Opportunities to photograph curbside classics are few and far between here in Michigan, because most of our 1962 model cars, like this Comet, had a hot date with the tinworm back in, oh, let’s say 1964. Therefore, much of my car spotting fun does occur at our numerous summer car shows. As the owner of a Corvair and a Dart wagon, I enjoy seeing atypical classics like this Comet still hanging around.
I don’t know how I’ve avoided owning a Comet. My personal choice would be a ’65 Villager, but I sometimes find myself longing for one of these early ones. They’re mechanically similar to my ’65 Mustang, so no big surprises there. Mechanical parts are readily available, and they get decent gas mileage (maybe, see below). The interiors were early 60s metal-clad cool. Look at that dashboard! I personally love the vast bright red expanses that are so stark that modern drivers would pull over and start crying for a gadget. Why can’t we get back to this kind of simplicity?
I’m pretty sure this one has a radio delete panel, even if it does have a modern radio under the dash. The 100 mph speedometer is most likely a dozen plus mph optimistic, but who cares? This is an economy car. Who’s not digging the necker knob here? With roughly five turns lock to lock, maybe it’s not as cheesy as it seems.
Regardless of the glamorous images detailed in the brochure, the Comet was a pretty plain-jane car, compared to anything but a Falcon. However, Mercury attempted to brainwash buyers into forgetting that by screaming “STYLE” in the brochure. Our feature car seems to be the bottom of the line base model, which retailed at $2084, and outsold the sedan by a few thousand units. For under $100 extra, you could step into a Deluxe model that had some extra trim.
But who needs that extra trim? This model has a tasteful amount of chrome, and the new for ’62 taillights are, in my opinion, a thousand times more stylish than the previous slanted pickles that adorned the ’60 and ’61 models.
For the sake of comparison, the above pictured Comet has the Deluxe trim option, which includes bright trim around the window frames and a “Deluxe” badge underneath the Comet script on the front fender.
Probably the worst thing about the Comet was that Mercury tacked on a bunch of length, wheelbase, and weight, but saddled this compact with a 144 cubic inch wheezer of an inline six that puked out 90 horsepower, followed closely in feebleness by a 170 cubic inch option that squeaked over the century mark with 101 horsepower. Our feature car could have either, but it is most certainly saddled by the two-speed “Merc-O-Matic.” It’s a good thing that most people aren’t in a hurry cruising around in their collector cars. A 1962 Motor Trend test of a Comet 170 automatic bragged of a zero-to-sixty time of around 22 seconds, and test mileage of under 17 MPG. An earlier road test of a 144 automatic? 27 seconds zero-to-sixty. Well, at least the Comet buyer could order the 260 in 1963.
In 1962, the Comet was the compact in a Mercury line also consisting of the Meteor and the full-size Mercury. After 1963, it became the “intermediate” when Mercury dropped the Meteor. But for a few years in the early 1960s, Mercury had its own basic compact for those who liked Fords, but thought Falcons a bit too proletariat. It may not have streaked down the road like its nameplate, but it looked pretty good in black over red.