The birth of drag racing, as is often old, was a by-product of the aftermath of WWII. But, many will argue that the real birth of drag racing occurred in the 1960's. Fierce competition between manufacturers in the stock classes - with Chevy versus Ford or Dodge versus Mercury dominating the landscape. Match races at tracks throughout the country brought large crowds to cheer their favorite. Then, with the likes of Dick Landy, the Ramchargers, Roger Lindamood, Sox & Martin and a host of others, racers began experimenting with altered wheelbases. That led to lighter bodies, fuel injection, and a host of other changes. That's when the real war started.
The early 1964 and 1965 Comets were factory built and then sent out for modifications. The frames were lighted up and other modifications made. This car is an altered wheelbase 'Funny Car' - the name 'Funny Car' from the fact that the cars looked somewhat strange and exaggerated. The A/FX meant 'Altered Factory Experimental.' Hayden ran in the national meets and the match race circuit in the 1960's. Notice the fuel injection pipes coming out of the hood - quite uncommon on cars of that era.
Dyno Don Nicholson, a superb engine tuner, began his racing career on the dry lakes in California in the 40's and 50's. As the factory drag racing wars began to escalate in the mid 1960's, Don was one of the individuals leading the pack, often ending up in the winners circle, first with his Chevy and later with his Mercury.
As manufacturers realized the potential of winning results and how it translated to sales, they became more involved in the activity. Guys like Don raced for fun and money. The fun became a business and the money became important. There were many racers in the 1960's that caught the attention of the factories. Guys like Jack Chrisman, the Dodge Chargers, The Ramchargers, Dyno Don, Dick Landy, Gas Rhonda, and many more helped propel the factory experimental class in the mid 1960's. As they experimented with altering the wheelbase, supercharging or injection, bigger slicks, transmission, etc, the factory wars were in full swing.
Don passed away in 2006 and raced almost to the day he died. One could argue with good reason that his 'Mercury Cyclone' was one of the most successful cars of its era. For anyone who lived drag racing through magazines and track visits, the car was the 'King' of drag racing.
This car's altered wheelbase, flip top, and engine configuration led to the name 'Funny Car' that is still used today. This car defined the funny car movement.
The Mercury Comet was a fan favorite and a popular car in the early days of A/FX racing. Powered by the hefty Ford 427 SOHC, racers like Jack Chrisman, Ed Schartman and Don Nicholson among others, toured the match race circuit.
It wasn't unusual for racers to switch brands, as they sought the right combination. Sox and Martin raced a Comet before going to Mopar, and Arnie Beswick drove this car before switching to Pontiac.
This is a well-documented car driven by one of the great names in Drag Racing. Sometimes we forget that our favorite drivers left a trail before hitting the right note. Though Arnie is known for his 'Tameless Tiger' - Pontiacs wîth tiger stripes, this early car of his has important historical significance.
At one point, this A/FX car was raced by Arnie Beswick who is known for his prolific career as a Pontiac racer. What some don't know is that like Sox and Martin, he also had a brief stint as a Mercury factory driver.
Amazingly, this car still has many of the original factory fiberglass pieces, along wîth the original gauges, roll bar, plexiglass windows, seats, aluminum bellhousing, and even the shifter.
Únder the hood is the 427 cubic-inch engine that is the same as the one run by Beswick back in the day. It is backed by a T-10 manual transmission and it wears real 1965-era M&H AFX12 drag slicks. This car would be powered by a variety of outlandish drivetrains over the years.
The current owner of this car has the original sales agreement and signed contract wîth Arnie Beswick, along wîth letters from Fran Hernandez, telegrams from Beswick, and a stock of additional paperwork.Source - Vehicle Owner / Meadow Brook Concours
Though the debate over the first true 'funny car' has many opinions, this mid-Sixties drag racing car is certainly on the short list of prime ancestors. The Comet made its showroom debut in 1960, and quickly became a car in need of image enhancement. It was six-cylinder only, and there wasn't a V8 engine on its powertrain option list until the 1963 model year, a serious shortcoming in the age of big-inch muscle.
Enter Fran Hernandez and Jack Chrisman. Hernandez was in charge of factory-supported motorsports at Ford. Chrisman was a drag racer looking for the right ride. When Hernandez offered Chrisman a Comet as the foundation for a race car, it was clear to both that it would need something more potent than a 289 cubic-inch V8, the biggest engine option for the car at the time.
But there were much bigger engines in the mid-Sixties Ford Motor Co. inventory, notably the famous 427 cubic-inch 'Cammer,' a favorite with Ford racers from a variety of venues. With fuel injection, supercharging, and a fuel mix with 70 percent nitromethane, Chrisman was able to boot the little comet down the strip in the 10.5 second bracket, at more than 150 mph.
The objective was to beat the contemporary Dodge Chargers, which Chrisman achieved. Whether it was really the first funny car may never be clear, but Hernandez is widely credited with inventing the term.
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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