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Ford Revving Up to Celebrate Mustang’s 50th

But will an all-new pony car mark the upcoming anniversary?

by on Mar.26, 2013

The new Mustang logo marks the countdown to the pony car's golden anniversary.

Ford Motor Co. is saddling up to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that original “pony car,” the Mustang.

And it’s going to get plenty of help, with 50 different companies planning to join in for the celebration by producing a wide range of products meant to commemorate the special occasion, everything from Mustang-emblazoned jackets to watches to videogames.  They’ll use a new black-and-white logo featuring the familiar galloping horse over the words, “50 Years.”

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The Mustang is “a timeless statement,” contends Ford’s Chief Creative Officer J Mays, who oversaw the creation of the new logo – and who is playing a crucial role in the development of the next-generation Mustang expected to come to market sometime next year, closer to the official golden anniversary.


Chrysler Killing Town & Country, Keeping Dodge Caravan

Chrysler model to be replaced by new crossover.

by on May.30, 2012

The Chrysler Town & Country is likely to end its long run in 2014, leaving the maker with just one minivan.

With the market for minivans steadily declining Chrysler will kill off one of its two remaining models and replace it with a more trendy crossover vehicles, according to company sources.

But the automaker has apparently reversed its original plan and will now drop the more upscale Chrysler Town & Country model and keep the mainstream Dodge Caravan, one of the original models the maker introduced to much fanfare back in 1984.

According to comments made this week by CEO Sergio Marchionne, Chrysler will also abandon the slow-selling Jeep Compass, the brand’s least traditional SUV offering.

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The apparent 2014 demise of the Town & Country underscores several dramatic changes that have occurred in the U.S. automotive marketplace over the past three decades.  When former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca revealed the original Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager models revolutionized family transportation with their vast interiors and easy access sliding doors and tailgate.


Carroll Shelby Dead at 89

Among auto legends he was one tall Texan.

by on May.14, 2012

Carroll Shelby with the Mustang that bears his name.

Slow was not part of his vocabulary.  Carroll Shelby operated at one of three speeds: fast, faster, fastest, and even a serious heart ailment failed to keep him down for very long.

The legendary automotive racer and raconteur passed away over the weekend after a lingering illness but, at 89, the tall Texan in the black hat lived far longer than he ever expected to — after getting a new heart and a variety of other transplants occasionally comparing himself to a battered old car.

Though he was many things in his nine decades – from winning racer to pilot to chicken farmer – the son of a Texas mailman was likely best known for lending his name to some of the fastest “pony” cars ever built, transforming the Ford Mustang into an icon of American muscle.


No More Retro as Mustang Prepares to Turn 50

New pony car reportedly will echo styling of Evos concept as it goes global.

by on Apr.16, 2012

Are you the 50th anniversary Mustang? A rendering by artist Sean Smith blends classic pony car cues with Ford's Evos concept. Used with permission of

Has retro finally run its course?  Much like Hollywood studios, automakers like to bet on sure things, and showrooms have plenty of examples of how everything old can become new again, like the latest reincarnation of the Volkswagen Beetle, and the revival of the Chevrolet Camaro.

But Ford, which scored a huge hit with the old-is-new ’94 Mustang remake, and which subsequently created a studio specifically to develop more retro design opportunities, is apparently ready to step into the future.

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An all-new version of the original pony car – dubbed Mustang III by Ford insiders – will debut just in time for the nameplate’s 50th anniversary, in mid-2014.  And it will have a lot more in common with the widely acclaimed Evos concept that Ford unveiled last autumn than with the current Mustang.

And the changes will be far more than skin deep.  Reflecting both the desire to start marketing Mustang beyond North American shores, as well as the need to meet increasingly stringent fuel economy standards, insiders report the new model will offer an array of advanced high-mileage engines.


Retired Auto Designer Reflects on More than Half Century in the Studio

Colin Neale Talks about ‘Spark’ that Led to the Mustang.

by on Aug.25, 2011

Colin Neale stands next to the English Ford Consul Capri, a car he designed when he worked for Ford of England in the 1950s.

This is the first in a two-part series about auto designer Colin Neale. Click here to read part two, which looks at an interesting aerodynamic concept Neale would like to see an automaker or academic institution test in a wind tunnel.

Colin Neale tells a story about how he was working on a model for a two-seat electric concept car at Ford when a now-famous top executive walked into the studio for one of his regular visits.

Neale often worked on what he called “hand models,” which were about 15 inches long. His boss, Elwood Engel, had chosen one to develop as the small electric vehicle.

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Neale said Engel liked to meddle in the design process, particularly in the clay. So when Engel left for a European business trip, Neale and his colleagues saw the opportunity to get the clay model done while he was gone.

“We went like hell for 10 days because the boss couldn’t interfere,” Neale said.

Upon his return, Engel loved the completed project, which was called Firefly. What happened next would change history.


Letter To Lido

Still thanking you for the Mustang, after all these years.

by on Dec.08, 2010

Lee Iacocca and Don Frey with the original '64-1/2 Ford Mustang.

To: Lido A. Iacocca, Beverly Hills, CA

From: Mike Davis, Detroit

Re: Thanks!

Dear Lee –

Your Old Gray Mare ain’t what she used to be, many long years ago.

When, as vice president of Ford Motor Company and general manager of the Ford Division, you introduced the first Mustang on April 17, 1964, you created a sensation in marketing circles with a, gasp, price advertisement for the new coupe.

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The print ad showed the side view of a white two-door notch-back coupe with a long hood and, in large letters, the price: $2,368.  It was a sensation.  Wannabe buyers literally fell all over themselves (and delirious dealers) trying to buy that car at that price.  And they could, almost, after adding on destination and delivery charges, sales taxes, registration and licensing fees.

That price bought you a snappy looking hardtop (no B pillar) with Mustang emblem on the front fenders, a three-speed manual trans with floor mounted shifter, and a 170-cubic-inch overhead valve six pumping out all of 101 horsepower.  Oh, yeah, a heater/defroster was included in the price.  No matter that one critic, later quoted by Ralph Nader, disdained it as a “hopped up Falcon.”


Lee Iacocca, 450 Other Former Execs Sue Chrysler

Seeking millions in pensions lost during maker’s bankruptcy.

by on Sep.13, 2010

Lee Iacocca kept Chrysler out of bankruptcy in 1979, but his supplemental pension was wiped out by the maker's 2009 trip through Chapter 11.

More than 450 Chrysler executives, among them former chairman Lee Iacocca, filed a class action lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court, naming Daimler AG and Cerberus as defendants, claiming they lost millions of dollars in supplemental pensions during the automaker’s bankruptcy.

Sheldon Miller, one of the lawyers representing the executives, said the former Chrysler employees, many of them well-known figures, lost their supplemental pensions during Chrysler’s 20009 bankruptcy.

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A Daimler spokesman said he could not comment on the lawsuit because he had not seen any court documents.

Miller said the supplemental pensions were not transferred to the new Chrysler during the bankruptcy and, “as a result, each of the plaintiffs lost large percentages of their earned retirement pensions.” Overall, roughly $100 million was lost by the executives.


Jerry York, Once Key Figure at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, Dead at 71

Helped stage failed bids to control Chrysler, GM.

by on Mar.18, 2010

In his long career, Jerry York worked for all three Detroit makers and eventually challenged management at each of them.

Ask those who know Jerry York what they thought of him and you’d heard a mix of descriptions: brilliant strategist, gadfly, great ally, dangerous enemy, and a voice for change in a long-stagnant auto industry.

The truth about Jerome B. York, who died Thursday at 71, is likely a bit of all the above.

At the time of his death, from a brain aneurysm, York was serving as CEO of Harwinton Capital, an investment firm, and, since 1997, as a director for Apple Inc., the successful producer of iPods, iPhones and Mac computers.  But it was in the auto industry that York was best known, and where his legacy will likely be most debated.

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Born in Memphis, the bookish-looking York maintained a soft and subtle twang to his speech long after he moved to Michigan.  He was trained as an engineer, receiving degrees from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, MIT, and the University of Michigan.  But in an industry long divided between “car guys” and “bean counters,” it was on the finance side that he earned his notoriety.


30 Years of Restructuring

From Iacocca to Nardelli, Smith to Henderson, what's different?

by on Mar.30, 2009

Iacocca won over Washington, in 1979, but this time, could "the pieces of the mosaic fall off the wall"?

Iacocca won over Washington, in 1979, but this time, could "the pieces of the mosaic fall off the wall"?

The mood was somber, yet there was a sense of electricity surging through the room as the CEO strode up to the microphone. The situation was desperate, he quickly acknowledged, and without everyone’s cooperation – workers, bankers, investors and even the federal government – he warned, “then the pieces of the mosaic fall off the wall.”

That eloquent turn of phrase just might have come from Barack Obama, this morning, as he explained his decision to delay any additional assistance to General Motors and Chrysler. Perhaps it could have been the words of Rick Wagoner, the newly-ousted GM CEO, or Chrysler’s chief executive, Bob Nardelli, when they glumly admitted the need for a government bailout to save their companies, last autumn.

In fact, the speaker was Lee Iacocca, the legendary Chrysler chairman, when he announced plans to seek his own federal bailout, nearly 30 years ago.

That news conference was one of the very first events I covered as a rookie on the Detroit beat, and I can still recall the shock his words generated in the cramped and overheated news room at Chrysler’s old headquarters, the K.T. Keller Building, in Highland Park, Michigan. It was long before cell phones and Blackberrys, yet before the blunt-talking executive had even finished his presentation, those words were echoing across the world.

Anyone who thinks the battle for federal aid has been tough, this time around, should check the archives to see what Iacocca and the rest of Chrysler’s stakeholders went through those many decades ago. A thorough bit of research will also reveal just how strongly the automaker emerged from that particular brush with bankruptcy. And, by the time the last check was written to cover the loans Chrysler got, it had also presented U.S. taxpayers with a nearly 40% return on their investment.

That’s the good news. But the flipside of the story is that it didn’t take all that long before Chrysler once again was in trouble. By the end of the 1980s, it was sinking rapidly towards insolvency, a collapse this time forestalled by the arrival of the so-called LH cars, a line-up of strikingly different mid-size sedans, such as the Dodge Intrepid. (more…)

Lutz and the “Dying Bride”

Setting the record straight on the Chrysler/Fiat deal-breaker.

by on Jan.21, 2009

Shooting from the Lip, Bob Lutz and his L-29 Fighter

Always shooting from the Lip, ex Chrysler and current GM executive Bob Lutz and his L-39 fighter

Reading some of what’s appeared on the Web, over the last 24 hours, I was surprised by some of the references I saw to the earlier, abortive attempt by Chrysler and Fiat to merge. The April 1990 deal was scuttled, as I first reported on on Tuesday, just hours before it was to be inked.

Over the following months, there was an endless stream of reportage suggesting that Chrysler would have to find yet another merger partner if it were to survive, an argument not entirely scuttled by former CEO Lee Iacocca. The only one, among senior management, who seemed intent on keeping Chrysler independent was Bob Lutz.

And, in his typical, shoot-from-the-lip manner, he explained his position, following a speech at the annual Management Briefing Seminars, in Traverse City, that following August. I recall it well, as I was the one that threw the question, which was, in departure from my typical, multi-part query, quite straightforward: “Does Chrysler need to find a merger partner to survive?”

I could see the former Marine fighter pilot warm to the topic, even as his PR handler frantically signaled him to stick to the company line – say little to nothing. But Lutz had a good one, and a better one. After a long draw on his ever-present cigar, he blew a puff in my direction and explained, “You can’t find a bridegroom when the bride is lying on her deathbed.”

Like a shot, the wire service reporters were off to find phones to file (it was, after all, pre-cellphone). Within 30 minutes, Lutz was hearing from Iacocca, who ordered the maverick exec to fly back to Chrysler’s old headquarters, in Highland Park, Michigan. Were it not for a few friendly members of the Chrysler board, Lutz would’ve been fired. But it was then and there Iacocca firmed his resolve to brush the Swiss-born president aside and bring in an outsider – Bob Eaton – as his eventual successor.

The clips I see, this morning, insist that Lutz was referring to Fiat as the dying bride. That’s absolutely incorrect, though by then, the Italian maker was having problems of its own. Lutz knew that in its current condition, Chrysler couldn’t get the best partner, nor the best deal. Recall, this was just before the launch of the “cab-forward” LH cars which, briefly, made Chrysler a success again, and a leader in automotive design.

Oh, and, yes, I mentioned Lutz had two quotes he was toying with. Several well-placed sources say he wisely chose not to follow his original instincts and proclaim that “You can’t find a bridegroom for an ugly bride.”