Mad Men and Packard


First you write for yourself, then you write for others, then you write for money. Somebody famous.

Michele and I watched the last episode of Mad Men -Season 6 – again last night. I like watching movies twice; somehow, I am not as caught up in the moment and it is easier to follow. On TV programs – that sounds so archaic – I have watched parts of Justified more than once but never Mad Men. My loss.

As a car guy, the last scene in the last episode of the season, really struck me. It didn’t jump out so strongly that I saw it the first time around but it did jump out on the second viewing. Don is looking down at his daughter and behind her is an old, seemingly faded, circa 1958, Packard.  It is just perfect. A touch that most people will never notice, a touch that the writer must have written in for himself.

Everything in a movie or a TV Drama is done by somebody for some reason. Everything everybody is saying, everything somebody is wearing, every background, has been planned to say something; about the character, about the situation. In the movies – and I’m including TV here – nobody just pulls a sweater out of the closet in the dark and wears it in a scene, even if the scene is somebody pulling a sweater out of the closet in the dark and putting it on. No director ever said Oh, who cares? Just stand by that wall and I’ll take the shot. So, almost by definition – I guess – everything on the screen has meaning. Including a 1958 Packard. Especially a 1958 Packard.

Packards were great cars – they may have been better than Cadillacs during the early 30’s – but the company went through a slow decline and stopped making cars in 1956 or so. Studebaker, also in decline, bought Packard – or their name – and, for a couple of years, produced a Packard that was just a tarted up Studebaker President with the Packard name pasted on the hood.

That poor, sorry, car behind Don’s daughter, was an almost departed Studebaker, all dressed up and pretending to be a Packard. It makes me want to go back and watch the whole season over again.

3 thoughts on “Mad Men and Packard

  1. Maybe we should watch from the beginning of the first series. The show is as much about Peggy’s rise as it is about Don’s fall. Just to watch a montage of all the opening sequences, in order, would be revealing about what we missed. Those change in such subtle ways every year.

  2. I love this piece. I’ve been following Mad Men from the periphery for years, waiting for the series to be over and then watch all the seasons on DVD. Even from my spot here at the edge of things, I can feel the producer’s deep love and respect for the automobile as a symbol of America

    On Packard and Studebaker:
    It was Packard that bought Studie. Packard failed to do due dilligence, however, and took Studie mgmnt’s word that their breakeven point was 165,000 cars. In fact, it was about 100,000 units above that, and the company was already in a deep dark hole. The merger sent the combined company into bankrupsy in less that 2 years. Both firms were seen as key defense contrators, so the defense dept stepped in to broker a deal whereby Packard-Studebaker was purchased by unit formed by Curtis-Wright and Daimler-Benz (Studie was the Mercedes distributor during the 50s). The company was sold a couple of more times over the next nine years, limping along and used as a tax shelter by bigger conglomerates.

    The story was very sad, but also prooves that God loves cars. By seemingly divine providence, Studebaker managed to stay in business long enough to develop on the beautiful Avanti on a budget of about 10 bucks. The Avanti then stayed in production 2 decades after Studebaker finally went under in 1966.

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