From the outset, the 1966 Mercury Comet lineup strove to distinguish the car from the Falcon via a longer wheelbase for coupes and sedans and more "important" styling that included quad headlights. After Mercury's first stab at a true intermediate -- the 1962-1963 Meteor -- quickly faded, Comets that were longer, wider, and roomier than before attempted to fill the role in 1964-1965.
They were still very much "senior compacts," however. That's not true of the 1966 Mercury Comet lineup. Finally, in 1966, the Comet stopped being a compact and grew up into a genuine intermediate.
In 1966, the Mercury Comet (shown as a Cyclone GT)
moved up into the crucial new intermediate class.
Now, instead of sharing bodies and mechanical parts designed for the compact Falcon, the Comet stood on the same unitized platform as the intermediate 1966 Ford Fairlane. In fact, it was now the Falcon that was the spin-off car, built on a shorter version of the Fairlane/Comet structure.
Both cars were new from the ground up that year, and upsizing made a lot of sense. The Comet now competed directly with GM's A-Body intermediates (Chevrolet Chevelle, Pontiac Tempest/LeMans, Oldsmobile F-85/Cutlass, Buick Special/Sky Lark) as well as the Plymouth Belvedere, Dodge Coronet, and Rambler Classic.
Not only did this put the Comet into an increasingly popular size class, but it gave the line better ammunition to do battle in the mid-Sixties horsepower wars. Now, suddenly, the 1966 Comet became available with 390 cubic inches, whereas before, the Comet's biggest engine had been Ford's small-block 289-cubic-inch V-8. Maximum horsepower went from 225 with the hottest 289 to 335 horsepower with the top 390 in the 1966 Cyclone GT. And weight increased a mere 321 pounds between 1965 Cyclone and 1966 GT hardtops.
The 1966 Comet line came in four series: 202, Capri, Caliente, and Cyclone. There were also two 1966 Comet station wagons: Voyager and Villager. The base 202 series was available in two- and four-door sedan body styles only. The 202 series cars stood 7.1 inches shorter than other Comets due to their shorter rear decks. The 202's overall length was 195.9 inches, and its trunk capacity was 15 cubic feet versus 17 in the Capri, Caliente, and Cyclone. Still, in 1966, the unassuming, ever-durable 202 was the Comet's best-selling line.
The 1966 Caliente served as the Comet's luxury model.
Next up the ladder came the Capri, available as a four-door sedan or a two-door hardtop coupe. The Capri, which took the place of what had been the 404 series in 1964-1965, offered a lot of little standard touches, like bright wheel-lip and rocker moldings, a deluxe steering wheel, all-vinyl or vinyl-with-cloth upholstery, and a locking glovebox.
The Caliente served as the 1966 Comet's luxury series. Standard equipment included simulated woodgrain interior trim, loop-pile carpeting, deluxe armrests with courtesy lights and paddle-type handles, lighted heater/defroster controls, plus full instrumentation and remote driver's-side mirror. The Caliente series included a convertible as well as a sedan and hardtop. Mercury built its millionth Comet in 1966, a four-door Caliente.
On the next page, find out about the 1966 Mercury Comet powertrain, which gave the car some va-va-voom.
For more information on different types of cars, see: