CC Cap[sule: 1964 Mercury Comet Caliente – Hot, But Not Exactly In The Best Way

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(first posted 5/1/2013)      Why did folks buy black cars in the pre-air conditioning era? Surely they must have understood the basic physics involved as to how much hotter a black car gets than one in a lighter color. This potential torture chamber reminds me all too much of our black 1962 Fairlane, which in 1965 was finally confiscated by the Iowa Child Protective Services, thus forcing my father to buy a sand-colored ’65 Coronet. Did folks really like torturing themselves that much?

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Sure enough; no sign of A/C in here –although this interior does sport a T-handle Husrt shifter for the three-speed manual transmission. There’s no way to know what’s under the hood; it could be anything, from the base 170 cu. in. six right up to the 289 V8.

Mercury 1964 A FX Caliente

In 1964, Mercury took the plunge into factory-supported drag racing with the 427-powered A/FX Caliente, which was analogous to the 1964 Fairlane Thunderbolts. Needless to say, they acquitted themselves quite well and, as a kid, certainly raised my awareness of the Caliente–even in white–as a hot car, even if I didn’t know what “caliente” meant.

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The Caliente was a new top-level model in the 1964 Comet lineup. Although the name is most often associated with the hardtop coupe or convertible, obviously there also was a sedan. It’s a rather awkward name, given how back then most Americans didn’t have a clue as to its proper pronounciaton.

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But then, this is a somewhat awkward car. Despite having the same basic platform and dimensions of the original 1960 Comet, it’s trying hard to look even more like a genuine mid-size car, especially after the failure and rapid disappearance of the truly mid-size Meteor.

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Although its wheelbase is a fairly generous 114″, this Comet shares the Falcon’s narrow body. There’s about three inches less shoulder room inside versus the Fairlane/Meteor, so I’m just thankful my father wasn’t enticed by one of these; of course, if he had been, it would have been the base 202 instead of the Caliente.

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The grille has a distinct resemblance to that of the ’64 Continental–no harm in that. And black was a popular color for the Contis. Maybe the Continental association was what this Comet tried to cash in on; then again, by that time most Conti’s had air conditioning. There is a price for riding comfortably.

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