Major changes were on tap for the 1962 Mercury Comet, starting with the fact that the Comet became a full-fledged member of the Mercury family. (Since its introduction it had accounted for more than 50 percent of sales in Mercury dealerships.) This involved the application of Mercury badging on the cars, inclusion in all company advertising, and the integration of Comets into Mercury's serial number system.
The 1962 Mercury Comet was a best-seller
in the Mercury lineup.
From the Comet's inception, unit sequencing of vehicle identification numbers started at 800,001 each year at each assembly plant, while Mercurys started at 500,001. Starting with 1962 production, Comets also begin numbering cars at 500,001.
Mercury's full embrace of the Comet was just part of the brand's growth spurt. Also new to the line in 1962 was the Meteor, which was Mercury's version of the Ford Fairlane, first of a new class of "intermediates" that would come to prominence during the 1960s. The Fairlane and 116.5-inch-wheelbase Meteor were built on enlarged versions of the Falcon/Comet platform.
There were some major detail alterations to the 1962 Comet, most notably to the rear-end styling of sedans. Gone were the canted "cat's-eye" taillights and sloped deck lid. In their place were round taillights in a full-width bright aluminum panel that raised the trunk height. Most two- and four-door sedans had two taillights per side, but S-22s sported triple-lamp clusters of two red lights separated by a white back-up light.
Canted tailfins remained, but they were lower and squarer in profile. Practical benefits of the redesigned rear were a wider trunk opening and some added cargo space. Station wagons got new chrome taillight bezels that accommodated twin round lamps.
Up front, an "electric shaver" grille texture lent more of a Mercury family resemblance to the Comet. The side trim on sedans that formerly followed the edge of the tall fins now skirted the upper portion of the bodyside cove, ending in a harpoonlike point at the rear of the car. The Comet shooting-star badge was moved down to the base of the C-pillar of sedan models. (This freed up space to relocate the S-22's identifying medallion to the roof sail panel.)
The basic dashboard design remained unchanged from the previous two seasons, but the instrument cluster was redesigned. This resulted in improved visibility of the speedometer, fuel, and temperature gauges, while still providing warning lights for oil pressure and electrical charging.
The Comet marketing scheme now encompassed base models and Customs. The latter effectively turned the Fashion Decor Group option into a trim level. Customs sported the bright surround for window frames, full wheel covers, and a wider array of conveniences and interior trim selections with vinyl and "jewel-sheen" cloth inserts. A small fender tag identified Customs, which sold for $87 more than their standard counterparts.
In December 1961, another Comet was added in the form of a four-door station wagon dressed up in imitation wood trim and marketed under a former Edsel wagon name, Villager. Rich mahogany decals on the bodysides and tailgate were framed with fiberglass railings covered in appliqués that simulated the look of light ash. Chrome block letters spelled out Mercury across the tailgate. An electrically operated rear window was standard, and buyers could opt for the S-22's vinyl bucket seats and storage console.
Little had changed under the hood, where the 144-cid six was still the base engine for all Comets. However, at a rate of about 3-to-1, most customers seemed willing to pay the $45 extra it took to get the 170-cube engine. Nearly 65 percent of 1962 Comets came equipped with the two-speed automatic transmission. Motor Trend reported that an S-22 with the larger six and automatic could go from zero to 60 mph in a leisurely 22.2 seconds, while averaging 16.2 mpg in a 1,000-mile test.
A four-speed gearbox supplied from the Ford of England factory in Dagenham was added to the options list in March. Though fewer than 500 customers chose the four-speed, it demonstrated how Mercury was determined to keep a sporty feel in the Comet. After all, Dodge had added a bucket-seat Lancer GT for 1962, and the General Motors trio was available with a small V-8 (including a new turbo-charged Oldsmobile F-85 Jetfire hardtop) and four-on-the-floor.
Despite the freshened styling and broader model lineup, Comet sales were down. Starting prices had remained almost static from 1960 to 1961, but the tab for 1962 models jumped by $86 (except for the S-22, which rose by $84.)
Then, too, there was new competition from the intermediates to tempt buyers in the market for smaller cars -- though the Meteor wasn't exactly hitting a home run. Model-year production of Comets came to 165,305 units, a drop of about 16 percent from 1961.
Yet even with these lower numbers, Comet remained Mercury's star performer. Against 107,009 full-sized Montereys and 69,052 Meteors, the compacts accounted for almost half of Mercury's record 341,366-car output.
Plus, while competitors were making inroads, they all continued to trail Comet. Here it was late summer 1962, and Ben Mills had turned Mercury's red ink black a year earlier than had been projected. He had the little Comet to thank for much of that.
To follow the Mercury Comet's evolution into the 1963 model year, see the next page.
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