Depicting American society and the culture of the 1960s, the award-winning television drama Mad Men tackled prominent and controversial cultural issues of the time in addition to showcasing the heyday of the American auto industry with some of the most beautiful and iconic cars of the decade.
Winning 15 Emmys and four Golden Globes over the run of 92 episodes spread over seven seasons, the series followed Don Draper, an ad guy, but more importantly for us, a car guy, as his career reaches new career heights. While cars played a significant part of his characterization and others throughout the series, they also played a role in moving the plot along.
So what cars caught our interest during the seven-season stretch of Mad Men?
For a man on the move up the corporate and social ladder, the 1962 Cadillac Coupe DeVille was perfect. After Draper admitted to the Cadillac salesman that he drove a Dodge, the salesman responded, “Those are wonderful if you want to get somewhere… This is for when you’ve already arrived.” Triggering his insecurity, Draper flashed back to his days as a used-car salesmen. Later in the episode, to celebrate an invitation that ultimately proved to be validation of Draper;s rising stature, Draper bought the car without even taking a test drive.
Evoking the best of the early 1960s, Lincoln Continentals appear throughout the first three seasons. In Season Three, a Continental played a huge role in establishing a generational bond between Draper’s father-in-law, Grandpa Gene, and his granddaughter Sally, whom he let drive the family’s 1961 Lincoln Continental while he worked the pedals.
While the cars played an important part of the characters’ personal lives, they also established a leading role in the business side of things. In Season Five, Draper went on a research mission to scout a prospective client at a Manhattan Jaguar showroom. The showroom is eye candy to any enthusiast as we see XKs, a MK2, a 420G and a stunning red E-type. Landing the British brand as a client of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, Jaguar E-types continued to play a role in Season Five.
In Season Six, Draper worked to land a Chevy account for a prototype code named XP-887, which would later be known as the Chevy Vega. In real life, the Vega went on to win Motor Trend Car of the Year in 1971 only to earn a notorious reputation as one of Detroit’s lousiest lemons after six years of recalls due to engine fires and a rust-prone body.
Also appearing in Season Six was a beautiful 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 that became the object of some inter-office drama between characters Pete Campbell and Bob Benson. Campbell tried to exclude Benson from a meeting with Chevy and GM executives, only to be upstaged by Benson who has encyclopedic knowledge of the Camaro. Pressured, Campbell agreed to a drive in the Camaro only to smash it into a display, which showed the upset GM guys that he couldn’t drive stickshift.