Mad Men Take On The Chevrolet XP-887 (Vega) – “And What The Hell Is “Hypereutectic?”

vega engine-ad-800-730x1024

Web-wise, it’s old news already: Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce take on the  Chevrolet XP-887 account, in the latest episode (last Sunday) of Mad Men. I don’t have cable (believe it or not), so it might be a while before I get to it on Netflix. But it’s an interesting choice, because the XP-887 campaign was undoubtedly the largest pre-introduction campaign ever undertaken by an automaker.

mad-men-chevrolet-blog480image:Michael Yarish/AMC

It’s 1968, and the chronology is right (of course): Chevrolet started a massive PR and advertising campaign to warm up the crowd for it’s new little car “that does everything well”, including rusting prematurely (among other tricks).

Vega -Ad

So this is the kind of stuff we were bombarded with for several years, starting in 1968 or 1969. GM was woefully behind the times in lacking a small car in the sixties, at a time when in California already on in four new cars sold were imports. So Don Draper will have to learn what “hypereutectic” means, along with a lot of other gibberish.

XP-887 engine

In addition to ads and the PR campaign, the XP-887 was of course the focus of intelligence gathering, like Jim Dunne’s “Detroit Report” in Pop Science. Here’s a snippet from 1969. Uh-oh; the Vega engine is only getting 12 to 15 mpg in testing, compared to the 24 to 28 of the similar-sized Opel 1900 engine? And why didn’t they just revise and build the Opel engine for the Vega?? As well as just the whole car?

Here’s my take on that question.

XP -887 chevette

And here’s another one, from De. 1968, that suggests the name will be Chevette, and have an iron block and aluminum head. I guess everything was still a moving target.