Don Draper’s Imperial Crown Convertible is for sale again
Remember Mad Men? It’s the show that reintroduced Sixties cool (but mostly smoking, and Canadian Club whiskey) for an entire generation of prestige-TV hipsters, including your humble author. (SPOILER) Through self-destructive narcissism and philandering, by Season 4 Don Draper has lost his wife, his home, his kids, and the respect of his peers. He responds to the chaos by running away: Jetting off to California. Once he lands, he’s a new man. Away from moody New York in a place where nobody knows his name, not even his real one, Draper drives up the California coast in this eye-searingly red 1964 Imperial Crown Convertible. And that exact convertible is up for auction.
Sleek, chrome-lined, and as square as Don’s jawline, the 1964 Imperial’s forward-canted style was the work of designer Elwood Engel, who led Chrysler out of Virgil Exner’s overwrought excess. (Imperial was split off as a standalone brand in 1955.) If the 1964 Imperial resembled the Lincoln Continental of 1961, it was not a coincidence—Engel oversaw both designs. “This is the closest man has come to building a drive-it-yourself Beverly Hilton,” raved old-timey journalist Tom McCahill in a rather dated review for Mechanix Illustrated. McCahill, prone to hyperbole, bought a new Imperial every year. If he considered a 1964 Imperial Convertible a driver’s car, then the “Big Imp”—with its 413-cubic-inch V-8, TorqueFlite push-button automatic, and 5185 pounds of road-hugging weight—was enough of a driver’s car for Don Draper.
With less than a thousand ever built, the Convertible is the second-rarest Imperial. (Never mind the Imperial Limousine, of which only 10 ever existed.) Only one Imperial can boast “having been smoked in by Don Draper,” says the listing, placing the Imperial up for grabs alongside other Mad Men must-haves like, say, Sally Draper’s Puzzle Set and a fondue pot.
The Imperial is priced at $40,000. As of this writing, 21 bids are hovering at $37,500; it has not met reserve.
Is it worth it? Imperial Crown convertibles, according to Hagerty’s Valuation Tools, have hovered at an average value of $18,800 for the past ten years, the most expensive of the 1964-1966 Imperials. Current bidding falls in line with the Imperial’s #1 Concours and #2 Excellent conditions—$47,000 and $28,000, respectively. It’s worth noting that the same car has been up for auction twice, as recently as 2016. Maybe the Sixties trend has finally gone the way of the Kodak Carousel?
“Generally speaking, TV and movie cars can command a big premium,” says Hagerty auction editor Andrew Newton, “but usually only if it had a lot of screen time with major characters. Since this car was only used in one episode and not the car most associated with Don Draper, it’s probably not going to be a gigantic sale, although the current bid is already pretty high up there.”
Ignore the precious screen time price premium. Ignore too the fact that it barely appeared on the show—Don drove it onscreen for a few minutes (then proceeded to ruin his life, again, in the span of a single episode). Instead, focus on the coolness of a rare American land yacht, a one-man parade float.
If you do add this car to your garage, you could do no worse than to carve out your own style. But if you truly want to replicate the Don Draper aesthetic, it is imperative that you also gather a pair of Randolph Engineering Aviators, the Banana Republic slim-fit grey flannel suit from the Mad Men Collection, and the crosshair-dialed Omega Seamaster Deville.