Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

1964-1965 Mercury Comet

        Auto | Mercury

1964-1965 Mercury Comet Promotion

Mercury wanted to make headlines with the durability of its big little car. In late September 1963, five early production Caliente hardtops built at the Metuch­en, New Jersey, assembly plant were prepared for a record-breaking en­dur­ance run at Daytona International Speed­­way in Florida. Each car was nearly identical except for color, with the 271-bhp 289 V-8, three-speed transmission, and hand-selected 2.70:1 rear axles.

1964-1965 Mercury Comet
©2007 Publications International, Ltd
Mercury Comet was prepared for a record breaking endurance run at Daytona International Speedway.

A team of nearly 20 drivers and 40 support crew members accompanied the cars to the track, where for 42 days, 24 hours around the clock, the cars racked up 100,000 miles. Average speed-including required maintenance, fuel stops, driver changes, and other repairs-exceeded 105 mph, with top speeds often going close to the 120-mph mark.

During the run, only one of the four cars suffered a problem big enough to pull it out of the trials when a rocker-arm spring crystalized and snapped. After six weeks of constant driving, the rest of the Comets drove the entire distance with nothing more serious than the need of a tune-up and oil changes.

Comets undertook another test the following March by running the East African Safari rallye. Incomplete Caliente hardtops from the Los Angeles plant were delivered to the Long Beach, California, shops of longtime Mercury magician Bill Stroppe. There, 271-bhp engines, four-speed transmissions, 4.57:1 axles, and special lighting and safety equipment were fitted.

Wearing a distinctive blue, white, and orange paint scheme, half of the cars were prepared to practice and check out the route with the other half prepared for the event itself. This was no Sunday drive, but a grueling event in which the cars were punished beyond most people's imagination. Of the five Comets entered, only two finished, placing 18th and 21st of the 21 cars to make it to the end. However, 94 cars had started the rallye, so just getting to the end of the course was commendable.

Also during the 1964 season, Mercury sanctioned a run of Comet drag racers to compete in the National Hot Rod Asso­ciation's B/FX and A/FX classifications. Again, these cars were sent from the factory with no engines installed-even the engine space in the VIN was left blank. Under the twin-scoop hoods of the A/FX cars was a highly modified 427-cid V-8 similar to that found in the racing Fair­lane Thunderbolts.

One of the most successful drivers in the sport, Don Nicholson, posted a better-than-90-percent win ratio in his A/FX Comet. Other legends such as Ronnie Sox and Gary Dryer were among those who campaigned the cars on the quarter-mile.

1964-1965 Mercury Comet
©2007 Publications International, Ltd
Comet production rose 41 percent from 1963.

Whether it was due to new styling and engines, a proven reputation for durability, or triumphant 11-second passes on drag strips, Comet production jumped. With 189,936 built, model-year output rose by 41 percent from 1963. It was the Comet's best showing in three years.

A major sheetmetal facelift was implemented for the 1965 Comets. On one hand, the new look reduced the Comet's family resemblance to other Lincoln-Mercury products. On the other hand, it previewed the theme selected for the 1966-1967 Comets that were in the works. While station wagon dimensions stood pat, the length of all other models grew incrementally to 195.3 inches and width puffed out to 72.9, a gain of 1.5 inches.

Read about the updates to the 1964-1965 Mercury Comet on the next page.

For more information on cars, see: