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by Jay Traugott
There was a time when Mercury was something more than just rebadged Fords.
It's always a sad thing for an automaker to close its doors. The reason is more often due to lack of good product and cash flow problems - just ask Saab. But for Mercury, Ford
's so-called mid-level premium brand, it was often times a struggle to stay ahead of the game and build cars that weren't simply rebadged Fords.
This was the case when Ford decided to close down Mercury back in 2011. Founded in 1939 by Henry Ford's son Edsel, the idea was to have an entry-level luxury brand that would be placed in between the Ford and Lincoln
Think of it as Ford's answer to General Motor's Buick
. Even from its earliest days, Ford utilized the much despised "badge engineering" method in order to fill the Mercury product lineup. Just like in more recent years, Mercury struggled even back in the day to define itself and Ford executives were always concerned how and when the brand would ever find its footing. For a short time, however, Mercury had a reputation as a performance brand with models such as the Cougar and Comet. The Cougar is perhaps the most famous model ever to come from Mercury, but the Comet is still something that's remembered as one of the brand's best.
First launched in 1960, the Comet started out being built on the Ford Falcon's platform. It was also intended to be the replacement for the Edsel. Available as a coupe, sedan, or a two- or four-door wagon, the Comet originally didn't even have Mercury badges and was just known as the "Comet."
Power came from a standard 144 cu in straight-six with 90 horsepower and mated to a 3-speed manual or a 2-speed Merc-O-Matic. However, buyers complained about this engine's lack of power and soon a 170 cu in 1.8-liter straight-six with 101 hp was offered as well as a 4.3-liter V8.
The Comet received a redesign in 1964 but it was still built on the same body as the previous model. Styling took on a more square-like theme and even the front grille design resembled that of the Lincoln Continental. More importantly, however, was the introduction of the performance version called the Cyclone. Powered by a 289 cu in 4.7-liter V8 with 271hp, this was the same engine that was later found in the Ford Mustang. The third-gen Comet was launched in 1966 and by this time it had grown from being a compact to a mid-size model, becoming a corporate cousin of the Ford Fairlane.
Along with the usual body style choices of coupe, sedan, and wagons, the biggest change with the new model was that the straight-six engine choices were dropped entirely, with just the 390 cu in V8 remaining. It was offered with either a 2- or 4-barrel carburetor and produced an output range between 275 hp and 335 hp. Consider this to be the car's heyday as a Comet Cyclone GT convertible was the pace car for the 1966 Indianapolis 500. From the 1968 to '69, the Comet was updated with new sheetmetal that made the car purposely resemble larger Mercury's.
Although V8s were still the sole engine option, the car's larger size somewhat took away from its appeal as a muscle car. Fortunately in 1971, the Comet was completely redesigned and was now built on the same platform as the compact Ford Maverick. Two- and four-door sedan body styles were available as well as a 302 cu in 4.9-liter V8. Thing is, this was the era in which gas prices rose and true performance died with it. Mercury struggled to keep the Comet relevant throughout the 70s but by '77 it was discontinued outright. This 1964 Comet that's up for sale on eBay is powered by that wonderful 289 V8 and has been extremely well cared for.
An example of this includes all of that original chrome throughout the body. More recently, the seller invested some $10k in updating it with bits such as a new transmission, powder coated headers, brakes and brake lines, steering and suspension, and new Holley 4-barrel carb sets on a new Cobra style aluminum high-rise intake. The interior has also been extremely well maintained and is in incredible condition. For anyone wanting to own a Mercury from a time in which the brand actually had an identity, this red on red Comet is a great find with a "Buy it Now" price just south of $20k.