SMOOTH RUNNING STRAIGHT 6, RESTORED TO ORIGINAL CONDITION, NICE EARLY COMET
The Ford Falcon's more sophisticated cousin was the Mercury Comet, and this 1961 2-door sedan offers a neat alternative to the blue oval machines that were so popular in the early '60s. With a subtle color combination, a remarkably handsome interior, and a thrifty drivetrain, it's a hobby car you can enjoy without guilt.
The idea of the economy car isn't a new one, and even upscale Mercury was getting in on the act with the Comet. It offers styling cues taken from the full-sized machines sitting next to it in the showroom, but thanks to compact proportions, it was easy to drive and reasonably peppy even with its gas-sipping inline-six engine. This one shows straight sheetmetal thanks to a lifetime in the south, and while the code M Sultana White paint job is subtle, this one gets all its attention simply by being unusual. Dramatically carved sheetmetal topped by tiny fins that were the '50s last gasp give it a lot of visual interest and are actually helped by the low-key paint. Chrome and trim are quite good, and even on the budget-oriented Comet, there's quite a bit of it, including some rather massive-looking bumpers, a simple grille that should look familiar to Ford fans, and that stainless strip that outlines the car's profile and accentuates the kick-up behind the doors. This is a small car that looks big, which was entirely the point.
The jewel in this Comet's crown has to be the beautifully reupholstered interior. For an affordable car at this price, you wouldn't expect it to be this nice, but they spent good money re-creating a period look with comfortable black cloth and white vinyl. Two-tone door panels are remarkably stylish for a basic car, with only the armrest showing its age after nearly 50 years of elbows resting on it. The instrument panel is a piece of '60s sculpture in bright metal and clear plastic, and offers both a temperature and a fuel level gauge in addition to the speedometer, all of which are in original condition and showing their age. There's a 3-speed manual transmission with column shift, but there are no options on this basic Merc: no radio, no power assists, no extras. However, you do get clean carpets, a taut headliner, and excellent use of colors give it a bright, airy feel inside, so it certainly doesn't feel like Mercury's lowest-priced car that year. Even the trunk is nicely finished and comes complete with a correct mat and a full-sized spare with matching cover.
Code S means this car carries Ford's trusty 144 cubic inch inline-six fits neatly with the Comet's economy-based mission. But in the small car, it's reasonably peppy at the same time, with a suitably vintage grumble from the single exhaust system. Bright yellow on the valve cover and air cleaner works well with the basic black on the engine itself, making the machinery stand out against the white engine bay. Given the condition of the car, it should be no surprise that the engine bay is equally well-preserved with plenty of evidence of proper maintenance over the years. It starts easily and using a 3-speed manual transmission, pulls the car around with aplomb and pulls down remarkable fuel economy that's a boon to hobbyists today. The gas tank is relatively new, and original steel wheels wear a set of dog-dish hubcaps and recent 185/70/13 blackwall radials.
Unusual yet eminently practical for today's times, this Comet is a great entry-level hobby car that won't cost you much now or on the road. Call today!
- Cloth Interior
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