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.
©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.)
©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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