1960-1963 Mercury Comet

Perhaps it was just a coincidence of timing, but then again maybe the Lincoln-Mercury Division of Ford Motor Company was hoping some "luck of the Irish" would rub off on it when it introduced its first compact car -- the 1960 Mercury Comet -- on St. Patrick's Day, 1960.

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The 1962 Mercury Comet Custom 4-door wagon cost $2,526.
A 1962 Mercury Comet Custom 4-door wagon cost $2,526.
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There was quite a bit of apprehension about new products in Dearborn, especially at Lincoln-Mercury; after all, the division was still licking its wounds and cleaning up the mess left by the Edsel, which had been discontinued the preceding November.

Then, too, there had also been some major changes in leadership within the company, all while trying to turn a profit with some rather outlandishly styled Mercurys and Lincolns that were struggling in the market.

To get a better understanding of where the Lincoln-Mercury Division was situated in early 1960, one has to look back to the mid 1950s. A decade removed from the end of World War II, America was the world's industrial leader, including a booming automotive segment.

Meanwhile, the devastated industrial strength of Europe was being restored in the post-war boom. European automakers were exporting a growing array of vehicles from powerful sports cars to small, frugal "economy cars" quite different from the large, flashy, and powerful jobs coming from U.S. factories.

Ever since taking up the reins to his grandfather's company, Henry Ford II had been aiming the family business to compete directly with market leader General Motors. In 1955, Ford subdivided itself into five different automotive divisions, much like GM.

Under a plan created by Francis C. "Jack" Reith and supported by Lewis D. Crusoe, Ford vice president of car and truck operations, there were to be distinct divisions for Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln, plus a new Continental Division and a Special Products group that would give rise to the Edsel.

As a reward for his great idea, Reith, a member of the "Whiz Kids" management team that Henry Ford II hired right after the war, was given the Mercury Division to run. He immediately went to work to make the brand as unique as possible. A totally new Mercury was produced for 1957 with futuristic styling.

However, Reith's plan soon started to crumble. For starters, in July 1956, the Continental Division -- maker of the low-volume ultraluxury Continental Mark II -- was absorbed by the Lincoln Division. Then, amid flagging sales of the all-new Mercury, the final blow for Reith came in late August 1957, when Mercury was reunited with Lincoln in a single division. Reith was out of a job, as was Ben Mills, who had headed up Lincoln; both were replaced by James J. Nance, late of struggling Studebaker-Packard.

Within days of the Lincoln-Mercury remarriage, Edsel hit the market. Despite great fanfare, its sales were instantly disappointing, and by the middle of January 1958, ailing Edsel had also been incorporated into the Lincoln-Mercury operation. The result was the Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln Division.

During the "Eisenhower Recession" that started in late 1957 and ran well into 1958, one of the few automotive success stories was the sales gain of imported cars. While the 1958 model year would see overall domestic production drop by more than 30 percent from the previous year, import sales experienced a 66 percent increase. (Some of the imports were British and German Fords sold by Ford Motor Company dealers.)

In late 1957, Ford had begun work on a new small domestically produced car, but now it was full steam ahead. When word got out that the Falcon was on the horizon, Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln dealers began clamoring for something like it of their own to sell.

By early winter 1958, it was determined that a compact could indeed bolster ailing Mercury sales. But would it fly? With some already starting to read the writing on the wall that the Edsel was not fitting in with medium-priced cars, its marketing aims were revamped. For 1959, Edsel was touted as being "just above the low-priced three." With this new angle of upscale economy, it seemed logical to give Edsel a Falcon spinoff.

Another unexpected turn of events took place in August 1958. Ben Mills, another of the original Whiz Kids, had been repositioned as Nance's right-hand man following the Lincoln-Mercury reunification. Now, he was summoned to the office of Henry Ford II, where he met with top executives Ernest Breech and Roberts S. McNamara, and asked for his thoughts about the progress of the Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln Division.

After a frank conversation, a quick decision was made: Nance was gone and Mills was offered the position to try and make this burdened group of automobiles a profitable concern.

Mills knew that there was plenty wrong that needed to be corrected and that it had not happened overnight. He asked for five years to get everything back in order and for the division to start turning a profit. Understanding his point of view, Henry Ford II, Breech, and McNamara granted his request and offered him plenty of assistance, including new products and marketing directions.

Continue on to the next page to learn more about the Mercury Comet's styling.

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Comet's Styling

By fall 1958, basic engineering of the Mercury Comet had already been set with the Falcon project. Things were kept simple with just four basic models: two- and four-door sedans, plus two- and four-door station wagons.

While all Falcons were mounted on a 109.5-inch wheelbase, the "Edsel B" chassis was stretched out to 114 inches for the sedans. This translated into a bit more room for rear-seat passengers and more trunk space. As a cost-cutting measure, it was decided that the small Edsel wagons would share bodies with the Falcons, which kept their wheelbase at 109.5 inches.

For financial reasons, it was deemed necessary to make the outside of the Edsel compact as different as possible from that of the Falcon, yet not be so radical as to turn off potential customers. I.B. "Bud" Kaufman was tapped to head the team that would style the small Edsel.

As with any automotive project, dozens of proposals, styling ideas, and even a bit of fanta­sy made it as far as the mock-up stage. However, when it came time for approval for production, the final product was quite tame. It did have a couple of inspirational flairs applied, just a little something to tie it to the full-size Edsel.

Conservative, but attractive, front end styling greeted those who saw the Mercury Comet. Though a small-scale variation of the infamous Edsel "horse-collar" grille was proposed early in the design process, it was ultimately rejected.

Instead, a simple stamped-aluminum grille featured a horizontal center bar that divided dozens of fine vertical bars that ran the width of the car. The grille also housed quad 5.75-inch-diameter headlights, which provided a little more of a "big-car" look than the two seven-inch lamps found on the front of the Falcon.

Topping off each front fender was a targetlike ornament. (Some styling and development photos show this feature filled with a letter "E" like the ornaments on 1959 and 1960 Edsels.)

Comet's profile was quite stylish for the day. Only after careful comparison could most people pick out that the front doors and forward portion of the greenhouse were shared with Falcon, while other touches were unique. A stainless spear ran the length of the high upper-body character line.

On sedans, this bright molding kicked up just before it got as far back as the C-pillar, then continued to run along the top of the rising tail fins. Sheetmetal in the sedan rear-quarter panels was stamped with a C-shaped accent scallop.

One of the most dramatic features that set the Comet apart from its Falcon cousin was its roofline. Instead of the Falcon's narrow, tapered C-pillars and wraparound backlight, Comets employed wide sail panels and a nearly flat rear window. This look was first seen in 1957 on the Ford Skyliner retractable hardtop, and adopted for the Thunderbird in 1958 and Ford Galaxie in 1959.

It allowed a bit more privacy for rear-seat passengers and gave the car a touch of elegance. In a memoir in the June 1999 issue of Collectible Automobile®, Edsel stylist Robin Jones wrote that late in the process, product planner Dick Kimball "decided there was money enough to replace the Falcon roof with a new Thunderbird-like roof [on the Comet]."

The most dramatic view of the new car was reserved for the rear. Here, 1960 Edsel influence was seen in elliptical taillights like those on full-sized coupes and sedans, but canted to follow the angle of the compact's fins. Between the fins, a sloping deck encompassed a hatch-style trunk lid. Chrome-plated diecast block letters spelled out the word "Comet" along the lower valance panel.

Station wagon styling was a relative snap considering it amounted to a Comet front clip on a Falcon body shell. In back, D-shaped taillights replaced the little Ford's circular lamps, and a pair of chrome strips on the tailgate served as a link between the taillight bezels on either end. Between these bright strips, free-standing block letters spelled out the car's name.

Interior detailing was a step above the low-priced compacts. Durable vinyl bolsters with nylon-based cloth inserts covered the seats. The dashboard featured an instrument cluster with an Edsel-inspired die-cast housing for the speedometer, fuel, and temperature gauges, and oil and electrical warning lights.

A close look found Edsel-derived parts inside and out the new compact. The parking/turn-signal lights in the front bumper were from the 1959 Edsel. So were the control knobs for wipers, lights, air vents, and radio. In addition to the taillights, Comet sedans also cribbed their simple trunk lock from the 1960 Edsel parts bin.

Naming the new Mercury Comet required some care. It was the start of the "Space Age," and attentions had been directed skyward. Since 1949, Ford of Canada had shown great success with its Meteor line, and already in the wings was Ford's upscale Galaxie series.

Keeping with the celestial theme, it was decided to name the junior Edsel after something small and fast in the heavens, and Comet seemed like the perfect label. There was only one small problem: The name was already being used by a well-established builder of hearses and ambulances.

Money talks, though, and Ford was willing to spend a few dollars to get the Comet name. According to one tale, the representative who negotiated the deal was able to come to an agreement over lunch by telling both partners that their last names would look great on the front of their business, and, supposedly, a coin flip determined who got top billing. In fall 1959, Comet Coach Company announced it would now be known as Cotner-Bevington.

Now that Ford had settled on a design and a name, all that was left was to see how the public would react to this new car. For more on the introduction of the Mercury Comet, see the next page.

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Comet's Introduction

So as to not steal any thunder from the Ford Falcon, which was unveiled on October 3, 1959, it was decided that the introduction of the Mercury Comet would be late in the following winter.

The 1960 Comet was popular from its introduction.
The 1960 Comet was popular from its introduction.

Perhaps those in charge of the product remembered the poor initial quality of the Edsel, but a delayed release would allow production glitches to be ironed out. By mid November, Falcon was flying high, on both the production and sales fronts. Everything seemed to be going just as planned.

Then came a snag. On November 19, Ford Motor Company announced the discontinuation of the Edsel. The Comet was spared, however, and it was not going to be delayed. With production less than 50 days away, some tooling, chrome scripts, and other nomenclature had to be reworked in a hurry.

All references to the car being an Edsel in advertising, catalogs, service manuals, parts books, and all other marque-specific materials had to be changed quickly. Lincoln-Mercury dealers who had taken on an Edsel franchise were even sent a memo that instructed them how to convert their electric signs that read E-D-S-E-L to proclaim C-O-M-E-T.

The effort worked. Assembly began at the new Lorain, Ohio, plant in mid-February 1960. By the end of the month, just 2,240 units been produced, which allowed most dealers the chance at no more than one or two examples of the new compact.

Then came March 17, and Lincoln-Mercury showrooms around the country were ready to welcome the little Comet. While the crowds might not have been five or six rows deep everywhere, there was still a good turnout considering that in many parts of the country this was still deep winter.

Initial public reaction seemed to be in favor of the Comet's size, styling, price, and economy. For the time being, though, the Comet shared neither of the brand names of its showroom mates. Like Chrysler Corporation's new Valiant compact, it stood alone.

While the Falcon quickly established itself as the popular choice in the compact field for the low-priced three, the Comet got an effective head start on what by 1961 would become a contested field of medium-priced "senior" compacts. Base prices ranged from $1,998 for the two-door sedan up to $2,365 for the four-door station wagon, or $78 to $86 more than corresponding Falcons.

Comets came in a choice of 11 "Super Enamel" exterior paint colors. (Two-tones with contrasting paint on the roof were optional.) There were four interior-trim colors for sedans and two for station wagons, all with color-keyed rubber floor mats.

A Fashion Decor Group option included exterior touches such as bright-metal surrounds for the door window frames, bright drip-rail moldings, and full wheel covers; the package's interior upgrades on sedans featured four additional color selections and richer seat coverings, while wagon buyers got a choice of two different colors plus color-keyed loop-pile nylon carpeting.

The Comet's powertrain was identical to the Falcon's. The engine was an inline six with a new thin-wall casting method. This lightweight powerplant employed a 3.5-inch bore and a 2.5-inch stroke for 144 cid. It developed 90 bhp at 4,200 rpm and 138 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm. Sipping fuel through a single-barrel carburetor, rates of around 30 mpg had been reported. A manual-shift three-speed transmission was standard, with a two-speed automatic available at extra cost.

One apparent problem with the new six was a high rate of oil consumption. Some owners found the need of two or three added quarts between recommended 4,000-mile changes. The Lincoln-Mercury Division tried to explain this away with a service bulletin that recalled how, just a few years before, oil changes were recommended at every 1,000 miles, so it wasn't unusual to go that far without having to add lubricant. With the new longer service intervals, it was the factory's contention that an added quart for every 750 miles was not out of line.

As with the Falcon, unitized body construction was one of the Comet's strongest points. Each body was dipped in a zinc coating to resist rust. To save both cost and weight, simple hood hinges were used, which meant that a support rod was used to keep the hood open for servicing. This proved to be the source of a rattle from under the hood of early Comets; after some research, it was determined that the clip that held the rod when stowed needed minor reworking, a task easily accomplished with a file.

Up front, a ball-joint suspension and a recirculating ball-and-nut system controlled the steering, while road imperfections were taken up by shock absorbers mounted to integral shock towers and A-arms. Coil springs wrapped around the shocks.

At the rear, alloy-steel semielliptic leaf springs and hydraulic shock absorbers were used. Sedans rolled on 6.00X13 tires, but wagons rode 6.50X13s. Standard tires were blackwalls; whitewalls were available at extra cost.

The motoring press thought the Comet was a pretty slick product, though, as in the April 1960 issue of Motor Life, it was more than apparent that journalists could see the Falcon heritage hidden just below the sheetmetal. Motor Life's test figures showed acceleration wasn't going to break any records with 0-30-mph times of seven seconds, 14.2 to 45 mph, and 60 arriving in 27.5 seconds.

The 160-pound-lighter Falcon reached 60 mph in 17.2 seconds, and Comet was slower than several other domestic compacts, including the Valiant at 16.7, Chevrolet's Corvair at 18.2, and the Studebaker Lark at 20 seconds flat. However, in comfort and cost of operation, it scored rather well. Motor Life averaged 21 to 23 mpg in both city and open-road driving.

By the end of its first season, which was only about half of a full model year, Comet was deemed a success with 116,331 units produced, an outstanding feat for an all-new automobile. By early August, Ford's assembly plant in Kansas City, Missouri, was tooled up to start producing Comets, and, according to industry records, a total of five cars were assembled at the San Jose, California, plant -- though it is believed these were probably pilot models for the 1961 model year. There was still a lot of red ink to get rid of, but things were starting to look up at Lincoln-Mercury.

See the next page to learn more about the 1961 Mercury Comet.

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1961 Mercury Comet

On the heels of the Comet's successful launch, there was little to do to get the 1961 Mercury Comet ready for market. The most significant appearance change involved the grille, which gave up its twin rows of concave bars for a flatter array of elongated diamond-shaped segments.

The 1961 Mercury Comet offered several performance improvements.
The 1961 Mercury Comet offered several
performance improvements.

Three chrome-plated ornaments replaced the series script on each front fender; Comet nameplates were relocated to the rear-quarter panels. On sedans, new "shooting star" ornaments were affixed to the C-pillars, deck lids sported a more ornate escutcheon with a stylized letter "C" (that more than one observer has stated looked like a reworked "E"), and a full-width stainless-steel panel bearing the name Comet below the deck lid took over from the individual letters of the 1960 models.

If the outside of the Comet wasn't changed much, the same didn't hold true under the hood. There was now an alternative to the standard 144-cid "Thrift Power Six," the "Thrift Power 170." Thanks to a longer 2.94-inch stroke, the new engine displaced 170 cubic inches and developed 101 bhp. The division claimed the optional powerplant provided an 11-percent improvement in highway-passing speed and acceleration on hills that was 22 percent better.

Several new options were also offered including dealer-installed Polar-Aire air conditioning. Available only with the larger engine, it was quite a power robber and it wasn't cheap; at $270, it cost 13.5 percent of the base price of a two-door sedan.

Comet needed some new tricks for 1961 because it wasn't alone in the medium-price compact field any longer. In fact, the market was suddenly quite crowded. General Motors made a three-pronged assault with the related Pontiac Tempest, Oldsmobile F-85, and Buick Special. Chrysler decided the Valiant was now a Plymouth and, to keep the corporate peace, cooked up a slightly more expensive spinoff of it for Dodge, dubbed the Lancer. Meanwhile, Studebaker added a larger Cruiser four-door sedan (built on a 113-inch wheelbase previously used only for station wagons) to its Lark VIII line.

Compared to these new rivals, the Comet was narrower than all of them, and its base engine had the smallest displacement and least horsepower. (Even the Tempest's standard four was larger and more powerful.) However, Lincoln-Mercury's compact had the longest wheelbase in the field -- from one to 7.5 inches more -- and was substantially longer overall. Price-wise, the Comet was undercut only by the Lancer, and then just barely at that.

The Comet also proved itself ready to keep current with new trends in the compact market. Chevrolet's Corvair Monza, a mid-1960 introduction, showed there was interest in sporty small cars. When the Tempest, F-85, and Special followed suit during 1961 with flashy bucket-seat coupes (the LeMans, Cutlass, and Skylark, respectively), Ford matched them stride for stride with the Falcon Futura and Comet S-22.

Available only as a two-door sedan, the S-22 featured all of the Fashion Decor items plus contoured front bucket seats and a foam-padded back seat. A storage console topped by a ribbed metal panel was placed between the front seats. The vinyl-clad seats, console, and interior side panels were available in a choice of five colors matched to wall-to-wall deep-pile carpeting.

Also included were deluxe armrests, a four-spoke steering wheel with vinyl-covered handgrips in a contrasting color, special exterior badges, and factory undercoating to help quiet the ride.

The S-22 rode on new narrow-band whitewall tires and sported unique full wheel covers. Priced $284 more than a base two-door Comet, the S-22 still garnered 14,004 orders, enough to outsell its direct competitors from Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick.

With four assembly plants working to meet demand, total Comet production came to a very healthy 197,263 units for the 1961 model year. Comet was the best-seller in the medium-price compact market, nearly doubling the total of its nearest competitor, Pontiac's Tempest. When Comet output was combined with Mercury, it gave the brand its most successful year since 1956.

The Mercury Comet underwent major changes for the 1962 model year. To learn more, continue on to the next page.

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1962 Mercury Comet

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.
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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1963 Mercury Comet

The 1963 model year ushered in the widest array yet of Mercury Comet models, with more available power to boot. The big news at the start of the year was the addition of a convertible for the Custom and S-22 lines.

The 1963 Mercury Comet offered an optional V-8 engine.
The 1963 Mercury Comet had an optional V-8 engine.

All-vinyl interiors were available in six color combinations. The power-operated fabric top came in a choice of black or white with any body color; a blue top was available for cars with blue interiors. Convertibles came standard with the station wagons' larger tires and -- eventually -- beefier rear brakes.

The sprucing up of the Comet line continued partway through the model year with the introduction of a "Sportster" two-door hardtop that featured a sloped backlight and slender rear pillars. Many dealers felt these sportier body­ styles were long overdue in light of the competition's offerings. They were well-received by customers, who snapped up 13,111 ragtops and 15,239 Custom and S-22 hardtops.

Around the time of the announcement of the Sportster came the introduction of a V-8 option. The 260-cid Cyclone (as Mercury dubbed the engine) made its debut in Fairlanes and Meteors in mid-1962 as an upgrade of the thin-wall 221-cube V-8 created for the intermediates. Equipped with a two-barrel intake and an 8.7:1 compression ratio, it was rated at 164 bhp at 4,400 rpm and developed 258 pound-feet of torque at 2,200 rpm.

The V-8 was available on any Comet. Those so equipped came with 10-inch-diameter brake drums; a larger ring gear in the differential; five-lug 7.00X13 wheels; and underbody torque boxes for added chassis rigidity, a concept picked up from the Fairlane/Meteor design.

The standard transmission with the V-8 was Ford's new fully synchronized three-speed manual; options included the two-speed Merc-O-Matic automatic and a Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed stickshift. The new powertrain did wonders for the little Merc. Motor Trend nearly halved its 0-60 time (to 11.5 seconds) in a V-8/four-speed S-22 hardtop and ran the quarter-mile in 19 seconds at 75 mph. Motor Trend also liked the ride and handling of the V-8 car's fortified chassis.

When the V-8 joined the options list, the underpowered 144-cid six was dropped as Comet's base powerplant. (The 170 six had already become the standard engine in station wagons soon after the start of the model year.) Hydraulic valve lifters were newly fitted to both sixes for quieter operation.

External changes began with a revised grille pattern of horizontal bars overlaid by three thicker vertical bars between the headlamps. A cursive Mercury script replaced block letters on the hood, and the crosshair fender ornaments were replaced by bladelike decorations.

Per industry convention, parking-light/turn-signal lenses were shifted from white to amber. A new spring-supported hood replaced the prop-rod style of the past. On the sides of sedans and coupes, the bright trim now followed the edge of the sculpted cove. Wagons added a bright spear along the lower-body character line. Mildly revised taillights and rear-fascia panels were seen in back.

Customs and S-22s added a stack of three die-cast chrome-plated speed lines to their sides. Wagons wore them on the front fenders just ahead of the doors; all others sported the trim on their rear-quarter panels.

New wheel-cover designs were ushered in, too. The new S-22 wheel trim included red, white, and blue centers. ID badges for the sports model migrated down to the front fenders. Thicker foam padding cosseted those who settled into the S-22's bucket seats. On Villager wagons, a trio of fine light-colored contrast stripes ran through the dark woodgraining on the bodysides.

Despite everything Mercury did to make the 1963 Comet faster and flashier, it wasn't enough to stave off a further sales decline. Model-year orders for the little Merc came to 134,623. (Just 895 two-door wagons were produced in what proved to be the final year for the style as a Comet.)

It was still the most popular branch of the Mercury family -- it did more than 2.5 times the business of the Meteor series, which would go away after this season. But it had fallen behind Buick's drastically facelifted Special and the all-new Dodge Dart compact, successor to the Lancer. Then, of course, there was Rambler's restyled Classic built on a longer new 112-inch wheelbase and priced to match the Comet. More than 300,000 of them came off the assembly line.

The Comet would be due for a drastic makeover of its own for 1964. However, the market in which it competed would be quite different, with some of its former adversaries transformed into intermediates to cash in on that lucrative new market niche. That ultimately would be the Comet's fate, too, but it would have to hang on as a senior compact for a couple more years before Mercury could pull off the switch.

Want more information? See the next page for Mercury Comet models, prices, and production numbers.

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1960-1963 Mercury Comet Models, Prices, Production

The 1960-1963 Mercury Comet line featured a wide array of models, including convertibles, sedans, station wagons, and a Speedster. Here are the specifications for the 1960-1963 Mercury Comet.

The 1963 Mercury Comet was the last of the line.
The 1963 Mercury Comet was the last of the line.

1960 Mercury Comet Vehicle Specifications

Vehicle Specifications
Wheelbase, inches
114.0 109.5

1960 Mercury Comet Models, Prices, and Production

ModelWeight, pounds
4-door sedan
2-door wagon
2-door sedan
4-door wagon
Total 1960 Comet


1961 Mercury Comet Vehicle Specifications

Vehicle Specifications
Wheelbase, inches
114.0 109.5

1961 Mercury Comet Models, Prices, and Production

ModelWeight, pounds
4-door sedan
2-door wagon
2-door sedan
2,376 2,000 71,563
S-22 2-door sedan
4-door wagon
2,581 2,353 22,165
Total 1961 Comet


1962 Mercury Comet Vehicle Specifications

Vehicle Specifications
Wheelbase, inches
114.0 109.5

1962 Mercury Comet Models, Prices, and Production

ModelWeight, pounds
4-door sedan
Custom 4-door sedan
2-door wagon
2,626 2,396 2,121**
Custom 2-door wagon
2-door sedan
2,420 2,084 73,880**
Custom 2-door sedan
S-22 2-door sedan
2,458 2,368
4-door wagon
2,662 2,439 16,759**
Custom 4-door wagon
Villager 4-door wagon
Total 1962 Comet


**Combined production number

1963 Mercury Comet Vehicle Specifications

Vehicle Specifications
Wheelbase, inches
114.0 109.5

1963 Mercury Comet Models, Prices, and Production

ModelWeight, pounds
4-door sedan
2-door wagon
2-door sedan2,4622,08424,351
4-door wagon2,6812,4834,419
Custom 4-door sedan
2,508 2,226 27,498
Custom 2-door wagon
2,659 2,527 272
Custom 2-door sedan
2,471 2,171 11,897
Custom Sportster hardtop coupe
Custom convertible coupe
Custom 4-door wagon
Villager 4-door wagon
S-22 2-door sedan
2,512 2,368 6,303
S-22 Sportster hardtop coupe 2,613 2,635 5,807
S-22 convertible coupe
Total 1963 Comet


*Includes 349 equipped with bucket seats. Sources: Encylopedia of American Cars, by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide®, Publications Inter­national, Ltd., 2002; The Cars of Lincoln-Mercury, by George H. Dammann and James K. Wagner, Crestline Publishing Co., 1987.

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