Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
February 23, 2010
Photos By: Jim Smart

How do you impress Lee Iacocca?
That was the challenge for designer Michael Leone and world-class coachbuilders Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters as they crafted a true fastback version of the S197 Mustang with hopes that Iacocca would lend his name to the car. The fact that Iacocca had never put his name on a car made the task seem even more daunting.

After all, Lee Iacocca was responsible for some very successful vehicles during his careers at Ford and Chrysler. At Ford, he spearheaded the development and launch of the '641/2 Mustang, which earned him the title as the "Father of the Mustang." Later, during his 1970-1978 tenure as president of Ford, he oversaw the introduction of the '74 Mustang II, another right car at the right time. After his move to Chrysler in the late 1970s, Iacocca rescued the company from bankruptcy by overseeing the creation and development of the successful K-cars and mini-vans.

Leone says the idea for an Iacocca fastback came to him when he spotted a new Mustang on display at a shopping mall. "The light hit it at just the right angle and I visualized the fastback design," Leone says. "I couldn't get my hands on a piece of paper fast enough to do a sketch!"

He took the design to Iacocca, who was immediately intrigued. "Michael Leone is a smart guy," Iacocca told us. "I liked it so much that I said we'd better build this one. It really brings back the fastback. The existing Mustang looks great as a convertible but the hardtop has sort of a small coupe roof. So we restyled it as a fastback. I think it turned out beautifully."

The decision was made early to produce only 45 copies of the Iacocca Silver 45th Anniversary Edition Mustang, all based on 2009 Mustangs for what is called an '091/2 model. "It's the 45th anniversary of the Mustang so we said let's just do a limited edition run of 45," Iacocca explains. "I think that's what will give them their value. Everyone who buys one will see the value go up."

Fittingly, the "Father of the Mustang" announced the new Silver Edition Mustang on Father's Day 2009.

To build the Iacocca Silver Edition Mustang, Iacocca, Leone, and Leone's partner Denice Halicki (of "Gone In 60 Seconds" fame) created a company called I Legacy. From there, they needed someone to build the cars and someone else to sell them. "I had my idea and Mr. Iacocca had his idea," Leone says. "So we each wrote down the names on a piece of paper and handed them to each other. They were the same. We both felt that Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters should build the cars and that Galpin Ford, the largest volume Ford dealer in the world, should sell them."

Iacocca began using the Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters in the 1980s to build concept and prototype vehicles for Chrysler, describing them as "magicians with metal." Based in Fountain Valley, California, the company specializes in prototype and concept vehicles but also builds other unique projects, like a Lamborghini for Shaquille O'Neal and carbon-fiber bodies for NHRA funny cars, including the Mustang bodies for John Force.

Iacocca and Leone made numerous trips to Metalcrafters to oversee the Silver Edition Mustang project. "We were like two bugs in a rug," says Leone, who started designing cars as a kid and who later spent 10 years portraying Pete Janners in the daytime soap Days of Our Lives. "Mr. Iacocca is a hands-on guy. We were on the phone constantly, and he would stay with the car at Metalcrafters, just meditating on it. He would always speak up if he wanted to change something. His advice to us was always three words: 'Keep it simple.'"