1961 Mercury Comet
6-cyl. 144cid/85hp 1bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
The compact Mercury Comet was launched in March 1960, spun off the Ford Falcon and intended to serve as an entry-level, compact Edsel. In fact, the Comet’s team had previously been working on the Edsel. Of course, the Edsel met an early demise and the Comet quickly shifted to fill the same slot within the Mercury brand. The Comet was an immediate success, selling more than 100,000 units in its first year and outselling the rest of the Mercury line.
The Comet shared many mechanical parts with the Falcon, most obviously in the station wagon, but the rear fenders were quite different with 45-degree canted taillights, and the front fenders and grill were unique. Power came from the lightweight 144-cid, 90-hp straight six-cylinder engine and the base transmission was a three-speed manual, with Ford-O-Matic optional. The Comet carried up-level interior trim and more carpet when compared to the Falcon, and cost almost $100 more than the Ford.
For 1961, the Comet received a new grille, but Ford otherwise let it ride. Sales climbed to 185,000 and a sporty S-22 line was added. It was cosmetically upgraded, with bucket seats and additional trim, and 14,000 found buyers.
In 1962, the Comet was officially branded as a Mercury, but sales dipped to 165,000, as dealers pirated sales with the bigger, low-priced Meteor. Designers offed the tailfin lights, and a wood-side applique Villager wagon was offered, with the S-22’s bucket seats as an option. A Comet Custom line was added, and the S-22 became the Comet Special, with six taillights. It offered a four-speed option mid-year, but was still mostly a trim package. A larger, 101-hp, 170-cid six-cylinder engine was optional.
Finally, the Comet offered a convertible in 1963, in both the Custom and S-22 Special lines, and both had a power-operated top. The base and Custom lines had four taillights and the Special still had six. Most importantly, the line received its first V-8, which was a 164-hp mill that displaced 260 cid. Few other changes were made, as Mercury prepared the model for a complete redesign in 1964.
Mercury Comets are fairly basic as far was 1960s motoring goes, which means they are cheap to buy (except perhaps the convertible) and cheap to run. They don’t have the same following that the Ford Falcon does, but they still stand out on the road and are an easy entry point to the hobby.