1964-1965 Mercury Comet


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.

Classic Cars Image Gallery

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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1964-1965 Mercury Comet Competition

In 1964, the Mercury Comet was leapfrogged by the Tempest, when the F-85 and Special were upsized in wheelbase and overall length, gaining larger and more powerful engines, and joining the Fairlane and the new Chevro­let Chevelle in the midsize field. Still, if the Comet had come off as a big compact before, it now looked like a small intermediate.

1964-1965 Mercury Comet
©2007 Publications International, Ltd
In 1964, the Mercury Comet's smaller size was in competition with the intermediates.

At 203-203.5 inches overall, the Pontiac, Olds, and Buick middies were substantially longer than the Comet, but their shared 115-inch wheelbase was just an inch greater. All now rolled on 14-inch-diameter wheels, up from 13 inches (except for the Tempest, which had used 15-inchers before).

Thanks to a one-inch increase in width -- 1.2 in wagons -- ­the Comet closed to within 1.9 to 2.4 inches of its 19­64 GM competitors; in 1963, the Tempest and F-85 had been wider by 2.8 and 3.3 inches, respec­tively. Except for rear leg room, where it enjoyed a 1.4-inch advantage, Comet's interior dimensions were a virtual copy of the Falcon's. Even then, the small Mercury provided about a half-inch more front head room than the GM trio, an inch more rear leg room than the Tem­pest, and essential parity in front and rear leg room with the F-85.

The in-house competition with the Ford Fair­lane was also close. At 195.1 inches long and 71.4 inches wide, 1964 Comet coupes and sedans were just 2.5 inches shorter and .8 inch narrower than the Fairlane. The 115.5-inch-wheelbase Ford boasted a more-spacious cabin, especially in hip room, though front head room was even at 38.7 inches. They shared most engines, too.

Comet received a major external make­over for the 1964 model year. While this coincided with a similar transformation of the Falcon, Mercury's compact sported smart new looks that tied it visually to the senior members of its own division, including the luxurious Lincoln Conti­nental.

1964-1965 Mercury Comet
©2007 Publications International, Ltd
The Comet began flexing some muscle in 1964 with the arrival of the Cyclone two-door hardtop. Limited brightwork, simulated chrome-reverse wheels, bucket seats, a tachometer, and a three-spoke steering wheel were among its features.

The convex grille was divided into eight fine-mesh sections separated by a grid formed of thicker bars. A bright frame with rounded corners ringed the grille and horizontally mounted headlights. Body-color sheet­­metal surrounded the grille out to bladelike fender edges. Add in the low, wide "plateau" stamped into the hood and the Comet nose suggested a scaled-down Continental, a look that was still very much admired.

The blunt front fender edges and an unbroken fender line made the car look a little fuller than before, and a rear-pointed tip at the trailing edge of the fender line began a transition away from the stubby tailfins of 1962-1963. Stylists avoided strict slab-sidedness with dartlike body­side sculpting that broadened toward the back of the car and a tubular structure stamped in the rear quarters.

At the rear, new one-piece horizontal taillight lenses were used on sedans, hardtops, and convertibles. However, in a nod to styling continuity, each lens featured three raised round pods, the center pod available for optional back-up lighting. Mounted between the lenses was a bright trim panel that replicated the pattern seen on the grille.

Wagons received a similar treatment, albeit with twin-pod lenses. On coupe and sedan models, a center-fill gas door blended into the rear-end brightwork. (Wagons continued to get fuel via the left rear-quarter panel.)

Read more about the 1964-1965 Mercury Comet's makeover on the next page.

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1964-1965 Mercury Comet Makeover

New series designations of the 1964-1965 Mercury Comet covered a dras­tically revised lineup of 11 models. Gone were two-door station wagons (which remained available as Falcons). So were the three bucket-seats-and-console S-22 models, though they were more than compensated for by a new Cyclone hardtop.

The new base series was the 202, consisting of two- and four-door sedans plus a station wagon. Simple interiors were appointed with vinyl bolsters combined with domino-cloth inserts in a choice of five colors. Series-specific bright trim was minimal: rain gutters, a strip at the base of sedan roofs, a band around the rear-quarter tube feature, series badges, and three paint-filled dashes on the front fenders reminiscent of traditional Buick "Venti-Port" ornaments.

1964-1965 Mercury Comet
©2007 Publications International, Ltd
The new series of Mercury Comet sported a drastically revised lineup of 11 models.

Effectively replacing the Comet Cus­tom was the 404 series, which featured the same three body styles as the 202. These models came standard with five different interior trim selections for sedans, or four for the wagon, in vinyl and "jet-stream" cloth, or, at a slight extra cost, in all vinyl. The two-door sedan could be ordered with bucket seats. Side trim traded the 202's fender dashes for long, narrow loops of brightwork along the bodysides. Side windows also were trimmed and sedans got small grooved chrome plaques on the C-pillars.

The Villager station wagon shared its inte­rior design with the 404 wagon but sported imitation-wood side trim and the fen­der dashes from the 202. Deep-loop car­peting and a power-operated rear win­dow were also included in the Vil­lager's starting price.

A entirely new kind of Comet was presented in the Caliente series. Named for the Spanish word for "hot," this premium line consisted of a convertible, two-door hardtop, and four-door sedan. Calientes picked up the 404's side trim but filled the loop with brushed aluminum and added a red, white, and blue emblem on the rear-quarter panels.

The standard front seat was a full-width bench, but individual bucket seats with a fashionable center console could be had in all models. On sedans and hard­tops with the bench, vinyl bolsters with harmonizing mosaic-cloth inserts were used, though "chamois-soft" vinyl trim in six different color selections was optional. All convertibles came with vinyl upholstery.

Deep beneath these restyled and renamed Comets were a number of chassis improvements. Torque boxes welded into the underbody for added rigidity, first used on 1963 V-8 Comets, were extended across the line. Rear tread was widened by 1.5 inches. The rear springs of most Comets went from five leaves to four (convertibles and wagons had six leaves), but they were longer, wider, and thicker than before to improve ride. Stronger spring towers, stouter bracing between the towers and cowl, and sturdier fender aprons tightened up the front of the car. Steering and shocks were upgraded for better handling. A 20-gallon fuel tank replaced a 14-gallon unit.

1964-1965 Mercury Comet
©2007 Publications International, Ltd
Besides Mercury Comets being restyled and renamed, there were a number of chassis improvements.

Between 1960 and 1963, Comets and Fal­cons had nearly identical powertrains. For 1964, however, the Merc pulled away a bit with a larger standard six and a mightier V-8 option. In all of the previously mentioned Comets, an ohv 170-cid 101-bhp six and three-speed manual transmission were included in the base price.

Buyers who wanted the conveni­ence of the extra-cost Merc-O-Matic two-speed automatic trans­­mission but still craved six-cylinder economy got a 200-cid powerplant. Sporting a 3.68-inch bore and 3.13-inch stroke, it pumped out 116 horses and would soon become the most popular engine for the series.

Read about the 1964-1965 Mercury Comet new model on the next page.

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1964-1965 Mercury Comet New Model

Back from 1963 in the 1964-1965 Mercury Comet, when it was a midyear addition, was the 260-cid "Cyclone" V-8. It was virtually unchanged with a two-barrel carburetor and 164-bhp rating. Beside the three-speed manual (fully synchronized for use with V-8s), it could be teamed up with the optional three-speed Multi-Drive Merc-O-Matic or a four-speed stickshift.

Beyond that was a new V-8 option, the "Cyclone Super." Using a slightly larger bore than the 260, it displaced 289 cubic inches. With a four-barrel Autolite carburetor and a 9.0:1 compression ratio, it developed 210 bhp at 4400 rpm and 300 pound-feet of torque at 2800 revs.

1964-1965 Mercury Comet
©2007 Publications International, Ltd
The 210 horsepower 289 was the key ingredient in another new Comet model for the performance minded customers.

Also helping to provide reliable power was Mercury's first use of a factory supplied transistor ignition, a major advance for the day. The Cyclone Super was available with the same transmissions as the 260. Then, too, a solid-lifter version of the 289 good for 271 bhp, an engine first offered for mid-1963 Fairlanes and Meteors, was available on special order-but only with the manual gearboxes.

There are a few mysteries to the 1964 Comet, particularly among the "K-code" cars. Those who know FoMoCo performance from the era know that the letter "K" in the fifth spot of the 11-character vehicle identification number (VIN) was a very desirable thing, indi­cating that the car came with the 271-bhp V-8. For reasons that this writer has never seen explained, some cars built with the 260 V-8 have the sought-after K in the VIN.

The 210-horsepower 289 was the key ingredient in another new Comet model, this one for performance-minded customers: the Cyclone. Introduced on Janu­ary 17, 1964, this two-door hardtop was described as a "two-fisted sporting machine with bite and brawn in every line."

Looking like it was made for business, Cyclone was fairly devoid of external ornamentation. Checkered-flag series badges sat low on the front fenders and the same block letters that spelled out "Comet" on all other small Mercs were found on the rear-quarter panels. Bright wheel-lip moldings were connected by a narrow spear that ran along the rocker panels. Cyclones appeared to have open chrome-reverse wheels, a period hot-car touch, but these were actually chromed wheel covers over 7.00314 steel wheels.

The exterior of the car may have been devoid of flash, but not the engine compartment. Chrome was used to dress up the valve covers, oil-filler cap, air cleaner cover, and even the dipstick handle. (When ordered for other Comets, the 289 came sans chrome.)

1964-1965 Mercury Comet
©2007 Publications International, Ltd
The Mercury Comet was as much of a factory hot rod as a compact buyer could hope for.

Interiors had standard bucket seats and a console. Seats and door panels featured a vertical-pleat pattern unique to the Cyclone. A 6000-rpm tachometer sat atop the dash and drivers gripped a three-spoke sports-style steering wheel. Black "camera case" material replaced woodgraining on the dash­board.

The Cyclone was as much of a factory hot rod as a compact buyer could hope for and it matched the spirit -- though not the ultimate performance­ -- ­of hot new intermediates like the Pontiac Tem­pest GTO and Olds F-85 4-4-2.

When Motor Trend tested a four-speed Cyclone with an optional 3.50:1 rear axle, it squeezed out a 9.7-second 0-60-mph dash and a 16.2-second quarter-mile run. With the Cyclone Super engine, auto trans, and 3.25:1 gearing, a Caliente hard­top tested by Car Life needed all of 11.8 seconds to hit 60, but the quarter came up in 16.5.

Read about how the 1964-1965 Mercury Comet received promotion on the next page.

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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.

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1964-1965 Mercury Comet Updates

The 1964-1965 Mercury Comet joined the parade as stacked headlights became an industry styling trend that started picking up steam in 1965. The quad-light treatment, with high-low beams at the top and high-beams only on the bottom, fit into the outer edges of the grille, which looked much lower than one would think possible.

1964-1965 Mercury Comet
©2007 Publications International, Ltd
All Comets but the Villager adopted triple front fender dashes.

Meanwhile, stacks of fine horizontal bars fostered a look of width. Bodyside sculpting was modified, narrowing considerably in the front fenders. The tubelike detail found the rear quarters of 1964s was eliminated, as was the pointed design of the upper rear. In fact, the rear quarters and edge of the decklid now angled forward -- which contributed to a loss of some usable trunk space. The treatment altered the appearance enough to let someone seeing a 1965 Comet in profile know that this was a new model.

All Comets but the Villager adopted triple front-fender dashes. Some series saw brightwork shuffles from 1964. On 404s, a thin chrome strip highlighted the upper portion of the bodyside sculpturing.

Calientes moved their sparkle down low, where a wide band ran from behind the front wheel opening to the rear bumper. Bodyside trim was essentially unchanged on 202s and Cyclones, but the latter did get its own grille treatment in which the bars at the top, bottom, and far ends were blacked out. Also, at midyear, a limited run of fiberglass hoods with twin low-profile scoops were made available as a Cyclone option.

Out back, a total redesign further departed from any of the other divisional offerings. On Calientes and Cyclones, five horizontal ribs ran the width of the car, over the flush-fitting taillight lenses and around the edges of the quarter panels.

When ordered, parking lights were fitted at the very corners of the car.
The instrument cluster was changed, trading a strip speedometer for a circular speedometer/odometer as the central gauge. It was still flanked by round dials for fuel level, coolant temperature, electrical charge, and oil pressure. Upholstery patterns were revised as well.

1964-1965 Mercury Comet
©2007 Publications International, Ltd
A circular speedometer/odometer replaced a strip speedometer as the central gauge.

An unchanged range of models was powered by a pared-down roster of engines. The 170-cid six, 260-cid V-8, and 271-bhp 289 were dropped. All but the Cyclone now came standard with the 200-cube six, which, thanks to a half-point compression boost, pumped out an impressive 120 bhp. V-8 power began with a 289-cid two-barrel-intake engine rated at 200 bhp. Standard in Cyclones -- ­and optional in other Comets -- ­was a four-barrel 289 with a 10.0:1 compression ratio and an advertised 225 bhp.

The two-speed automatic was no longer available, but all other transmissions were carried over from 1964. In a side-by-side test of a Caliente with the 200-bhp engine and automatic and a 225-horse four-speed Cyclone, Motor Trend achieved lower 0-60 times than comparable 1964s, but quarter-mile runs took longer.

Options for 1965 were pretty much in line with the rest of the industry: air conditioning for all models, AM/FM radio, power steering and brakes, a limited-slip axle, and safety items such as retractable seat belts, four-way emergency flashers, and remote controlled outside rear-view mirrors. The standard tachometer in Cyclones could be replaced by a “Rally-Pac” that included the tach, an elapsed-time clock, and a vacuum gauge in pods that sat atop the dash. (A tachometer was available as an option on any Comet with a V-8.) Cyclones could also be ordered with beefed-up suspension components.

Read about the market endurance of the 1964-1965 Mercury Comet on the next page.

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1964-1965 Mercury Comet Endurance

With advertising still touting the 1964-1965 Mercury Comet's endurance records, Lincoln-Mercury Division sent Comets on another publicity-seeking mission. On Septem­ber 12, 1964, a trio of 1965 Caliente hardtops was dispatched north from Ushuaia, Argen­­tina, at the southern tip of South Amer­ica. With nothing much more exotic than snow tires to help where needed, they rolled into Fairbanks, Alaska, on October 22, having covered 16,247 miles with no repairs other than routine maintenance.

1964-1965 Mercury Comet
©2007 Publications International, Ltd
By the end of 1965, the Mercury Comet truly was an intermediate on a longer wheelbase and with the capacity to hold bigger engines.
­
Production was off by almost 25,000 cars for 1965­ -- due in part to a new compact from brother division Ford that had a lot more performance potential: the Mus­tang. Still, with increased demand for its all-new full-sized cars, Mercury hit a record for model-year pro­duction.

In the end, there’s still the question: Was Mercury trying to make its compact take up the Meteor’s slack? Car Life said as much when evaluating the 1964 model. “Economics and internecine competition being what they are, FoMoCo product planners determined that an upgraded Comet could best fill the Meteor void at less cost in dollars and inter-divisional sales,” the magazine stated.

There would be no doubt in 1966. The all-new Comet truly was an intermediate on a longer wheelbase and with the capac­ity to hold bigger engines, which let Cyclones participate fully in the midsize muscle car boom of the late Sixties.

The timing was right; the intermediate field had grown in 1965 with the addition of the Plymouth Belvedere and Dodge Coro­net. The Comet name would fade as the midsize Merc was eventually transformed into the Mon­tego. Not until 1971 would Mercury offer another true compact, but it, too, would wear the Comet badge.

Read more about 1964-1965 Mercury Comet's weight, price and production on the next page.

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1964-1965 Mercury Comet Models, Prices, Production

In the early 1960s, Mercury had enjoyed great success with its compact Comet. By mid decade, however, Mercury was forced to upgrade its popular car to keep pace with customers eyeing bigger automobiles.

1964 Mercury Comet Weight, Price and Production

202
(wb 114.0; wagon 109.5)
Weight Price Production
4d sedan 2,580 2,182 29,147
2d sedan 2,539 2,126 33,824
4d wagon 2,727 2,463 5,504
Total 202

68,475

404
(wb 114.0; wagon 109.5)



4d sedan 2,588 2,269 25,136
2d sedan 2,551 2,213 12,5121
4d wagon 2,741 2,550 6,918
Villager 4d wagon 2,745 2,734 1,980
Total

46,546

Caliente
(wb 114.0)



4d sedan 2,668 2,350 27,2182
hardtop coupe 2,688 2,375 31,2043
convertible coupe 2,861 2,636 9,0394
Total Caliente

67,461

Cyclone
(wb 114.0)



hardtop coupe 2,860 2,655 7,454

Total
1964 Comet


189,936

1965 Mercury Comet Weight, Price and Production

­
202
(wb 114.0; wagon 109.5)
Weight Price Production
4d sedan 2,624 2,210 23,501
2d sedan 2,584 2,154 32,425
4d wagon 2,784 2,491 4,814
Total 202

60,740

404
(wb 114.0; wagon 109.5)



4d sedan 2,629 2,294 18,628
2d sedan 2,594 2,241 10,9005
4d wagon 2,789 2,578 5,226
Villager 4d wagon 2,789 2,762 1,592
Total 404

36,346

Caliente
(wb 114.0)



4d sedan 2,659 2,378 20,337
hardtop coupe 2,684 2,403 29,2476
convertible coupe 2,869 2,664 6,0357
Total Caliente

55,619

Cyclone
(wb 114.0)



hardtop coupe 2,994 2,683 12,347

Total
­ 1965 Comet


165,052­
­