Curbside Classic: 1963 Mercury Comet S-22 Convertible: Five-Card Stud or Texas Hold-Em?

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Several months ago a co-worker and I were driving somewhere and having one of those deep, philosophical conversations that makes life so interesting.  During the conversation he made one of the simplest and most profound statements I had heard in a long time:

“Jason, life is like a card game.  Sometimes you’re the poker, sometimes you’re the pokee; the goal is to be the poker more often than the pokee.”

Since then, I have discovered this observation to be applicable to nearly everything in life, and for my simple mind, it’s been damn useful.  Admittedly, it’s somewhat brash; a more elegant way would be to think of it in terms of winner/loser or advantage/disadvantage.  It’s all the same thing.

Just for grins, I thought about this most dainty little Mercury in such win/lose and card-playing terms.  It’s good that I did, since I found this red Comet just over a year ago and it could have fermented for another year quite easily.  So let’s examine this Comet now through the prism of winning, losing and card playing.

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Ford vs. Mercury:  That’s an easy one to call.  Or is it?  Ford had been blissfully walking all over Mercury since 1939; goodness knows that in 1963, Mercury was on the heels of an identity crisis following its going upmarket during the Edsel’s tenure, after which the brand had been hawking some rather eccentrically styled and disrespected cars (here’s a CC on a disrespected Mercury).

To add to Mercury’s woes, it inherited the Comet–while certainly not a bad car, it was known only as “Comet” in its inaugural year of 1960–with no brand name, no previous identity and tail lights that looked like they’d been taken from a 1960 Edsel and tilted about thirty degrees.  You can almost hear Hank say, “Boys, the Comet has no brand association.  Why don’t we dump it on Mercury?”

So Ford had the advantage–right?

Not necessarily.  Fifty years down the road, which do you find more refreshing – a first-generation Falcon, or its slightly larger Mercury-branded sibling?  Ford sold two Falcons to every Comet sold in 1963, and the economical nature of both predisposed them to being the Kleenex of transportation: use it until it’s no good, then throw it away.

Have you decided?  Was it a tough call?  Might the roles now be reversed?

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Falcon vs. Comet:  Thankfully, in 1963 there was a more visible difference between the two cars than there would be eight years later (CC here).  For 1963, the Comet was allowed a degree of uniqueness, with a 114″ wheelbase that had 4.5″ more distance between the hubs than the Falcon (on a side note, the wheelbase on this car is only 0.3″ shorter than that of a 1989 Mercury Grand Marquis).

Like the Falcon, the 1963 Comet was also the recipient of an optional 260 CID V8–but didn’t the Mercury version of a Ford usually have a larger engine?  Why the change?  Why the loss of exclusivity?  That doesn’t sound like much of a win for the Comet, does it?

If one doesn’t get all wrapped up in size, they’ll remember that a V8 wasn’t the only engine for a 1963 Comet. Actually, most of them came equipped with one of two tepid fuel-conscious six-cylinder engines of 144 or 170 CID, while S-22 equipped Comets got a 170 or 260 CID engine.  The Falcon was identical in the six-cylinder power train department, and the Futura convertible weighed 180 pounds less than our featured car.

Looking at the two sisters, the Mercury could be perceived as bigger-boned, tougher to move, and heftier than its sibling. Depending upon one’s tastes, the advantage could go either way.

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As an aside, you could order a six-cylinder Comet with a four-speed!  That is cooler than a penguin’s posterior in January!  That, in and of itself, is a major win.

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Comet vs. Comet:  The S-22 option set a Comet apart much like the S-55 option did for the ’63 Marauder (CC here).  For only $41 more than the ordinary Comet convertible, one received bucket seats, side medallions, triple colored wheel cover inserts and three tail lights per side in lieu of two, a practice initiated by Chevrolet with their Impala and Bel-Air.  Was the $41 worth it?  To some, it was; there were 5,757 S-22 convertibles sold vs. 7,300 regular Comet convertibles.

As another complete aside, the production of the S-22 convertible was a grand total of seven units more than that of another awesome red convertible we visited a while back:  The most luscious 1971 Ford LTD.

Advantage for the Comet S-22?  If there was, it wasn’t readily apparent.

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Comet vs. GM, Chrysler and a geriatric from South Bend:  Many a gambler has mentioned the advantage of keeping a poker face.  It’s easy to see why as the sales game is where the real card playing took place, along with all the bluffing, blowing and trickery associated with any card game.

As an upscale Mercury, the Comet’s most apparent competitors were the Dodge Dart GT and the Pontiac Tempest. A number of others could be named, but let’s think along a wider spectrum and consider a Studebaker convertible of comparable size, even if Studebaker was distracted by its tarot cards at this point.

We can all see the cards dealt to the Mercury Comet.

The Dart GT (CC Capsule here) had a 145 horsepower slant six teamed with either a three-speed manual or Torqueflite automatic.  Face it, the 225 engine with a Torqueflite was a card shark.  Dodge was in full blustery swing, stating “To have a hot car, you need power (what other compact has it?).”

Pontiac’s Tempest (CC here) was of bipolar temperament, as it came packing either a four-cylinder or a V8.  A four-speed was available, but only with the four-banger.  Let’s not forget that sales for the ’63 Tempest fell like an empty bourbon bottle pushed from a table (1964 Tempest CC here).

Studebaker’s Lark Daytona was the old man of the bunch; for the benefit of you youngsters, never underestimate old people.  This Studebaker may have been long in the tooth, but it came armed to the teeth with a choice of five engines and five transmissions, along with front disc brakes and a dual-chamber master cylinder.

Who would be your pick of winner in this epic card game?  Each has its own set of advantages.

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So, is this Comet a win or a loss?  Despite all my stated perceptions and posed questions, indicating either my towering uncertainty or annoying indecisiveness (I’m not sure which), I can make one definitive statement.  Had I found a Falcon of the same vintage, it is rather doubtful I’d have stopped to take pictures, as a Falcon just doesn’t excite me.  By getting showered with attention now, this Comet is certainly experiencing a win.

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