In two occasions, HenryII had sent Lee Iacocca flat to the canvas when he shouted "No! No!" upon hearing his aggressive Ford Div. general manager pitch for $75 million to fund his proposed "pony car" to compete with GM's sexy Corvair/Monza in the youth market.
Corvair and our Falcon both arrived as 1960 compacts. While Chevy added the sporty Monza, Mr. Iacocca was looking at re-skinning the mundane Falcon to get a sporty model. This was all coming down around early 1962.
Mostpeople were convinced there was no way Henry was about to cough up $75 million to fund another new car experiment, what with the mess from the late 1950s Edsel disaster still ankle deep on the American Road in front of Ford's World Headquarters -- and in the minds of big-time Wall Street investors, including members of Ford's board of directors.
But now word came that Henry would still sit for yet another pitch by the ambitious and flashy wordmonger who, not yet 40, headed up the huge Ford Div.
Lee's call to Henry's office confirmed not only the rumor but a definite time and date: the next morning at 10:30 in Henry's 12th floor office in the company's famous "Glass House" headquarters building.
Mr. Iacocca's next move was to call an emergency meeting of his off-campus Fairlane Committee. This was the unofficial Iacocca-appointed product planning group that met twice a month at the Fairlane Motel in Dearborn, near the Glass House, to plan strategy for "cars down the road," as Lee would explain to inquisitive fellow officers.
These cars were still all dreams in Lee's sweaty palms, of course, and would have to suffer internal post-mortem ravages of the Edsel flop that had established a restrictive product planning guideline at Ford: caution with a capital C.
Mr. Iacocca told those who attended that afternoon's rump session about the HF II meeting: Don Frey, Ford's chief product planner; John Bowers, advertising manager, who wore a Phi Beta Kappa key; Frank Zimmerman, division marketing expert; Robert Eggert, the market research authority; William Laurie, senior officer of the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency; Hal Sperlich, chief car designer, and me, his public relations manager and speech writer.
"What I need are some fresh grabbers for my meeting tomorrow morning with Henry at the Glass House," Mr. Iacocca told his committee (Note: we always called him Henry at meetings when Mr. Ford was not present), Bob Eggert, the researcher, was first at bat: "Lee, let's lead off with the name of the car we've decided on."
The feeling was that Henry didn't know we were picking the Mustang name and he'd be entranced. Mr. Frey supported Mr. Eggert. "That's a good way to go, but emphasize that this stylish pony car will kick GM's Monza square in the balls." Henry should love that! "I've got it," Mr. Iacocca responded as he snapped shut the little car research binder that Mr. Eggert had slipped in front of him. "Murphy, put together some notes for me by early tomorrow morning. Thank you. The meeting is adjourned."
The following morning Mr. Ford stretched out in his leather chair, fingers clasped atop his expanding belly. Mr. Iacocca stood holding a few index cards. He was not smoking or fingering a cigar, as he usually did. Mr. Ford asked "What have you got, Lee?"
Lee launched into his pitch on the market for the youthful low-cost cars that Ford once dominated but had surrendered to GM along with a bushel of profit/penetration points. "Now this new little pony car, the Mustang, would give an orgasm to anyone under 30," he said. Henry sat upright as if he had been jabbed with a needle. "What was that you said, Lee?" asked Mr. Ford.
Lee began to repeat his orgasm line but Mr. Ford interrupted. "No not that crap, what did you call the car?" "It's the Mustang, Mr. Ford, a name that will sell like hell." "Sounds good; have Frey take it to the product planning committee and get it approved. And as of now, you've got $75 million to fund your Mustang."
Thus did Mssrs. Iacocca, Frey, Eggert and Sperlich get the name and cash they wanted, and Ford got the pony car that revolutionized car styling in America.