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Lee Iacocca, left, with Don Frey and the 1965 Ford Mustang
Though Henry Ford II – the Deuce – remained head honcho at Ford Motor Company throughout the 1960s and 1970s, serving as CEO and chairman from 1960 through 1979, the presidency of Ford went through a few different men’s hands during that time. The man who was perhaps gunning the hardest for that job was Lee Iacocca, who, 40 years ago today, was named president of Ford.
That position had actually been vacant since September 2 of the prior year, when Henry Ford II dismissed Bunkie Knudsen after just 19 months into his term. Iacocca, then 46 years old, had worked for Ford for more than half his life, starting out as a design engineer in 1946. Yet he quickly shifted his focus to sales and in 1960 rose to become the general manager of the Ford Division. From that position, he oversaw the introduction of the Mustang, revived the Mercury brand and paired Carroll Shelby with the company. It was partly due to his influence and boardroom maneuvering that Knudsen was dismissed, setting himself up for his elevation to the position of president.
Iacocca remained in the presidency for the next seven and a half years, until Henry Ford II fired him as well, on July 13, 1978.