Car Life magazine tested a 1966 Mercury Cyclone GT's performance but didn't think much of it. Car Life pointed out not only the car's 56.4/43.6 weight distribution, but also its barely adequate Goodyear Power Cushion tires; marginal drum brakes; and slow, overboosted steering as knocks against the 1966 Mercury Comet performance.
The magazine pronounced the GT's handling mediocre. Nor was Car Life impressed with the 390-cubic-inch engine, saying, "...the 390/4-barrel has never been much of a top-end performer. It develops plenty of usable torque in the lower reaches, and it pumps up more than enough horsepower for its nominal purpose. But, as a performer, it just doesn't deliver."
The 390 V-8 in GTs made 335 horsepower, but
Car Life magazine was unimpressed.
What was the 390's problem? "Engine-men point mainly to the cylinder heads," continued the Car Life tester. "Restrictive valve passages hinder the engine's 'breathing,' and hydraulic lifters limit attainable rpm. Maximum engine speed seems to be approximately 5,000 rpm, even with an 'open' exhaust system, because of the pumping up of the hydraulic lifters."
Car Life put the Cyclone GT's top speed at 120 mph with automatic and a 3.25:1 rear axle ratio, and the quarter mile came up in 15.2 seconds at 90 mph. Zero-to-60 mph acceleration was better: 6.6 seconds. This reinforced the point that the 390 delivered its strongest torque at the bottom of the rev range.
The Comet lineup didn't change much for the 1967 model year, but Lincoln-Mercury management did. In 1964, Ben D. Mills got bumped up to corporate vice president of purchasing, and his former assistant general manager, Paul F. Lorenz, became Lincoln-Mercury general manager. Then in 1966, Gar Laux, who'd been Ford Division's general sales manager under Lee Iacocca, replaced Lorenz. So Lorenz oversaw the 1966 selling season, while 1967 came under Laux's jurisdiction.
Mercury might have found itself on a downward slide in the mid Sixties had it not been for the arrival of the Cougar. Looking back, 1967 sales of big Mercurys totaled not quite 123,000 cars, a 29 percent drop from the 173,000 in 1966 and 32.5 percent below the 1965 mark of 182,000. Beginning in 1965, full-sized cars reasserted themselves as the best-selling Mercurys. Comets stayed close, but here again things didn't look promising.
Demand for Comets in model-year 1966 came to a healthy 170,000, but that fell to 81,000 in 1967. Labor problems took a toll on all automakers that year, but the introduction of the Cougar also took sales away from the Comet. Mercury made almost 151,000 Cougars in 1967; the new sports coupe led the way to a record sales year, but there's little doubt that it lured some customers away from upmarket Comets.
On the next page, find out more about the 1966 Mercury Comet's successor in 1967.
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