By mid decade, the 1964-1965 Mercury Comet had power and plushness added to it in an obvious bid to appeal to customers eyeing the bigger jobs. Even though the Comet had one of the largest compacts on the U.S. market in the early Sixties, a new class of cars -- the intermediates -- began to take root.

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1964 Mercury Comet convertible
©2007 Publications International, Ltd
Fully restyled for 1964, Comet added a plush new Caliente series that included a $2636 convertible. See more classic car pictures.

Fragmented as the modern automotive market may be with all sorts vehicle types vying to carve out their niches, the midsize family sedan remains the key player in the passenger-car field. Americans began turning to these so-called intermediates in the Sixties.

Within a decade or so, they became the leading class of car in terms of sales and, even though things like pickups, sport-utilities, and minivans have eroded the passenger car's dominance, manufacturers still know that a successful midsizer is critical to their viability.

In 1964, when the intermediate class was beginning to get its footing in the mar­ketplace, Mercury found itself in a tight spot. It had already tried -- and failed -- ­with a midsize car, the 1962-1963 Meteor.

In typical Ford Motor Com­pany practice, the Meteor was a pricier adaptation of a concurrent Ford model, in this case the Fairlane, which came out in 1962 to fill the size and price gap between the compact Falcon and the "standard" Ford Galaxie. However, while more than 640,000 Fairlanes rolled off the assembly lines in the car's first two model years, total Meteor production didn't quite hit 120,000. Second-year output declined by 26.5 percent from the 1962 tally and the Meteor fell out of orbit.

As a result, Mercury entered 1964 with a lineup cut back to two types of cars, the full-size Monterey/Montclair/Park Lane models and the compact Comet. Marginally longer and a bit wider for 1964, Comet got boosts in luxury and performance, too, which raises a question: Was Mercury trying to make its compact cover the gap left by its erstwhile intermediate?

The Comet had a strong underbody kinship to the Falcon, but at the same time, the small Merc stretched the bound­­aries of the compact-car concept. Ori­ginally planned as an Edsel before that short-lived marque gave up the ghost, the first Comets appeared in March 1960 in sedan and station wagon styles.

Wagons had the same 109.5-inch wheelbase as Fal­­cons to facilitate body sharing, but Comet two- and four-door sedans spanned 114 inches between their wheel centers at a time when all others in the new breed of domestic compacts had wheelbases shorter than 110 inches, save for the 113-inch Studebaker Lark wagons.

1965 Mercury Comet wagon­
©2007 Publications International, Ltd
Wagons retained a 109.5-inch wheelbase that was 4.5 inches shorter than that on other Comets. Faux wood side trim and a standard power-operated rear window distinguished the Villager.

­ Actually, the Comet was the first of a group of "senior" compacts. These bigger compacts mostly bore nameplates asso­ciated with the medium-price field, such as the Pontiac Tempest, Oldsmobile F-85, and Buick Spe­cial, all released in 1961.

Rambler joined in for 1963 when it gave its totally redesigned Classic a four-inch-longer wheelbase, and between 1961 and 1963, Studebaker put Lark four-door sedans on the same span found under the wagons.

Read more about the new competition for the 1964-1965 Mercury Comet on the next page.

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