Lee Iacocca at a car manufacturing plant in the 1980's.

Lee Iacocca, an automotive-industry icon, died Tuesday, July 2, at the age of 94.

Iacocca was one of the few auto-industry executives in history to become a household name, partly due to his ubiquitous TV commercials in the 1980s, when he was CEO and chief spokesman for Chrysler.

Throughout his long career in the auto industry, both at Chrysler and earlier at Ford, Iacocca was responsible for creating a number of famous—and some infamous—vehicles. He introduced the original Ford Mustang, as well as Chrysler's minivans and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. By revitalizing Chrysler's product line—and securing a federal loan guarantee—Iacocca saved the Chrysler Corporation from bankruptcy and became a business legend.

Consumer Reports tested all of those vehicles when they came out, of course. Here, we have excerpts from our test results of five models developed at Ford and Chrysler under Iacocca's stewardship, highlighting aspects that CR's testers liked and those they didn't.

Ford Mustang

1965 Ford Mustang
1965 Ford Mustang.

We first evaluated the new Mustang in the July 1964 issue of Consumer Reports.

What CR Testers Liked
"In the driving CR's test staff has done so far, four characteristics stand out: The riding qualities of CR's Mustang are good. The unit structure is very solid over rough roads (though the convertible model figures to be less so). The interior noise level is very low—obviously a result of careful insulation. And wind noise, with the windows partly opened, is unusually low."

"One of the most impressive features of CR's Mustang is an almost complete absence of poor fit and sloppy workmanship in a car being built at a hell-for-leather pace."

"All in all, however, CR finds the Mustang, on short acquaintance, an agreeable car—one in which an individual appearance is achieved in a compact package with minimum handicaps (except perhaps for the low seating) and without the over-elaboration of detail and 'luxury' items that often make this type of car expensive rather than useful and efficient."

What CR Testers Didn't Like
"In CR's Mustang, the 170-cubic-inch engine gave a sprightly rather than powerful-feeling performance. But it was quite satisfactory for normal driving use, particularly with the 4-speed transmission (which was not very smooth shifting at the start, but promises improvement when run in). The steering was rather slow, fairly precise, and very easy. No power steering is needed on this model."

"The Mustang coupe is very low—a little over 51 inches high—hence the seats also are low. The front bucket seats are well designed, but it is questionable whether they will be comfortable for day-long occupancy, because of their lowness. The passenger's seat is fixed permanently in one position. The two-passenger rear seat is a semi-bucket type, narrow front to back and hard in the middle. There is tolerable headroom for adults, but so little legroom that the seat is comfortable only for moderate distances."

Ford Pinto

1970 Ford Pinto
A new Ford Pinto in 1970.

We first evaluated the Pinto in the January 1971 issue of Consumer Reports. 

What CR Testers Liked

"The Pinto's front bucket seats are close to the floor and are contoured for side support. Unlike the Vega's front seats, the Pinto's are thinly padded. Front legroom is adequate for most adults even though the wheel wells encroach slightly on foot space. We judged front seating comfort fair."

"Around town, the Pinto responded crisply to its steering, as a small car should. On the smoother surface of our test track, the Pinto cornered easily and predictably; we judged the high-speed emergency handling good. Steering effort was moderate during parking, low-to-moderate under way."

What CR Testers Didn't Like
"The Pinto's suspension lets you feel the road—every bump, ridge and pebble. We experienced an unending series of short vertical snaps. On rough roads the Pinto's rear end dances sideways. We judged the ride under light load poor."

"Adding to all the bumps and grinds was a lively steering wheel that kicked and shook in the driver's hands as the car encountered road irregularities."

"The Pinto's all-drum brakes proved to be directionally unstable when used very hard. We judged their performance fair."

"Quality of workmanship in our Pinto was shoddy, with numerous interior and exterior flaws. The carburetor needed extensive adjustment."

The Pinto later faced public criticism for the safety of its fuel-system design, and ultimately there was a voluntary recall of 1.5 million of the cars. In the January 1980 issue of Consumer Reports, CR mentioned the Pinto in an item on safety regulations, citing the case of a man who was burned when his Pinto's fuel tank exploded in a rear-end collision.

Chrysler Corp. K-Car

A 1981 Dodge Aries
A 1981 Dodge Aries four-door.
Photo: Dodge

We first evaluated the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant in the January 1981 issue of Consumer Reports.

What CR Testers Liked
"The K-cars are advertised as economical to drive and they are. With the 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission, CR's K-car turned in an impressive 18.2 mpg in our simulated city-driving test. At a steady 55 mph, the K-car delivered 31.3 mpg. On our 195-mile trip, which includes rural roads, some stop-and-go driving, and a stretch of expressway, the K-car gave 27.2 mpg."

"The power steering in our wagon and four-door sedan provided good feel of the road—unusual in U.S. cars with power steering. The wagon and the four-door sedan negotiated our avoidance-maneuver course at about the same speeds as did many nimble smaller cars, and they showed no handling instability during our tests."

What CR Testers Didn't Like
" . . . sharp irregularities in the pavement made the suspension rattle, bang, and thump. The noise made the ride seem worse than it really was. On large, abrupt bumps, the suspension seemed to give up. It bottomed and topped with a jolt, and the banging noises became worse. A full load made each of the K-cars ride less comfortably."

"Tall drivers had insufficient legroom to the pedals. The steering wheel and the windshield were also rather close to the driver, making some drivers feel a bit claustrophobic. Front-seat occupants sat comfortably high and erect, but the slab-shaped seatback and cushion gave no side support and hardly any lower-back support."

Chrysler Corp. Minivans

A 1984 Dodge Caravan.
A 1984 Dodge Caravan.
Photo: Dodge

We first evaluated the new Chrysler Minivans (the Plymouth Voyager) in the August 1984 issue of Consumer Reports.

What CR Testers Liked
"In normal driving, the Plymouth Voyager handled like a typical passenger car. Its power steering felt a bit sluggish and vague."

"On expressways and secondary roads, the Voyager rode about as well as most passenger cars. Riders were jostled sometimes, but never abused. Large, sharp bumps caused the greatest discomfort as the van's suspension topped or bottomed. But that didn't happen too often."

"For moving cargo rather than people, the middle and rear seats come out quite easily by releasing a pair of latches for each seat. The carpeted floor is perfectly flat ... "

"The spare tire stows under the rear of the van—an advantage in that it doesn't steal space from cargo carrying."

What CR Testers Didn't Like
"In abrupt accident-avoidance maneuvers and in the hard turns of the test track, steering response was very sluggish and vague. Further, the Voyager's front end stepped outward when it encountered bumpy pavement on sharp curves. Our drivers judged emergency handling sloppy but not unsafe."

"A $350 option package turns the basic five-seater Voyager into a seven-seater. In the seven-passenger model, the second seat is a bench that accommodates two. It felt spongy, providing little lower-back support and virtually no side support. Six-foot-tall occupants pressed their knees into the soft backs of the front seats. The bench third seat ... provided little lower-back support and no side support."

"The heater had to work hard and long to warm the Voyager's large cabin on cold mornings."

"A 1984 Dodge Caravan (twin to the Voyager) didn't fare well in the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) 35-mph barrier crash tests. In the simulated head-on crash, protection of the driver and passenger dummies was deemed marginal."

Jeep Grand Cherokee

A 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo.
A 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo.
Photo: Jeep

We first evaluated the Jeep Grand Cherokee in the November 1992 issue of Consumer Reports.

What CR Testers Liked
"The 4.0-liter Six starts and runs without a hitch and produces the most responsive acceleration in this (test) group. The four-speed automatic shifts smoothly. The optional . . . four-wheel drive . . . provides impressive traction."

"The Jeep handles more responsively than the other SUVs we tested. On the track, the Jeep felt stable and predictable, though a little clumsy."

"Three average-sized men fit easily in the rear seat. Room for head and knees is ample in the rear, even for tall passengers."

What CR Testers Didn't Like
" . . . the car rocks annoyingly from side to side on bumpy roads. A full load dampens the rocking, but then the Jeep kicks and pitches, even on smooth highways. And on back roads the rear suspension tends to . . . (bottom out) often and hard."

"The spare (tire), on one side of the cargo bay, takes up useful cargo room. With its rear seat folded, the Jeep has the smallest useful cargo volume in this group—36 cubic feet."

"Our Jeep arrived with or developed 12 sample defects. Most serious was the failure of the security/power door-lock system. Even after several trips to the dealer—and a visit from factory engineers—the door sometimes still locks on its own when it's closed . . . "