1966 Mercury Comet Caliente
2dr Hardtop Coupe
6-cyl. 200cid/120hp 1bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
The 1966 Comet really came into its own, with an all-new body on a two inch longer (116 total) wheelbase, new trim, and beautiful styling which was especially fetching in 2 door hardtop and convertible form. It could be had as a Comet Caliente, Comet Cyclone or Comet Cyclone GT. The car had finally matured into a properly mid-sized vehicle after starting out life as a compact and gradually moving up in size since 1960.
The other major news for 1966 was the addition of the big Ford FE block 390 V-8, with 265 hp standard on the Comet Cyclone GT. Two additional power upgrades were available at extra cost; 275 hp (automatic transmission only) and 335 hp. Cyclone’s major competition was Pontiac’s GTO, which offered up to 360 hp. Even so, the car was considered hot enough for a brightred Comet Cyclone GT convertible to pace the 1966 Indy 500.
The modest Comet 202 line could still be had in two-door sedan, four-door sedan and Voyager four-door wagon, and the new, slightly upscale Comet Capri line could be had in the same body styles. The Caliente was still available as an upper trim level line including a four-door sedan, as well as the aforementioned two-door hardtop and convertible.
For the family cars, a 200 cubic inch six of 120 hp was standard. The 289 V-8 of 200 hp was optional, except on the Cyclone where it was standard. In competition, the new 390 engine helped bring a lot of attention to Mercury with everything from street racing by civilians all the way up to the ELIMINATOR 1 funny car run by Don Nicholson. As for styling, the vertically placed dual headlamps which had debuted in 1965 made a return for 1966. Five circular instruments with a larger central speedometer were utilized.
The sporty Caliente two-door hardtop made a good family man’s alternative to the Mustang, being priced from only $2,475 (only $59 above the lowest priced Mustang coupe). Base price of the basic but comfortable 202 2 door sedan was only $2,206, ranging all the way up to the highest list price for the cars of $3,152 for the Cyclone GT convertible.
For 1967, a new instrument panel and new padded steering wheel center were the biggest changes to the car itself, with a new grille and trim changes seen outside. Under the hood, the 390 was now down to two versions; 270 hp (now optional on any Comet) and 320 hp (now standard on the Cyclone GT). Two super-high-performance Ford FE block 427 cubic inch V-8 engines were optional on two-door cars, rated at 410 and 425 hp. Needless to say, the addition of the 427 engines were a bid by Ford Motor Company to slap down the GM competition such as the Chevelle SS 396 and Pontiac GTO, which were limited to 400 cubic inches by GM corporate decree in this time.
The all-new 1967 Cougar, based on a stretched Mustang, stole a lot of Cyclone thunder in 1967, but this didn’t keep Don Nicholson from using the Cyclone as the basis of his new ELIMINATOR II funny car, with which he was able to hit 180 mph in the quarter mile. The hotter 425 hp factory 427 V-8 was apparently ordered new in a handful of 202 two-door sedans, and could do 0-60 in 6 seconds, the quarter mile at 14.3 seconds at 102 mph.
Alas, after 1967, the Comet name was virtually pushed aside and only sold for two more years as the entry-level 2 door hardtop “loss leader” on the newly renamed and totally restyled Montego line, which also saw Cyclone gain a fastback roofline and become its own separate sporty line in competition with the Dodge Charger, in time for the Charger to lose its fastback roofline. From a collecting standpoint, the best of the Comets are indeed the 1966 and 1967 cars, and genuine 427 examples command a significant premium.