Don Draper's New Car
In episode 7 of Season 2, Don buys a brand new 1962 Cadillac El Dorado coupe like the one above. To many in our generation, Cadillac’s are though of as big, slow cars for old people, but at the time, Cadillac was a big deal. It is only recently that the company has earned this reputation.
For the majority of the 20th century, Cadillac’s motto was “The Standard of the World." The company was known for being innovative, forward thinking, and the epitome of modern design and luxury. Many of the standard appointment we enjoy on cars, like the V8 engine were first premiered on a Cadillac. They were the car of choice for movie stars (click here to see Marlene Dietrich standing next to hers), politicians, and everyone rich and famous. Driving a Cadillac was one of the ultimate expressions of wealth and power.
Cadillac reached its high point in the late fifties and early sixties. Its cars were the biggest, most comfortable, and advanced vehicles a person could buy in the United States. However, this luxury came at a price. In 1957 a new Cadillac cost as much as a Rolls Royce, over $13,000. $13,000 may seem like a small amount of money, but adjusting for inflation, that same car would cost over $130,000 today. Considering that the average American salary in 1960 was a little over $4000, Cadillac’s were astronomically expensive and far beyond the purchasing power of the vast majority of Americans.
Don’s decision to buy a Cadillac reveals a lot about his income, position in society, and the image he has of himself. It was arguably the epitome of the consumerist consumption culture. This car, and Don's purchase of it, is just another fascinating contradiction in the life our of favorite TV ad man.
Special thanks to Popular Mechanics article “100 Years of Cadillac History” available here.