In Memoriam: Lee Iacocca, 1924-2019

July 3, 2019 – July 29, 2019

Lee Anthony Iacocca by David Levine / 1985, India ink and pencil on paper / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution / © Estate of David Levine

National Portrait Gallery
8th and F Streets, NW
Washington, DC

1st Floor, In Memoriam space Floor Plan

Automobile executive Lee Iacocca introduced the iconic Mustang to Ford Motor Company’s lineup in 1964. An experienced salesman, Iacocca became the president of Ford in 1970. Despite being fired by Henry Ford II in 1978, Iacocca was hired by Chrysler Corporation to be its president and chief executive officer in 1979. As CEO, he rescued the company from financial distress through an unprecedented $1.2 billion loan from the federal government. This loan, accompanied with his memorable television commercial challenge—“If you can find a better car, buy it”—enabled Chrysler to pay off the loan in 1983, a full seven years early.

In David Levine’s caricature, we see Iacocca with a shattered lightbulb above his head. Perhaps representative of the groundbreaking ideas used to rescue Chrysler, this addition also highlights Iacocca’s skills as an inventive engineer and businessman.