by Al Aiello
I must admit that I have gained some respect for the sister (others refer to her as a cousin) of the Falcon. I’m talking about the COMET. I don’t know that much about her, but she hasn’t been given enough respect. Some of us may think of the Comet as a dowdy grocery getter, but the Comet was quite a sporty car, and it could be argued that the Comet was more of a thoroughbred vehicle than our beloved Falcons.
As most of you know the early Comet was the Mercury version of the Falcon. the first Comet was introduced in 1960 as was the Falcon. The Comet S-22 was Mercury’s entry into the sporty compact field in 1961. It was introduced as a counterpart to the Falcon Futura with a similar upgraded interior and bucket seats. It started life as a sedan in 1961, and in 1963 the 2 door hardtop and convertible models were added. Sounds a lot like the Falcon. Production figures for the Mercury Comet S-22 were as follows–1961 2 dr. sedan (14,004), 1962 2dr sedan
Production figures for the Mercury Comet S-22 were as follows–1961 2 dr. sedan (14,004), 1962 2dr sedan (7,500-est), 1963 2 dr. sedan (6,303), 1963 2 dr. hardtop (5,807), and 2 dr. convertible (5,757).
In review of the above figures, the Comet was not as popular as the Falcon. This could be for a number of reasons. One may have been the style of the Comet for these years which some may consider less pleasing than the Falcon.
Similar to the Monte Carlo history of the Falcon, the Comet has a “Total Performance” history too. In September of 1963, five specially prepared Comet Calientes with High Performance 289 — 271 horsepower engines were tested at Daytona. In a month’s time, the Comets broke speed and endurance records as they streaked around the oval track. Lincoln-Mercury claimed these cars were stock, and to prove the claim, offered over-the-counter parts as outfitted on the specially prepared cars.
The “special” package included the 289 high performance engine with solid lifters, heavy duty suspension and wheels, special flywheel housing and heavy duty clutch assembly, three-speed Galaxie transmission, and 9″ differential with a high ratio of 2.71:1. The reason for the Galaxie transmission was because the “new” four speed unit would not be in full production until early 1964. It is not clear why the then existing BW T-10 was not used.
Was the First Comet REALLY a Mercury?
As most of you know the early Comet was intended to be the sister car to the Falcon. What many people may not know is that the early 1960-61 Comets were not Mercurys. When Ford began product planning for the Falcon/Comet in the late Fifties, the original plan was to market the Comet as an Edsel, yes Edsel! Unfortunately, however, Edsel was in its death throes in late 1959. 1960 Edsels were being sold at Lincoln-Mercury dealers, so the Comet, originally conceived as part of that doomed marque, joined the line and was sold at the same stores. Evidently Ford decided not to add the Edsel name to the Comet for obvious reasons, so the car was simply the Comet. Extensive research by the late Edsel historian Perry E. Piper, shows that early Comet VIN numbers match the Edsel numbering scheme which was quite different than that of either the Mercury or Ford schemes. Also, a number of trim parts on the first Comets came directly from the Edsel parts bin, including the “cat’s eye” taillight lenses and dashboard knobs. Starting with the 1962 model year, the Comet officially became part of the Mercury line.
Thank you William J. Hershkowitz for this contribution to this page and setting the record straight.
The Comet performance image was boosted with the introduction of the Cyclone model in January, 1964. Based on the 1964 Caliente Sport Coupe, excess brightwork was removed from the exterior. Cyclone interiors came standard with bucket seats, console, tach, and a simulated wood steering wheel.
It contained all of the previously mentioned options, but now the new “Toploader” 4-speed transmission was available, along with 8,000 RPM Rotunda tachometer. Also available were axle ratios with 3.89:1 and 4.11:1 gears.
I haven’t seen figures on the “Daytona” equipped cars for 1964, but the numbers were limited. The “Daytona” options were also available in 1965, but again production figures are cloudy.
Even if you did not order the special Daytona options, the 289-225 horsepower engine could be ordered from the factory. So, you see what I mean by thoroughbred, or at least stellar performance. I am impressed!
I know I just scratched the surface on the Comet models. I didn’t even mention the later models. You’ll probably hear some more from me on this subject.
<Sources—Compete Book of Collectible Cars 1940-1980, Consumers Guide; Ford Buyer’s Guide–10/89.>