Caldwell died of complications from a stroke Wednesday at his home in New Canaan, Conn., his family told The New York Times.
Caldwell became chief executive of Ford in 1980 and was perhaps best known for his business acumen, not necessarily his love of cars or sales, the Times said.
In his first full year as chief executive, Ford recorded losses of more than $1.5 billion. By 1984, the company had record profits of $2.9 billion, the newspaper said.
Caldwell often said his experience in the Navy during World War II and the Korean War influenced his approach to business.
Caldwell is survived by his wife, Betsey Chinn Clark, three children, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.