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Mad Men and Mustangs: The Cars Missing from AMC’s Hit Series

Apr 30, 13 • by Craig Fitzgerald • Featured, Vintage Cars9 CommentsRead More »

Crown Imperial Mad Men

I’m an extremely late adopter of AMC’s swinging ‘60s series Mad Men, but I’ve spent the last few months getting myself caught up. While I was midway through Season 5, I heard Marc Maron’s interview with Dick Van Dyke on the WTF Podcast, and the iconic sitcom star — steeped in the design ethic of Mad Men — mentioned he liked the show, but thought the clothes were all wrong. And then it hit me that the cars were, too.

 Here’s the thing about Don Draper: He’s a car guy. He made his bones pushing iron on a used car lot. In Season 2, Episode 12, there’s a scene where Don’s in California, visiting with the wife of the man whose identity Don assumes. It’s just after he’s driven down the Pacific Coast Highway in an Imperial Crown Convertible. He introduces himself to a couple of guys working on a 1933 Ford Tudor V-8 powered hot rod and you get the sense that he’s spent some spinning wrenches himself.

1933 Ford Tudor V8 Mad Men

This looks like a guy who’s into cars.


I guess, given the timeframe of the series, that a ‘62 Cadillac is an appropriate car for a guy who’s worked his way up the ladder at a New York ad agency.  In Season 5, he’s behind the wheel of a 1965 Coupe DeVille. But by 1968 — in which we arrive during the earliest episodes of Season 6 —  Cadillac had not only delivered the most tailored, svelte, chiseled Coupe DeVille in its history, it had also produced the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado, one of the most revolutionary automobiles available to the general public. And Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce reps Jaguar. Where’s the XKE? Maybe later in Season 6 we’ll see the agency expand its relationship with Jaguar as British Leyland comes into being.

Jaguar XKE Mad Men

Maybe by the end of Season 6 Don Draper will be driving a Triumph Dolomite Sprint


Of course, the whole premise of the program is that Don Draper is a man for whom time has stood still. You can see it in the final minutes of the season finale of Season 5, when Don Draper drops the needle on the final track of the Beatles’ 1966 release, Revolver, and completely misses the point of “Tomorrow Never Knows.” But it’s hard to believe that a guy who’s at the top of his game is going to be driving an almost four-year-old Cadillac in 1968.

Ford Mustang Mad Men

Ford sold over 550,000 Mustangs in 1964, but the only two that show up in Mad Men are in the background.


It took a look at to confirm a few other things that don’t sit right. Where are all the Mustangs? In 1965 — Season 4 in Mad Men parlance — Ford sold an astounding 559,451 Mustangs. There were only 93 million licensed drivers in 1965. One in 167 of them were driving a Mustang in 1965. Yet only shows two: One as a background vehicle across from the Draper residence, and one in the background in the episode that takes place at Howard Johnson’s.

Volkswagen Typ 1 Mad Men

Similarly, only one VW shows up and quickly disappears during Season 1


Where are all the Volkswagens? VW of America was truly hitting its stride by 1967 and 1968. Just a few years later, Volkswagen would capture seven percent of the US vehicle market. Yet only one 1958 Volkswagen appears early in Season 1. The odds of seeing a Volkswagen in New York by 1965 or 1966 would be greater than seeing a Camry in that city today. Yet, nobody seems to drive one. But in Mad Men’s universe, there are exactly as many Volkswagen Typ 1 Sedans plying American highways as there are Henry J Corsairs (Season 1, Episode 13) and Packard Patricians (Season 2, Episode 3).

Henry J Corsair Mad Men

Who the hell was driving a Henry J Corsair in 1963?

Part of the reason you don’t see a whole lot of exterior shots at all came up in Terry Gross’s interview with series creator Matthew Weiner on Fresh Air last week. He mentioned that a lot of scenes take place in elevators first because a lot of interesting conversations do happen there, but also because they work on a tiny budget and elevators are cheap to shoot.

Pontiac Catalina Mad Men

The only Pontiac in the entire six-season run shows up quickly in this ad.

Once you’re past the great writing and fantastic character development, part of the fun of watching Mad Men is dissecting minutiae like this and seeing if it passes the sniff test. It’ll be interesting to see where the rest of the episodes lead.

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9 Responses to Mad Men and Mustangs: The Cars Missing from AMC’s Hit Series

  1. armier says:

    I’m with you on some of your comments but I think Weiner and team have got it about right overall.

    Your concerns re the age of his Cadillac may have something to do with the city’s decline in that period. I remember my New York bred uncle saying he couldn’t be bothered trading up because of all the scrapes his 300 garnered there (he mentioned those NY winters too).

    Plus, DD ain’t a suburbanite these days and less into the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses thinking so prevalent then.

    Less likely, but still possible…. I could see Megan adopting ‘Greenwich Village’ opinions (eg less capitalistic / materialistic) – and her opinion could matter to Don (where Betty’s perhaps wouldn’t).

    One thing I was delighted to see is:
    A) the shout out / acknowledgment of the Hot Rod scene, but also and especially

    B) of all the auto ads that might catch the eye of Dick/Don, it’s the Fitzpatrick-VanKaufman Pontiac illustrations (and, voilà, my own favourite year; 1963!)

  2. armier says:

    And I particularly like the prominence of Orphan Cars
       [Henry J, Ramblers, Studebakers, even a Hudson] 
        and some quirky MoPars too [62 Plymouth Fury].

    I do wonder if Weiner missed an opportunity/trick on the rubber boots tho…

  3. Baskingshark says:

    The imcdb page for MM is not complete, so I think you missed out that Joyce Ramsay (Zosia Mamet), Peggy’s lesbian friend who worked at Life Magazine, drove a Beetle in Season 4. I forget the episode title, but we see it in the one where she, Peggy and some beatnik friends go to the beach. They all (Peggy included) cram themselves into it to go home. Also, these people are New Yorkers, so are somewhat less predisposed to own cars, even cool first-gen Mustangs!

    Also, the license plates on that Imperial are totally fake, the letters/numbers are reversed.

  4. Baskingshark says:

    Forgot to add: when they bid for and get the Jaguar account, everyone seems to behave as if the E-Type is brand new, when it would have been on the market for about four years at that point (and the very next year would start its decline, with the addition of exposed headlamps etc.) I also hope for SCDP’s sake that they haven’t burnt their bridges with Honda. They made fun of the S600 being a deathtrap in the episode where they were trying to get the Honda motorbike account, but we’re in 1968 now so the Civic is only 6 years away, and by that time, they’ll get a lot more mileage out of advertising Hondas than British Leyland cars!!!

  5. […] in the TV series “Mad Men,” but Craig Fitzgerald took a different perspective this week at Clunker Nation – the cars that are for some reason missing from the […]

  6. Andy Subbiondo says:

    Good analysis, and one with which I largely agree. As a former 60-70s ad guy I can tell you that the creative principal of Jaguar’s ad agency would have to drive a Jaguar (poor guy).

    I caught that Don was a car guy too so I thought it was a little off when he got the Caddy in ’62.
    In ’62 the well-heeled car guys were getting Lincolns or perhaps Pontiac GPs or something imported (this was NYC after all).

  7. […] the TV series “Mad Men,” but Craig Fitzgerald took a different perspective this week at Clunker Nation – the cars that are for some reason missing from the […]

  8. armier says:

    Stumbled onto this great pic on HAMB….

    Tho’ it’s the wrong coast I hope y’all agree it’s a perfect example, one indicating a balanced and good cross- ection of what we’d expect to see on the roads in 62-63.

    Going back to what DD would drive, if I may re-christen him…
    – Dr Jekyll might drive a Bonneville, Mercedes Benz or Riviera, but…

    – Mr Hyde, all tormented  -and unsure of who he really is-  might do what was expected of him, hence the Cadillac (the status quo choice for Roger’s generation in particular)

    It’s been mentioned DD didn’t even test drive it. An impulse buy if ever there was one!