Of all the products we’ve seen on “Mad Men,” few have prompted a response like last week’s Chevy Vega – and not only because pursuing the account led to the merger of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce with Cutler, Gleason and Chaough.
First, viewers had to decode which car it was, because it was referenced in the show by its code name, XP-887. There was abundant post-show guessing among fans, followed by the inevitable fact-checking. Was it the Corvette? No, that was a Pontiac. The Camaro? No, that was introduced in 1966.
By Monday, the consensus was that it was the Vega, a car that was supposed to reach new heights in performance but want on famously to become one of the worst cars in U.S. automotive history, one that helped mark the end of an era for Big Three General Motors.
The Vega wasn’t introduced until 1970, and it took some time for folks to realize what a lemon it was, so unless “Mad Men” spills over into the next decade, a highly unlike proposition since next season is the show’s last, we won’t get to see how Don Draper et alia handle the Vega’s sputtering demise.
In any event, for a show that tilts cool on nearly every level, the Vega is an odd interloper, at least from our after-the-fact vantage point. It will be fun to hear what Matthew Weiner has to say about how and why he came to choose it. The car has an intriguing backstory. People of a certain age might remember John Delorean. Here are some details from Auto News:
The Vega was really more of an answer to Ford’s Pinto. It was better looking than the Pinto for sure, but had so many other problems lurking beneath the sheet-metal that it has gone down in history as one of the auto industry’s worst cars ever.
The car was not developed by the Chevy group, but rather by a corporate group inside GM, led by GM President Ed Cole. In the late 1960s, GM’s brands — Chevy, Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac — each had their own engineering and design staffs and each was highly territorial and competitive with the other brands. Chevy, said the brand’s chief in 1970 John DeLorean (in the book: “On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors”), did not want the car. “We were to start building the car in about a year, and nobody wanted anything to do with it. Chevy’s engineering staff was only going through the motions of preparing the car for production, but nothing more. Engineers are a very proud group. They take interest and pride in their designs, but this was not their car and they did not want to work on it.”
It will be fun to watch the newly-merged firms tackle this project. In the meantime, here’s a fun collage poster from CantMiss.tv (click image to view full size) that celebrates the new client and the merger. (Except where’s Jim Cutler?)