Unfortunately, the hot new Chevy car that has Don merging with his longtime rivals -- the Chevy XP-887 -- will end up backfiring in the long run. According to the New York Times, General Motors' plans for the XP-887 were "huge," but the car was riddled with problems from the get-go. Yes, Don's agency-changing car will soon be unveiled as the Chevrolet Vega.
In the book "On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors," former Chevrolet general manager John Z. DeLorean revealed that the first day he stepped into the Chevrolet division in 1969, "it was obvious that the Vega was in real trouble. General Motors was pinning its image and prestige on this car, and there was practically no interest in it in the division."
The auto exec said the poorly designed four-cylinder, 90-horsepower engine featured a cast-aluminum design that resulted in a "relatively large, noisy, top-heavy combination of aluminum and iron, which cost far too much to build, looked like it had been taken off a 1920 farm tractor, and weighed more than the cast-iron engine Chevy had proposed."
The 1995 book "Comeback: The Fall & Rise of the American Automobile Industry" recalled the Vega's numerous mass recalls, most notably a 500,000 car recall in 1972 for defective axles, throttles, and problems that caused engine fires.
According to Popular Mechanics, while nearly 280,000 Vegas were sold during its first model year in 1971 (and two million were built before the car ceased production in 1977), the car became known as a corrosion-prone rust bucket thanks to its body of flimsy sheet metal. Vega front fenders commonly needed replacing after only one or two seasons of winter driving, and by the 1980s, Vegas were so heavily junked that some California junk yards wouldn't even accept them.
While Motor Trend named the Vega 1971 Car of the Year, in 2009, Car and Driver listed the car as one of the 10 Most Embarrassing Award Winners of All time, stating, "[The Vega] was so unreliable that it seemed the only time anyone saw a Vega on the road not puking out oily smoke was when it was being towed. … Every element of the Vega's chassis was built about as flimsily as possible, and the unibody structure's metal was usually attacked by rust mere moments after being exposed to, well, air."
With the advantage of hindsight, we know that Don's prized car account will be doomed within a few years. And with the merger, there will be a heck of a lot of chiefs at the new ad agency. (Can you imagine those board meetings?) The good news: Peggy is back where she belongs.
"Mad Men" airs on Sundays at 10 PM ET on AMC.
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- General Motors
- Chevrolet Vega
- Don Draper