Mad Men & Their Cars

July 23rd, 2010 by Microvanmom

This 1957 Ford Country Squire resembles Betty Draper's car, though hers is a cheery yellow and sans wood paneling. Photo: Josephew, Wikimedia Commons

Motortopia asks “WWDDD?” What Will Don Draper Drive?

I can’t wait for this weekend’s premiere of Mad Men: Season 4. And it’s not just because I’m drawn to the days when guzzling scotches at work wasn’t a career-limiting move.

The show’s just great for classic car watching. When we finally get to see what Don Draper’s up to this Sunday night, it will be 1964 and he’ll be newly divorced. The biggest question is: Will Don still own his 1962 Cadillac Coupe de Ville?

I’ll be looking at the Mad Men’s cars for clues to their characters, and I’m hoping there are other Motortopians out there who can help me spot and identify their rides as SterlingCoop careens deeper into the swinging 60s.

Will the cars on the set change this season? As we await Season 4, let’s relive a few of Mad Men’s most illuminating auto-moments.

The Car:  1957 Ford Country Station Wagon …

The Driver: Betty Draper.

What Her Car Says About Her Character: When we first meet Betty Draper in Season 1, she’s a suburban ice-queen who efficiently transports groceries and kids in her pale yellow station wagon. We sense there’s trouble ahead when she slams her mom-car into a neighborhood birdbath.

Why the fender-bender? She can’t stop staring at the single mom who’s moved in down the street and who has the independence Betty herself lacks. Betty’s couch-like ride isn’t her only psychological prop. Later, she’ll hang out on an analyst’s couch and in Season 3, an actual Victorian fainting couch.

A 1962 Cadillac Coupe De Ville. Photo: Mike, Wikimedia Commons

The Car: 1962 Cadillac Coupe de Ville

The Driver: Don Draper.

What Don’s Car Says About Him: At first glance, dapper Don Draper looks like he sails through life just as his sleek, finned Cadillac sails down the road. But Don’s relationship to his Caddie is fraught with contradictions.

Draper drives a car that has an old family crest as its logo, yet his own trashy family-of-origin is shrouded in mystery.

The Coupe de Ville says “I’ve arrived,” according to Draper’s breezy boss, Roger Sterling. But Don’s not quite comfortable in his cushy car — or his cushy life. When he defects to California in Season 2, it’s hot rods and motorcycles he longs for.

The Car: The Volkswagen Beetle

The Context: Clever advertising.

Sometimes, Mad Men hints that Don and his hipster staff will be way, way out of their league once the Sixties get really swinging. Those guys just don’t see what’s coming. In one scene, the ad men are looking at one of those iconic Volkswagen ads from the early 1960s, and they’re very skeptical the car will ever sell.

“No chrome, no horsepower, foreign, ugly,” marvels art director Salvatore. “I guess they went with their strengths.”

So if you’re a Mad Men fan, watch the cars this season. I hope you’ll swing by my garage to tell me what models you spot and what they say about the characters who drive them.

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One Response to “Mad Men & Their Cars”

  1. GoldyLocks says:

    Wow, a 1957 Ford Country Squire. What a very cool car!

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