On Tuesday, former US auto executive Lee Iacocca died at the age of 94 from Parkinson’s disease. He was an iconic figure in the business world, at separate times running the Ford Motor Company and later the Chrysler Corporation. His autobiography was required reading for men in suits in the 1980s, and he was even mooted for President. And along the way, he was responsible for some legendary cars, including the Ford Mustang and Chrysler Minivan.

Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1924, Iacocca was the son of working class immigrants from Italy. He graduated high school during World War II, earned a degree in industrial engineering at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, then found time to study politics and plastics at Princeton before joining Ford as an engineer in 1946. However, he quickly shifted into sales and marketing, where his true skills lay. In 1960, he was promoted to general manager of the Ford Division. By 1970, he was named president of the entire company.

During his time at Ford, Iacocca was instrumental in bringing a number of vehicles to market, including the Mustang. Clever use of the corporate parts bin meant this sporty looking car was actually highly affordable in 1964, costing $2,400 at the time. It was an outrageous sales success, prompting rivals General Motors and Chrysler to create “pony cars” of their own.

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