponsored graft via theft…..but then I repeat myself.

                • Seattle is one of the worst on the West Coast. Misread the deliberatley confusing parking regulation signs, had m van towed whole at a medical appointment. $140 for the tow, no storage cause I was there in three hours. That same tow, to the transmission shop next the tow yard, cost $35. Racket anyone? Oh yeah.

          • For little cars, the K’s were tough li’l buggers!

            I played demolition derby once with a K and a full-sized RWD Buick LeSabre…. Couldn’t kill that K! Made a mess of the Buick, but the K hardly even showed any damage!

            Those K’s were probably the most durable cars Chrysler made in the 80’s; probably the most reliable and durable car since the Valiant/Dart. Don’t think they made anything comparable since.

    • I bought a used K for my then wife to use for rural route delivery for the Post office. The damn thing broke down every other week.
      Total junk.
      Ford was no better. It’s late 70s Mustang was tacked onto the same chassis as their X car.
      The big three and the unions should be ashamed of themselves. should be ashamed of themselves. They are the ones who threw it all away.
      The Japanese only filled the market that existed when people demanded quality vehicles.

      • Hi John,

        Your summary is generally true but in fairness requires an asterisk. It is this:

        Almost overnight, the government imposed draconian regs on the car industry – which in the late ’60s and early ’70s was the U.S. car industry (Chevy had more market share in 1970 than all of GM has today) that effectively forced drastic, on-the-fly engineering Band Aids to achieve compliance. The Japanese were hugely advantaged not so much by quality (e.g., their cars were generally far more susceptible to rust than American cars) as much as by lower cost, which was in part a function of their cars being small and more efficient and already in compliance with many of the regs. For example, Honda was able to sell the Civic CVCC without a chemical exhaust scrubber – a catalytic converter – which meant not only lower cost but much better drivability vs. an engine not designed for a cat that was choked by one (and a carburetor set to really lean).

        It was Uncle as much as the unions which destroyed the American car industry.

        • and Eric, you have just exolained WHY most British carmakers left the US market by the early 1970’s. LandRover was one of the first… Uncle Stoopud changed the rules so often the Limeys in Solihull decided to have done with the Yanks. “We can sell everything we make to Africa and Europe. Why let the Yanks break us?”
          Triumph, MG, Austin, Lotus, Morgan, even English Ford, were all but gone from the US market. Things settled a bit into the mid-’70’s. Jaguar were about the only marque that stayed i the US market in any volume, but their cars were unique, rather dear, and, back then before their fling with Ford Motor Company, were very well built and fast.

  8. Eric,

    “Anyone who feels something for cars owes Lee a salute. Here’s mine.”

    Let’s not forget to salute the great man behind the people’s wagon.

  9. The bailout phenomena is a mystery to me. Am I the only one to recall it was GM that loaned the money to Chrylser? When GM got a bailout, the year after Ford did, it was all about “government motors”….but everybody got it wrong. There was a couple of decades GM sweated hell out of the SEC charging them using the “monopoly” laws….but nobody seems to recall that.

    GM loaned the money to Chrysler specifically because of the threat “gummit” held over their heads.

    I’m loathe to see any US car company(especially US but any of them that sell a lot of vehicles)go down the tubes. It’s not just a corporation dying, it’s a huge amount of employment being lost.

    I wouldn’t and haven’t bought a Chrysler product but I didn’t want to see them fold…nor Ford….nor GM.

    I guess growing up in the patch you get to see with your own eyes what an industry die-off amounts to, tough times….for everyone, even if they don’t understand how they’re being affected.

    I can promise no one lamented the supposed gas shortage that didn’t really exist, more than the people in the oilfield except for truckers. It just about killed me. I had a business and then I didn’t. And yes, the comparison is legit. And it was govt. that created both problems.

    I went from clearing $1/mile to clearing $20 for 2 days work….of me and the truck. That was it for me. Stick me with a fork, I was done and my surviving uncle and his wife were poverty stricken. 75% of Owner/Operators cashed in in 1975 and the remaining 25% had 75% of those cash it in in 1976.

    Lee took lemons and made lemonade and should rightly be lauded for it. If that’s what you can afford it beats hell out of walking or riding your thumb. I’ve done plenty of that, and lots of truckers can say same because a lot of companies would simply let you starve where you broke down. If you call and somebody doesn’t immediately tell you they’re coming after you and be there in a few hours, it’s time to grab your shit and split. More times than I care to recall I had all my stuff including my radio and antenna(soft bag with a zipper on top and the antenna sticking up out the end…..and trucking companies wonder why the turnover is so large….they know, just won’t admit it, the very reason to not work for a large company). At least back then hitchhiking was a doable thing and being young and attractive enough I didn’t have a long wait and almost always it was an attractive woman. I don’t recall the last time I saw a woman pick up a hitchhiker but it’s been decades…..and that’s another thing govt. engineered, paranoia for strangers. Of course I didn’t worry too much since John Browning was always my co-driver.

    • 8, in Iacocca’s day- the ’79 bailout- it wasn’t a “bailout” as we speak of it today; i.e. the gubmint just handing over tons of taxpayer’s money to a favored corp. It was just a loan guarantee- i.e. Uncle acting like a cosigner, so Chrysler could borry the money from whomever would care to lend it, with the gubmint saying “We’ll pay if they don’t”- And amazingly, Chrysler borrowed less the guaranteed amount, and repaid it quickly- so it didn’t cost the taxpayers a dime.

      I’m not feeling the love for Lee though; he was certainly much better than the more recent execs- but then, that can be said about pretty much anyone from his generation vs. the current crop. Chrysler was making nothing but crap by the time he came onboard; and he did nothing to change that- in fact, he made it worse. He may’ve been an engineer by trade, but his real skills in the corporate world were as a salesman and PR guy.

      His minivans kept Chrysler afloat until they came up with the Cummins pick-ups….but those minivans were piles of garbage; they succeeded because they filled a need that existed, and were marketed well, and were unique at the time (He had pitched the idea of the minivan to Ford while he was there, and they rejected it).

      He helped give us the Mustang (The operative term is ‘helped’)…but also gave us the Pinto; killed off AMC, and helped ruin Jeep.

      But what really sours me, is that the guy support George W. Bush and Mittens Romney.

      • Lee was a great negotiator. He used the old Chrysler stamping molds as collateral for the loan and forced da Gubmint to buy his shitboxes for its fleet. That’s what kept the company alive.

      • Nun, semantics. GM did either loan them the money or guaranteed it. When everyone said GM loaned the money, Chrysler didn’t say different. I recall it vividly as that was the year before I quit trucking…..for a while.

      • “He may’ve been an engineer by trade, but his real skills in the corporate world were as a salesman and PR guy.”

        That’s exactly what Bob Lutz said about him. He was also surprised he wasn’t very knowledgeable about engines considering his engineering background.

        He was really a cross between a bean counter and a car guy.

        • Hi Handler,

          I’ve met and spoken with both Iacocca and Lutz; respect and admire them both. They were fierce competitors who also loved cars, the industry and the country. Not in an idiot jingo/flag-humping sense. In the sense of the liberty which once existed here; the freedom to achieve and accomplish and be rewarded for it with success.

          They were winners – something sorely in demand these days.

          • Because winning now is winning politically. There’s no winning on merit, especially merit alone. And what little merit that’s left means having someone help you by giving you a political edge up and by making sure your work only plays to your strengths.

  10. Lee, also formed Chrysler Pacifica in Carlsbad California that I had a part of and teamed up with Carol Shelby and created the Dodge Viper, several Turbo Dodge models and the Intrepid.

  11. Eric – I’m surprised you wrote such a glowing article about Iacocca. What about the government bailout of Chrysler?

    • Eric didn’t praise Iacocca for going to the Feds, hat in hand, but at least Chrysler succeeded by making huge changes in the company’s product lines and paid back the loans, which actually, per the agreement, netted the US Gov’t a profit. But that did set a bad precedent, which was repeated in 2008.

      • Hi Doug,

        It did set a bad precedent. The twisted thing, of course, is that the government was largely responsible for the near-collapse of Chrysler and the industry generally. The almost overnight obsolescing of entire model lineups via regulatory fatwas burned up enormous seed capital that was no longer available for developing new product. It also gave the Japanese a huge – and arguably, artificial – competitive advantage.

        As is almost always the case, at the root of any great debacle you will find… government.

        • Not to mention the oil shocks, which were a direct result of Nixon pulling us out of Brenton Woods and leaving the Arabs with a pile of worthless scrip.

    • Hi Mark,

      Iacocca’s career must be viewed as a whole – and while I don’t like the bailout, and it did set a bad precedent, he (and Chrysler) didn’t piss the money down politically correct ratholes (e.g., GM) but rather built Chrysler into a powerhouse, with a new line of cars that were brilliant in terms of being exactly what the market needed at that point in time.

      The tragedy of the whole thing – see my comment to Doug – is that it was the government and its fatwas which practically killed the American car industry, which has never fully recovered from the damage done by the imposition (almost overnight) of extraordinarily costly saaaaaaaaaaafety and fuel-efficiency mandates, which came online in the ’70s. The Big Three had to prematurely retire whole fleets of cars – and engines – that could not be made “compliant” and screw up the models which could be (temporarily). They were never able to amortize the money invested in cars designed in the late ’60s/early ’70s – which cost them hugely and gave the imports a massive artificial advantage. It’s another of the Untold Stories of the car business!

      • In Iacocca’s autobiography, he cited four reasons for Chrysler’s problems: poor management, the energy crisis, the economy of double-digit interest rates, inflation, and unemployment, and of course unreasonable government safety, fuel economy, and emissions regulations.
        Although the management problems were strictly Chrysler’s fault, starting with Lynn Townsend’s bean-counting focus, the others were not, and, in fact, unintended consequences of bad government policy.

      • Eric, the emission and NHTSA fatwas did more than put MoPar on the ropes. They directly killed MG and Triumph (motorcars). Well, Red Robbo and the unions, and abysimal British Leyland management and the shotgun marriage of BMC and the rest did help a lot. However, the cash burn to Fed emission-ize the BMC B-Series and Triumph engines, and to meet the stupid Fed saaafety rules is what really did them in. The ripples from those evil fatwas spread far from the shores of the US.

    • Mark,

      It’s only semi-accurate to describe what Chrysler got from the fedgov as a “bailout.”

      What Chrysler got was a “loan.” And Chrysler paid back every penny. Plus interest. EARLY.

      Granted, it was not a good precedent. But compare it to the bailouts that the huge banks got during the 2007-2008 crash, where nothing was repaid.

      Just trying to keep things in perspective. 🙂

        • I did a search on this subject. Some sources say GM paid nearly 5B$ to the US and 11 to Canada. Others say No. The split is about 50/50. It’s difficult to sort the truth from the fiction. Everyone does agree Ford got bailed out the year before. But Ford didn’t get run over like GM did. I own stock in neither so I can’t rightly say.

      • American taxpayers should never be forced to bail out either ailing companies or banks.
        Nor should they be forced to pay for overpriced military boondoggles like the F-35 or littoral battle ships that fall apart at sea.
        The government has no business deciding how cars should be built.
        And there are those who claim socialism does not exist in America.
        Every time I read an article from the Mises Institute I am reminded just what a huge mess we are in thanks to an out of control government and its spending.

        • Hi John,

          I agree with you. But Iacocca’s career wasn’t about the bailout. If he had died in 1975, he’d still be in the Pantheon for the Mustang, alone. As DeLorean is, for the GTO.

  12. The Barracuda was Chrysler’s answer to the Mustang but it didn’t fare remotely as well. Not as good looking for one thing, and I say that as a Mopar fan. My big brother gave me a ride in a ’67 or’68 Barracuda that he’d dropped a lightly modified 440 into–fastest car I’d ever been in up to that time. Such, such were the days.

    I do recall Iacocca getting endless ribbing even from conservatives for one thing or another, including his habit of counting from one to five starting with his thumb. (Funny the moments we remember.)

    • Well, the ’67 Barracuda convertible was a very nice looking ride IMHO, preferable to the Falconstang, and with torsion bar front suspension, much better handling. And, you could get a 383 Commando in it too! But either one would be a nice thing to find in ones garage.

  13. Doesn’t seem like Iacocca took over at Chrysler almost FORTY YEARS ago… man, I’m feeling old now. I remember what a sage he was treated as back in the ’80s… he was a symbol of the Reagan-era “Morning in America again” after the disastrous Carter years.

    Back then, as a young Reagan-Republican kid, I was optimistic that intelligent, reasonable people could right the wrongs of statism and liberalism, and that the plain truth would expose the folly of the shitlibs.

    Sad to say, I don’t feel that way any more…

  14. Ah Eric, you missed the earliest “Pony Car” competitor to the Falcon cum Mustang, the Plymouth Barracuda. 1 April 1964 it debuted, 16 days before the Mustang. The Barracuda was first. Mustang was second, though it sold much better over the years, and Ford management did not kill it prematurely, as Townsend and the beancounters at Ma MoPar did the Barracuda. The ‘Cuda (E-Body) was a whole nother thing. They should have kept the original A-Body Barracuda around in its beautiful 1967 incarnation.

    • The original ‘Cuda was a dusted-off rehash of a design that Chrysler had made in the late ’50s when they originally put forth the “A-Body” Plymouth Valiant and Dodge “Lancer” (which would become the Dart in 1963, that name being applied to the “badge-engineered” shorter wheelbase Plymouth which usually came with the “Poly”, or “Canadian” 318 from 1960 to 1962), but the 1958 recession both hit Detroit cash-wise and caused many Americans to eschew the tail-finned “Land Yachts” in favor of economy. American Motors, under its “Stormin’ Mormon, George Romney (father of Mitt), did gangbusters in the early ’60s with the Nash Metropolitan and the AMC Rambler. It also prompted the re-design of the original “Series A” engine from it’s “Poly” form into a new, NARROWER wedge-head V8, which became the 273/318/340/360 engines Mopar fans have come to know and appreciate. The folks at Mopar knew that though the “Hyper Pak” Slant Six had some impressive numbers, that car buyers wanted a V8, period.

      The E-Body was designed precisely to accommodate the B-Block engines since that engine didn’t fit well in the “A” body cars and made them nose-heavy. The trouble was, by 1972, with the new Federal Fatwas which mandated low-lead (and later unleaded) fuel and engine-strangling emissions, and pressure from insurance companies AND those Fatwas which also mandated heavy and ungainly bumpers, there was no way to make the Plymouth Barracude/Dodge Challenger look good and run fast (as least as fast as Kowalski’s white Challenger had been in “Vanishing Point”). Therefore, Chrysler had to drop the E-Body, as they made the decision also to retire the A-bodies, which were becoming more an “old lady” car, in favor of their ill-fated “F Body” (Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare).

      • Oh man, a ’67 Barracuda with a hopped up Slant Six, say with triple SU’s or some nice meaty Bosch FI (never liked that massive Hyper Pak manifold much, too much moment arm on the head for me) and a Dutra Dual sort of exhaust…high compression, hot cam, bored over 40 thou…man, that would be a BMW-fighter.

        The E Body was not really much fun till you got up to the 440 4-barrel engine option range and above, IMHO. Too heavy for my taste. An A-Body with a 340 Six Pack could beat anything but a 426 Hemi in an E Body.

    • “The Mustang became – and still is – one of the greatest sales success stories in the history of the car business; it is one of almost no other cars that is still in production today – going on 60 years after the fact – without any interruption of production during that entire time.”

      So you’re counting the Mustang II as a real Mustang? To me it was a fancy Pinto.

      • Hi Bob,

        Of course The Mustang II was a real Mustang. It shared some parts with the Pinto, certainly. Just as the Camaro of the same era shared parts with the Chevy Nova.

        Now, what Ford almost did about 20 years later – when it considered turning the Mustang into a FWD car with no V8 – the Probe – that would have been an automotive atrocity!

        • Eric, I don’t even know you anymore! 😉

          There’s a reason that those Mustang II’s are the most worthless of all Mustangs; nay, all old cars in general! They even felt and sounded like Pintos!

          I was only about 13 when I first got an up-close look at one. Knew nothing about cars then, but I was flabergasted at horrible these thing were.- and the one I saw was a brand new high-performance model. Other than making some funny muscle-car-wannabe noise, it was a granny car.

          Most Mustang body styles were around for quite a while. What was the Mustang II around for, 3 years?

          • Nunz, however long they were around was too long. I couldn’t believe my friend went back for seconds. The first was some silver limited edition and the second was a black, short, fat little POS. I was in it the day the rear shock fell off and the day it had a flat(not saying Ford had anything to do with tire failure)but those were the only times I rode in it.

            He drove an El Camino. He’d seen what mine would take and he didn’t have to work on it all the time.

            • BTW, domestic cars back then had the shittiest warranties you can imagine. If you were lucky, 36,000 miles. I’m surprised things weren’t worse, what with all the horseshit back then.

              How can you go broke in this country? Easy, price the POS higher than imported POS.

              The best thing I can say about my 77 El Camino was it was a decent start for a vehicle. Rebuild the transmission to what it should have been. Stick a hand made engine in it. Replace the front steering parts with WS6 TA parts and you have winner. Of course it was only a winner because it had the tow package with heavier duty everything.
              Nothing on a regular El Camino would replace the parts that make it go and stop. Even the cooling system and a/c were a notch above. With the Monte Carlo custom interior everything inside was nicer and the seats were comfy and spun around to get in and out of them.

              I pulled onto a dirt road one day so we could relieve ourselves and when I spun around opening the door I was nastily surprised by a rattle snake I couldn’t see before turning the corner. Mr. Browning came to the rescue though.

              • Morning, Eight!

                Got a rattlesnake story for you…

                I run a lot. In the woods. I’m a trail runner, because I like being in nature rather than on pavement and of course, there are no cars to run you over. But there are other things…

                Well, I was running my usual trail. At one point, there are some old logs which require stagger-stepping to traverse. I am just about to plant my left foot in the spot where I usually do preparatory to pushing off again to land off to the right and continue on my way when I thank-the-motor-gods notice something different in that spot. It’s Mr. Timber Rattler enjoying the dappling sun’s rays through the canopy. Mind, I’m in mid-step already. Fear hormones are impressive drugs. Somehow – on autopilot – I managed to spring vertically off my right foot and leapt over Mr. Rattler like a human bottle rocket and landed (and rolled) a few feet down the path.

                Out of his range now, I cautiously went back to have a look. He seemed indifferent. Wasn’t rattling or obviously upset. We regarded each other for a bit. Beautiful animal, I thought. Probably five feet. I don’t know what he thought about me!

                I cut up those logs the next day…

                • Good morning eric. Amazing what a jolt of adrenaline will do.

                  A year after breaking my left leg I was still unable to roll over on my left foot so I was a bit gimpy. I couldn’t do such as adjust brakes or most anything requiring me to flex that foot all the way.

                  Running was something in my past life and I didn’t think my leg would ever completely heal but I did finally gain the ability to roll over that foot.

                  While I was still gimping I had a truck that wouldn’t stop in any decent distance. This Volvo tractor had worn out everything brake-wise and so did the trailer I was pulling.

                  I got to a blind RR crossing and couldn’t stop till I was on the tracks. That big arm came down between the tractor and trailer and the truck being empty, wouldn’t do much of anything but spin tires. I was stuck but not giving up and tried to break it going forward and backward but no soap.

                  I could see the train coming. Finally got that worn out seat belt off. By this time my whole world consisted of that great big headlight on the lead locomotive.

                  I opened the door and jumped, legs whirring when I hit the pavement and set a new old man record getting away from that rig. I was 100 yds away before even looking back and had been hearing the impact for some time.

                  Leg? What leg? Oh yeah, the bad one. I was only cured for several seconds.

                  The first responder was there immediately. A deputy was behind him by several minutes and the DPS by a good half hour. The civilian reponder told me 2 weeks before they had pulled the driver of a truck out from under it.

                  I saw a truck get hit and literally torn to shreds one day near Houston. It’s stayed in my memory for decades.

                  Myself and several other trucks leapt up on the side of a grain trailer one day when we saw a car get hit knowing it would probably kill us all. The driver, a 16 year old had gone around several cars parked at the tracks waiting for the train to pass. He was ok but we had to run him down and forcibly restrain him since we didn’t know if he was injured or not and neither did he.

                  I’ve nearly been bitten twice going through the walk through barn door and both times was saved by cats. One got hit in the leg and after dispatching the snake I found out how fast my pickup would go heading to the vet. Good kitty.

          • Hiya Nunz!

            Actually, the value of Mustang IIs is increasing. For the very same reason that the value of cars like my ’76 TA is increasing. The mid-late ’70s were a terrible time for performance cars. None of them performed – by the standards prior – or now. On a power-to-weight basis, a Mustang II Cobra with a 302 was the equal of a same-era Trans-Am.

            My ’76 TA was still basically the same car as a 1970 TA – but with about 150 less horsepower.

            The ’76 Mustang has a smaller engine, but in a much lighter car.

            Both cars, however, had tremendous potential because they had all the essentials: RWD, V8 engines that were the same basic engines as the fire-breathers of just a few years prior and easily brought back up to snuff.

            You can easily turn a Mustang II – or a mid-late ’70s TA – into a higher-performance car than an original ’60-early ’70s muscle car. And for less, because speculators haven’t yet driven the cost to ludicrous levels. But, they will. Remember: They aren’t making any more of these cars, either. They are the last such cars ordinary Joes like us can still afford to buy. If you want one, better hurry!

            I understand some people don’t like the styling of the Mustang II – but that’s another matter. Some people also don’t like the shovel nose look of my ’76, either!

            • Hey Eric!

              Oh, bite your mind’s tongue for even thinking that the ‘Stang II was the equivalent of your T&A! 😉 Yes, it may have been intended to compete in that category….like the Ford Granada was supposed to compete with the Mercedes of the day! LOL!

              Sure, the II’s might be picking up a little interest now…because there are so few of ’em around (Even in 1980, ya’d rarely see one on the street)- and likely because all of the good stuff has been taken/is so expensive, that people are now picking the scrapsd; and a lot of those people either weren’t around in the II’s day…or just don’t remember how crappy they were, ’cause there was never a lot of interest in ’em.

              It’s not just about styling or performance- but just the cheesiness of them; I mean, those things screamed WE THREW TOGETHER A LITTLE ECONOMY CAR FROM SPARE PARTS(and slapped a bigger engine in it, and threw a well-recognized well-respected nameplate on it).

              Ironically, GM probably made the best vehicles of dismal [for car culture] 70’s and 80’s. They at least had the sense to keep the T&A/Firebird/Camaro untouched till the early 80’s…while Ford and Chrysler started turning everything to crud.

              Now go hug that T/A, and maybe bring ‘er some flowers!

              • Hiya Nunz!

                GM had to install hideous bumpers on the Camaro (and Firebird) beginning in 1974; along with redesigning the entire front end. They did a decent job, but it was clearly a Band-Aid job for regulatory compliance reasons. My ’76 got a “clean” enduro (body colored composite plastic) front clip that was much better integrated with the rest of the car; it hid the ugly federal battering rams – but I’ll concede the ’70-73 cars just look better.

                The mid-late ’70s TAs were also accused of cheesiness. The huge decals, for instance. They were mocked as all-show for cars that don’t go!

                The Mustang II has grown on me. For the same reason that the last real GTO – the ’74 – has.

                They are both light and have lots of potential. Are they as good looking as their antecedents? No, but they aren’t hideous, either.

                My neighbor has a ’74 Mustang rusting in her back yard. I’d try to salvage the car if it wasn’t beyond all hope… !

                • I fully agree about the Camaros/’Birds, Eric- but the thing is: At least they were still the same basiuc car; the same body/chassis.

                  Imagine instead, if they had slapped the Camaro name on a Vega?! 😮

                    • Right?! It’s like, for a while there, everything had that same cheesy supposed-to-be-futuristic-but-looks-dated-in-a-week look to it!

                      Those recessed squared-off headlight doors; the raked-back boat-bow header panels; all the plastic….

                      Multiple models from the various manufacturers all got in it….even AMC!

                      The 70’s were a good time to be alive (Compared to today)- but they were the death of automotive styling!

                    • Hi Nunz!

                      I think that period was interesting and fun; I like weird stuff – and you almost never see weird stuff anymore. Buddy of mine had a yellow Pacer with the Levi seats. Christ! They actually made cars like that once!

                    • eric, back when I had energy and money, I nearly put a tube frame in a Vega wagon and mid-engined it.
                      A guy I knew that stuck a BBC into one right behind the front seats.

                      The problem was getting enough tire under it.

                    • Hi Eight!

                      Here’s a weird idea… I want to try to install a VW TDI four in my RWD Nissan truck… paired with a six-speed manual.

                      Why? Instead of maybe 20 MPG on average probably 30-35; with the huge torque of the TDI to play with vs. the gutless wonder that is my truck’s 2.5 gas engine…

                    • eric, TDI in a Nissan. With 4WD and a cold a/c it would probably be the only thing I’d drive. I gotta have the 4WD to deal with shinery sand but probably the only thing you’d need would be a replacement rear-end eventually.

                    • TurdPress got a bit confused and changed me to Anonymous. Let’s see if it will continue correctly after I signed in…..again.

                    • Eric, I like weird stuff too. That mid to late 70’s cheesiness though became so common, it was no longer weird…just ugly.

                      Think of that Pacer, with The Captain & Tennile[shudder] playing on the 8-track, being driven by a guy who had the same hairstyle (and matching clothes) as the girl sitting in the passenger seat!

                      Not everything about the 70’s was good… 😀

                      [Oh gosh…a pic of Farrah Fawcet just flashed before my eyes…and I just finished dinner. Well…off to the loo to vomit!]

                  • Hi Brent,

                    I like cheese! How about an ’80-’81 Turbo Trans-Am with the off-center turbo bulge and three idiot lights?

                    And Mustang II King Cobra… yes, please!

                    • I munched on cheese and crackers the first 3 days of work this week. It would have been better with beer.

                      Back in the 60’s a girlfriend’s dad stuck a BBC in the front of the bed of a Corvair truck. I heard it was hard to drive as a drag car.

                    • I just thought about this. Long ago my oldest nephew didn’t know what I was speaking of when I said “Corvair” and laughed like only a dumbass teenage would do. I dug out an old calendar and showed him one. He was unaware of the car’s existence. Guess I should have shown him a plane.

                    • A friend I lost touch with had and maybe still has a ’77 King Cobra. Now you’ll say there were no ’77 King Cobras, only ’78s. Well I saw the car personally and if it wasn’t a real King Cobra it was changed into one precisely and when the car was still very new. Everything had the proper wear and tear on it showing its age.

                      Later I found Ford did make some ’78s as ’77s because of some regulatory issue. The VIN for that car didn’t fall into the published range.

                      I hope he kept it and it does or did turn out to be some odd ball rarity of King Cobra. Or at the very least a dealer conversion and sold new that way.

        • The Mustang II didn’t even have a V8 for ’74.

          There are some good reasons why it gets ‘disowned’ now and then.

          The Mustang ii and pinto relationship is considered detrimental is because the pinto is a step down from the Falcon/Maverick/Fairmont class. Which for GM was the Nova.

    • I had the pleasure of working on t least two of the 1966-7 Barracudas way back when. Both had the VERY frisky 343 in them, one with the optional tri power carb setup. The cam had gone flat in that one so owner said “off with his heads”, we redid valves (they were badly coked and some had burned) and fitted a “slightly nodified” camshaft. I had driven the car prior to working on it, and it was fast. Once the work was completed, everything set on their marks, carbs balanced and synched, that thing was SCARY FAST. Four speed in centre console. The other car came to me some fifteen years later, a young chap nad bought it and wanted it to go FAST!!!. No, faster than that. It did. Once he had worked the magic of putting some Dead Benjamins in my hand, which I converted to FAST. I insisted I take it out on the mandatory first fifty miles of breakin…. sorry no heavy right foot, no RPM above about 3000. He continued likewise through the rest of the breakin, brought it back to me for post breakin checkout, careful tune, then the proofride….. HE was impressed, and I was quite pleased. His happy money felt real good in my hand, too. Heard he had to tone it down a lot, after a judge informed him that if he got another mving violation wihtin a year, he’d take his driving license.

  15. Loved the article Eric. As i’ve said before my parents had a 86 and 90 caravan. Dad worked at the Belvidere plant. I remember sitting on my sisters lap as a little kid in the mini van. We fit more than 7 people in that thing.

    • Out West, Mopar Minivans became known as “Mini Mormon Movers”. A regular “Mormon Mover” was the Chevy Suburban, or later on, the Ford Expedition. A big “Mormon Mover” was the extended Dodge Sportsman or Ford Econoline van, 12 or even 15-passenger versions.

      • Here in the Rust Belt, the big GM wagons (Caprice Estate, Bonneville Safari, Custom Cruiser, Electra/Roadmaster Estate Wagon) and Ford wagons (Country Squire, Colony Park), were favorites of big Irish Catholic families. The parking lot of my childhood church boasted at least two dozen on any Sunday.

        • A grandpa of one of the parishioners in our childhood church had a ’69 Dodge Polara Wagon with a 440 4-barrel, 727 Torqueflite, and 8 3/4 rear end. Special ordered. It had that third row rear-facing seat option in the cargo area. Rides to church picnics, all the boys wanted to ride with him, and we all fought for the rearmost seat. Did I mention grandpa had a huge lead foot? Telephone poles whizzing past so fast they turned into a blur. The saaaafety NKVD would have collective infarctions if we tried that nowadays.

          • Hello Crusty. We bought new a 1963 Studebaker Lark wagon with the small v8. Rear facing seat with sliding roof. It seated 3 in the back but you could get 5 small kids in there. and believe me we all wanted to be in the back facing rearwards. No gotdam seat belts either.

        • I still remember being fascinated watching Mr Martino (ok not Irish) running through the 3 on the tree manual transmission! 5 Boys, no radio and no AC in a dark blue station wagon. And still had room for three more to get up to band practice.

    • Well then Mooeing, he may have worked on my first new car if he was there in 1982. It was a 1982 Plymouth Turismo, and I loved it for 22 years. 3 winters up North finally rusted it out to Flintstonemobile status, though it took 20 years almost to do it! Belvidere did good work.

  16. Eric, This is a great tribute to one of the most inspirational figures of the mid to late 20th Century.

    Iacocca’s successes were so amazing that at one point, there was talk of him running for President. Wouldn’t that have been interesting?

    I just want to modify one thing you said about Lido’s creation, the Mustang…….”Iacocca saw what others were blind to: The coming-of-age cohort of postwar baby boomers, who were looking for the kind of car their parents didn’t drive.” That’s definitely true. But the Mustang was such a Grand Slam Home Run that not only were the Boomers buying them, but soon enough, their parents, and even grannies were too.

    RIP Lido. You were the Greatest Auto Industry Rock Star of All Time!

    • One wonders if Iacocca weren’t quite such a public figure would we have gotten the yuppie 1980s? And if not the yuppies then would we have Trump? Looking back there are a lot of parallels, although probably by Trump’s design.

  17. Lee was old school street wise Americana. Knew business, knew how to make money. New School jerks only know how to manipulate stocks and convert company cash/assets to debt. Retail is all that’s left and they can’t even keep that going.

    Which is why America will never be great again…

  18. I remember that Lee Iacocca was considering running for President. I wished he had. Would he have done things differently?

    • No, he would have been absorbed into the swamp and become property of the MIC just like anyone else to reaches that office.

      • Yeah, I think that every newly elected President on the first day of office attends a “briefing” in which the unedited versions of the Zapruder film and Watergate tapes are played.

  19. It’s a sad day for America, not just the car business. I got and read his book “Talking Straight”, and in it Lee talked about what was ailing America. Much of what he said then applies today as well. It’s been decades since I had read the book, but there’s one line that stuck with me: “America is drowning in legal bullshit”. That was Lee’s conclusion to the part where he talked about product liability and how lawyers have screwed things up. That line always stuck with me.

    Another thing that stuck with me (which confirms what you said about Iacocca knowing how to sell cars) from the book was his ad campaign, “A ’56 for $56 a month”. Yes, back then, you could get a 1956 Ford for $56 a month! It was a brilliant campaign, one that helped Ford move a lot of cars. The campaign also launched Iacocca’s career, propelling him to the executive suite.

    In “Talking Straight”, Lee also discussed how an exec had to have project to call his own. He talked about how Robert McNamara created the Ford Falcon, how it was his baby. Lee then went on to say, when discussing the birth of the Mustang, how he used the Falcon’s underpinnings to do it. The Mustang, of course, was Lee’s baby, a baby that’s grown up and still with us today. Not only that, it’s the only car Ford KEPT in its product line!

    America not only lost a car guy; we not only lost one of the best car executives that ever lived; we not only lost the car guy exec, of which Iacocca was among the last of the breed; we lost an American ICON. We’re all poorer for his loss.

    • Well said, MarkyMark.

      If you haven’t yet read his first book “Iacocca An Autobiography,” I think you’d enjoy it too.

    • Ohh man, Robert STRANGE McNamara, the “Whiz Kid”. Well, “Whiz” is what he did to Ford and the DoD! He brought that “keen” beancounter “sense” of style, design, engineering, tactics, strategy, etc. to both organizations. What a guy! Ford survived in spite of his ministrations, and guys like Iacocca were the reason Ford survived. What a blithering idiot McNamara was.

      • The sad thing about “Mac” was that JFK though he was hot shit, and brought him in as SECDEF, which was a case of “reaching across the aisle”, as McNamara was a Republican. McNamara felt that the old cadre of general officers such as Curtis LeMay and Maxwell Taylor had too much control over the military and made it his goal to run the DoD much the same as he’d run Ford. And though he did good in terms of cutting down on bloated bureaucracy and eliminating duplication, his micromanagement style ended up being a DISASTER when it came to actually fighting a war. It got to the point where the President, by then LBJ, was in effect a battalion commander.

        Iacocca did succeed wildly with the Mustang, though even he complained that the profit margins weren’t great enough and it “cannabalized” sales from more profitable lines. What’s not been mentioned was he also headed development of the Ford Pinto, which turned out to be a PR disaster for Ford. Please keep in mind that the bigwigs at Ford demanded that Iaccoca develop and put into production an “import fighter” with the mantra “Two Thousand pounds, Two Thousand Dollars, Twenty-Four months”, which was ruthlessly met. When some of his development staff went to him and voiced concerns about the fuel tank design, especially placement of the filler neck, Lee would swivel in his car, turning his back to them, take a big puff on his ever-present cigar, and car, “read the product objectives and get back to work”. Though the Mother Jones article contained many inaccuracies and a few outright lies (the cost to ‘fix’ the problem was more than a ‘few cents’ per vehicle, and there was actually no evidence of a higher rate of crash-induced fires in the Pinto than comparable models, the AMC Gremlin and the Chevy Vega also sporting fuel tanks in the same vulnerable mounting), it did convey Ford as being a heartless, GREEDY corporation seeking only profit at the expense of S-a-a-a-a-a-f-t-e-e-e-e !

        • We had a ’71 Pinto. Being a first-year car, it had some rough edges, but in general I thought it was not a bad little subcompact. Mind, the Kent 1.6L was too anemic for freeway driving AND powering an air conditioner, so the real base engine should have been the German 2.0L OHC four. The 4-speed manual shifted nicely, the rack-and-pinion steering was precise, though a bit on the heavy side, it handled nicely…Iacocca did pretty well with it I think. Now, GM and the Vega…ugh…or MoPar and the captive import Plymouth Cricket. The Cricket is a study in how to select a decent little car and get the modifications-for-market and dealer service all wrong, and in the end fail miserably.

          • I owned a 1974 model and it was even more anemic . Ford decided to detune the engine instead of adding a catalytic converter. My dad’s 1971 (farm tractor yellow) would leave it in the dust.

            • A friend bought some “performance” model. I forget what it was called. It had 16.5″ tires that only Michelin made and when his wife drove it with a flat, it was a very special price too.

              Being a glutton for punishment, he bought another. I distinctly remember it had a rear shock fall off….among other things. It had a stick but no punch. I rode in the backseat once. We had a flat and I was late getting to a company hoedown. The guy’s wife was constantly having car problems even though they traded like they were candy, always a new one. She was a nurse…..sort of. She made not a move when her nephew ate a bottle of 10mg Valium. They won’t hurt him she said, you can’t OD on them. He was 3 at the time. Her husband loaded the kid up and raced to the horspital. His wife, sister and BIL simply sat at the house. Fairly unbelievable eh? Cue Forest’s mom.

            • Hi Bob,

              I’ll raise you! My ’76 Trans-Am (when it was new) offered a 455 (7.5 liter) V8 that produced – ready? – 200 horsepower. It was the most powerful American car available that year. About the same hp from all that engine as most current non-turbo 2.5 liter fours make. It averaged about 15 MPG – and got to 60 in about the same time as a current Corolla that gets 40 MPG.

            • They did, as of 1974. Ford didn’t produce a four-banger domestically, not even for small tractors when the Pinto was introduced in 1971, Please keep in mind that the vehicle itself was, in terms of automotive productive development, a “rush job” (“Two years, two thousand pounds, two thousand dollars” was the product objective that Iaccoca insisted upon), its wildly successful sales spurred Ford to proceed with the 2.3L four.

        • But the key piece of that portrait of greed was the calculation using the value of a life vs. the cost of a mandate. That was something Ford was required to do by the federal government. The mainstream media of course left that out.

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