The Mercury Comet was an automobile produced by the Mercury division of the Ford Motor Company between 1960 and 1977. Changes in its design and marketing strategy resulted in the Comet being classified as either a compact or an intermediate-sized car during the seventeen years that the Comet name was used.
The Comet was an outgrowth of the compact Ford Falcon. Because it was marketed through Mercury, Comets received better grade interior trim details than concurrent Falcons, and a slightly longer wheelbase.
Relationship to the Edsel
Developed concurrently with the Ford Falcon, early preproduction photographs of sedan show a car remarkably close to the Comet that emerged, but with a split grille following the pattern established by Edsel models. Early Ford styling mules for the station wagon model carried the Edsel name as well.
When the cars were released, the split grille was replaced by one more in keeping with Mercury's design themes. However the canted elliptical taillights, first seen on the Edsel prototype, were used and carried the "E" (Edsel) part number on them. While the short lived 1960 Edsels used elliptical shaped taillights, the lenses used on both cars differed in length and width. Certain other parts from the 1959 Edsel parts bin, including the parking lights and dashboard knobs, were used on the first-year Comet. Keys for the 1960 & 1961 Comets were shaped like Edsel keys, with the center bar of the "E" removed to form a "C".
From 1960 to 1965, the Comet was based on the Ford Falcon platform (stretched 5" for sedans, but not for wagons). The 1960 to 1963 Comets share a similar basic shape. These are sometimes referred to as the "round body" Comets. For 1962 and 1963, the Comet shared a considerable number of body and mechanical parts with the short-lived Mercury Meteor intermediate.
Due to the demise of Edsel, the Comet was initially released without any manufacturer badging, only "Comet" badges. It was sold through Mercury dealers, but would not be branded as such for two more years.
Initial body styles were 2 & 4 door sedans and wagons. Two trim levels were available, standard and "Custom", with the custom package including badging, additional chrome trim and all-vinyl interiors. In 1960 the only engine available was the 144ci Ford Straight-6 engine straight six which produced 85hp. Transmission options were a column-shifted 3-speed manual and a 2-speed Merc-O-Matic automatic transmission (unique to the Comet, despite sharing a name with the Cruise-O-Matic|Merc-O-Matic installed in other Mercurys).
In response to complaints about the low performance of the 144 engine, a 170ci 101hp six was released in 1961, with an optional 4-speed manual.
Optional S-22 package released. While billed as a "sport" package, it shared the same mechanicals as regular Comets with the only changes being S-22 badging, bucket seats, extra rear seat foam padding, emblems on seats, more color choices, factory undercoating, and a center console. The S-22 package cost just over $200 and only 14,004 of the 197,263 Comets produced in 1961 were made with the S-22 package.
Comet was officially made a Mercury model, and received some minor restyling, mainly a redesign of the trunk and taillight area to bring the car more in line with the Mercury look. This is the first year the car carried Mercury badging.
While the 1963 model looked almost identical to the earlier models, the chassis & suspension was redesigned to accommodate an optional 260ci V-8 engine. Convertible and [[Hardtop Pillarless models were also released this year.
Comet was redesigned with a much more square shape, though it still rode on the same chassis as the 1963 model. Along with the redesign the model designations were changed. The performance version was known as the Mercury Cyclone. Then in descending order of trim levels were the Caliente,404 and 202 (The top-line station wagon was known as the Villager).
For 1964 Ford produced about 50 ultra-high performance lightweight Comet Cyclones, equipped with their racing two-carburetor 427 engine, similar to their cousin, the Ford Fairlane. In order not to compete with each other, the Thunderbolts ran in Super Stock on 7-inch tires, but the Cyclones were modified to run in A/FX on 10-inch tires, where they were as dominant as the Thunderbolts were in Super Stock.
For 1965 the Comet received updated styling front and rear (including stacked headlights). The base 6-cylinder engine was increased from 170ci to 200ci. The base 8-cylinder engine was increased from 260ci to 289ci. The standard transmission continued as a column-shifted 3-speed manual transmission. However the optional automatic was changed to a "Merc-O-Matic" 3-speed automatic transmission.
There was no Comet for 1970, although the Mercury Cyclone continued through 1971 as a Montego model.
For 1971, the Comet name was revived as Mercury's version of the Ford Maverick compact with a different grille, taillights, and hood. The Comet had three models: coupe (1971-1977), "muscle car" GT coupe (1971-1975), and a four-door sedan (1971-1977). This version was available through the 1977 model year, and was then discontinued to make room for the new Mercury Zephyr.
See the Ford Maverick entry for more information about the 1971-1977 Mercury Comet.
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