This is the second of Jack Chrisman's Comet drag racing cars, another Mercury-sponsored machine that shows how quickly the new funny car breed was evolving from its production-based roots. There was still a strong resemblance to the stock Comet in the body shell, but not a trace of stock hardware remained.
Instead of a modified stock chassis, for example, the car rides on a purpose-built tubular steel frame, fabricated by drag racing specialists Ron and Gene Logghe. Based in Fraser, Michigan, the brothers were commissioned by Ford racing honcho Fran Hernandez to build four Comet Caliente funny cars for Chrisman, Dyno Don Nicholson, Fast Eddie Schartman, and the Bill Kenz/Roy Leslie team.
The cars also featured fiberglass body shells that flipped up for access to everything underneath, a design that eventually inspired the term 'flopper' as a blanket descriptor for the class. On rare occasions, the body flopped up during a run - never a good thing. All four Comets were powered by 427 cubic-inch overhead cam V8 engines, and all were successful.
Not only was the class evolving quickly, the intense competition in this increasingly popular class meant the cars were also covering the quarter-mile quickly, shaving tenths of seconds off the best time almost every time out. Nicholson was the first funny car driver to crack into the seven-second elapsed time range with his Comet, Eliminator I, with a 7.98 second run in early 1967. Chrisman topped that at the 1967 National Hot Rod Association Indy Nationals when he smoked through the lights in 7.60 at 191 mph.
From 1960 through 1967 Mercury, a division of the Ford Motor Company, produced the Comet. In 1970 there was no Comet but production resumed a year later and continued until 1977. The Comet was initially built atop a Ford Falcon frame that was stretched and became Mercury's intermediate/compact entry vehicle. With a 114 inch wheelbase many thought it would be considered an intermediate, but Mercury classified it as a compact. In comparison to the Ford Falcon, the Mercury had more lavish and upgraded interior trim details.
The Comet was intended to wear Edsel badging but when the brand was eliminated before the 1960 model year, Ford sold the Comet as a separate model through their Lincoln-Mercury dealers. The Comet continued to be its own model in 1961, the same year the S-22 model was introduced. The S-22 were two-door Comets with Moroccan vinyl bucket seats, stainless spoked steering wheel, and a center console. The carpet was upgraded, the wheel covers were stainless steel, and the rear quarter panels were given unique emblems. There were over 14,400 versions of the S-22 produced.
In 1962 the Comet officially became apart of the Mercury line. There was little aesthetic changes in 1962 but as the years progressed, there were more ornamentation and trim adorned on the exterior.
A convertible option was offered on the Comet in 1963, with 13,111 owners opting for the option. The Comet Cyclone with its V8 engine was also offered in 1963. The 260 cubic-inch engine and four-speed floor shift transmission gave the Comet the power many buyers were hoping for.
The 1964 Comets grew in size and became more square. Mercury introduced three new packages but with the same bodystyle and drivetrains. The packages were the Comet Caliente, Comet 202, and Comet 404. The Cyclone continued to be the sportiest of the package offerings. The Caliente was also a sports car option. The 202 version was an economical version while the 404 filled the gap between the offerings.
The headlights became stacked and new finned taillights were added in 1965. A 289 cubic-inch V8 became available offering 225 horsepower. There were a few vehicles that came from the factory with a 289 V8 and over 270 horsepower, thought this was technically not an option offered.
In 1966 the Comet was all new. It now shared a body and chassis with the Ford Fairlane making it a true intermediate with its 116 inch wheelbase. A GT option was offered for an additional $452 which included a 390 cubic-inch V8 with a four-barrel carburetor, dual exhausts, fiberglass hood with non-functional scoops and was capable of producing 335 horsepower. Power was sent to the rear wheels courtesy of a four-speed manual or automatic transmission. The front brakes were discs and a special handling package was offered to help with the extra power. The GT's were distinguished by their extra striping and badging.
For 1967 sales began to drop considerably partly to due with the introduction of the Mercury Cougar. The name of the Comet was only used on the 202. This trend continued in 1968 and 1969 where the Comet name was used on the low-line models.
There was no 1970 Comet but a year later the Comet re-appeared. It was available only as a coupe or a sedan. By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2006
In the beginning, the Comet was designed as an Edsel model and not officially a Mercury until 1962. The Comet was based on a stretched Ford Falcon from 1960 to 1964. Produced by the Mercury division of the Ford Motor Company between 1960 and 1977, the Comet was classified as a compact or intermediate sized car. With a longer wheelbase and a better grade interior trim detail, the Comet was a much more updated version of the Falcon. The Comet had very distinct outer body panels. During the mid-1960's, Comets were available with Ford's highest performance muscle car engines of the day. About 50 models were produced, Comet Cyclones that were ultra-high performance lightweight vehicles that were equipped with a racing two carburetor 427 engine. Developed at the same time as the Falcon, the Comet received a new grille design before its March 1960 introduction. In design, the Comet was much like the Ford Falcon, except the Falcon came with a split grille. After the release of the vehicle, the split grille was reformed into a model more in character with the Edsel models. Though the canted elliptical taillights, were used and carried the 'E' (Edsel) part number on them though the lenses differed in length and width. The Comet was eclipsed by the new Mercury Montego before being relegated to low-line models.By Jessica Donaldson
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