I classify these documents as “secret” because I have searched the internet for “The Comet Story” several times over the years and have never found any reference to it.
I obtained these copies from a 1986 issue of the American Comet Club newsletter. When I first started driving, I “inherited” Mom’s ’62 Mercury Comet, and I somehow discovered there was a national club for Mercury Comets, “headquartered” in Alexandria, Indiana. So of course I had to join, and I would get these newsletters in the mail.
In two of the newsletters, the Comet Club had reprinted this public relations bulletin from the Lincoln/Mercury Division, dated 11/25/59, announcing the arrival of “a new kind of luxury ‘convenient size’ car”–the Comet! This is a very interesting read, and you learn a lot about car design, engines, transmissions, suspensions, chassis, and other automotive engineering aspects.
Since this document is so hard to find, I thought I would reproduce it here, making these (to my knowledge) the only internet copies available *EYES ONLY*:
*Click images to make full screen and enlarge, if desired*
What’s also interesting is what the report doesn’t say:
–The Comet is described as a unique, independent project, with no mention of the fact that most of its body, chassis, and mechanical components are to be shared with the Ford Falcon.
–The Comet is never described as an Edsel, or a product of the Edsel Division.
–Little mention is made of interiors, which were colorful and upscale for a low-priced economy car.
If I could make one criticism of the Comet Design Objectives, it would be that L/M emphasized economy too much. The 144 cubic inch six was inadequate at propelling this car with any sort of briskness, despite the weight reductions achieved. The 1961 170 six was a little better, and the small V-8 which came later improved things even more. And while the steering was light when moving, it was far from easy if you had to turn the wheel while stopped. Power steering would be a welcome addition, along with a faster ratio. A 260 V-8 engine was offered beginning in 1963, and power steering would arrive in ’64.
So as you can tell, I kind of like Comets. I have a ’58 Ford Custom 300 which shares quite a few features with the first generation Comets:
I’ve been thinking about getting another first generation (1960-63) Comet. I like the looks and it would bring back a lot of nostalgic memories. Finding a nice one today will not be easy, especially since it’s been 50 years since the vast majority of them were scrapped. My original ’62 somewhat beat the odds, lasting until 1989 when an accident caused it to finally bite the dust.
I’ve gone on YouTube to try to find a recording of the “Thrift Power” engine running–it had a very distinctive sound that I instantly recognized. (It sounds markedly different from the 223 Ford six in the ’58).
So maybe I’ll be driving a Comet again someday. Granted, it won’t be fast, but I’ve also owned a ’62 Mercury Monterey with the biggest V-8 (390 4 bbl.) so I’ve experienced both extremes. The car above looks great in Twilight Turquoise Metallic and Sultana White. It reminds me of another “lost puppy” Comet I couldn’t save. It was being unloaded from a flatbed in front of a junkyard in Whippany NJ, circa 1990. The body looked good, but it was destined for the crusher and I didn’t have the resources to rescue it.
It’s been a long time, but that’s my Comet Story.
Yes, they could have reduced this to a single page, or maybe a foldout with some pictures. “We took a Falcon. We made it longer. We gave it quad headlights and cat’s eye taillights. We are Mercury, makers of fine crib-jobs since 1939.”
I love the fact that the Comet Fan Club was headquartered in Alexandria, Indiana. It is nothing like Alexandria Virginia. Instead, it has been the home to somewhere between 5 and 6 thousand people and was very near the massive GM operations in Anderson and Muncie Indiana. I would love to know how someone in Alexandria woke up one morning and decided to start a club for lovers of Mercury Comets.
I had a brief experience with a 1960 Comet, and I need to write about it here.
Let’s see, they took the Ford Falcon, added a bit of wheelbase, lengthened it a bit, plushed up the interior a bit . . . . . . . and then turn out a publication that purports the car is some massive philosophical and technical breakthrough unmatched in automotive history.
Uh, yeah. Nothing like promotion.
A neighbor on the other side of my block had a Comets re-painted in K&B purple. K&B was a local NOLA pharmacy known for its bright purple signage and the only store in town that sold “Cream Cheese Ice Cream”.
It was the late 60’s…what more can I say.
The second I saw a reference to “K&B purple” in your post, I knew where you were from.
And the CC Effect strikes again. I moved away 25 years ago, but just yesterday I was talking to another native about K&B cream cheese ice cream.
Interesting story and great find on the “confidential” Comet facts pamphlet. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Comet’s were very popular cars back then. I really liked them all through the ’67 model year. I was aware that the Comet was to have originally been branded an Edsel and that was of course nixed when Edsel went under. Ford did a smart thing by rebranding it a Mercury. And the Comet handily outsold the ill-fated Mercury Meteor. Checking ebay, prices on these great ’60s Comets have really taken off.
In case there is any doubt the Comet was originally intended to be an Edsel, the 60-61 Comet dashboard looks virtually identical to that of the 59 Edsel.
More on the Edsel Comet here: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/forgotten-future/forgotten-future-1960-edsel-comet/
Yes, I’ve read your article in the past and it was probably where I learned about the Edsel connection!
Great essay and information! My wife and her sisters bought a 1963 Comet in 1971 for $600.00, which was about three-hundred more than it was worth and was sold to them by a cousin’s husband. They used the Comet until 1975. It putt-putted along faithfully. I like the data on its materiel from the 1958 Ford and the Edsel. Still, I would not classify this as an upscale Falcon, another car which i disliked because i had one as a company field car. A slug with poorly supported seating.
Did anyone see that the tail light on the 60 was used on the 60 Edsel ? since it was supposed to be an Edsel Comet
The tail light lenses LOOK similar, but they’re not the same. Comet lenses won’t fit on an Edsel, and vice versa:
As others have said, this is really bogus. Now if they’d spent the money on writing and printing this on bigger brakes, or…
No wonder it was a “secret classified document”. Too embarrassing in the light of day.
What is clear at this point, is that the first liar’s draft of The Comet Story – didn’t have a chance, once the other liars got their hands on it. I wish it never ended. I would have loved their detailed research regarding how the Comet’s front design was painstakingly crafted to deflect night-flying insects, using the latest US Air Force design technologies.
“After studying various red shapes at several clinics in Stockholm, the Comet designers settled on the soothing shape of Comet tail light – the “cat’s eye”, which throughout history was the preferred design of Egyptian royalty, noted for its ability to be instantly recognized as both elegant, and as an emergency signal for a stopped chariot.”
Back in the day, when in high school, my brothers and I bought a 1963 Comet convertible for $80. The plan was to restore the vehicle. It was a good practice car both working on the engine, bodywork etc. First car I learned to drive. It was so much fun being able to drive this thing into a snowbank and no dents. It made a great car to learn to drive because it didn’t matter what damage you caused; it could be repaired with body filler. We never did finish the restoration and eventually, the car was towed away but what a learning experience. We took the engine apart, cleaned it up and put it together again. It ran much smoother after the cleaning.
Two things I correctly guessed when I saw there was a Comet Story PR piece:
– there would be no mention the car was intended to be an Edsel
– there would be no mention of the Falcon
I was of course right…
I do find old brochures, advertisements, and promo pieces interesting because they hadn’t yet learned that most car buyers, especially of basic cars like the Comet, don’t really care about the detailed mechanical specifications or engineering (piston travel per mile???). Could you imagine a Honda Accord marketed like this?
The memoryholing of the Falcon is definitely strange. It’s also strange that they took pains to eliminate “small-car bounce”, since 114″ was the average FULL-SIZED car from 1940 to 1956. By 1960 the standard had grown to 118″, still not wildly different.
The front wheels are precision engineered to roll at exactly the same speed as the back wheels, preventing any one wheel from causing an unsafe condition. This advanced development also works in reverse. This same technology is used on the much more expensive Lincoln Continental.
I have a 64 Comet and can confirm they kept the feature on later models too.
Sadly this technological achievement that was equal-size wheels and tires has been abandoned on several new car models, an increasing number which have larter tires and/or wheels in back. Since many such cars also have directional wheels and/or tires; this prevents the age-old practice of tire rotation, leading to strange wear patterns and short tread life. The old way was better!
Regarding comets (lower case), I’ve been tracking ZTF (the green one) with binoculars since late January. You need a telescope and probably a long-exposure photograph to see the green and the tail. In binoculars, it looks like a small white fuzzball.
It’s interesting that the 1961 Oldsmobile full-size cars also used the football/oval-shaped pods for the secondary gauges and idiot lights, very similar to those on the 1960-61 Comet. My aunt’s Dynamic 88 looked like this one in blue, minus a/c and the spotlight.
Those ovals (and stars) were a common “Atomic Era” design motif.
GM always did shift levers so much better than Ford.
My MBA thesis was on Ford’s ability to capture demographic trends and market cars accordingly, i.e. the original Mustang, appearing just as the first baby boomer children were graduating from high school in 1964. In phone and email inquiries in 1983, I found the Ford Archives in Dearborn. They let me copy stuff, there was all sorts of PR, management proposals, marketing surveys, etc. This publication is typical of what was produced in the 1960s, 1970s. It was fascinating to look at. I saw Pinto materials but I didn’t get a release for that.
I have a very similar manuscript (in a reprint) for the ’65 Mustang. Like those filmstrips, I imagine these were intended for dealers/salespeople when the car was introduced, or perhaps they were released to the press before the test cars arrived. I would imagine that nobody was doing more than skimming, but there are some interesting facts in there among the hyperbole. Either way, I love ’60-’65 Comets…nice piece!
What a snow job.
As I read this I could here an all to familiar voice in my head narrating the film with the usual condescending tone.
If only someone would have knocked off the team that came up with those damn shock towers.
Also, what galvanized tin, these rotted just as fast as everything else.
I often wonder whose idea it was to put the spring on top of the upper A-arm at Ford. I can only think that they were copying Rambler to some extent for the Falcon, but they went and did the same thing on the Thunderbird, with similar engine-bay-ruining results. How much better would the compacts have been with a Galaxie-like front end setup?
It was by far the best solution as to where the loads for the spring are taken, in a unibody, since the inner front fender structure has to carry that load, and it’s easier and cheaper to make that an extension of the cowl. It’s how every modern car with a strut suspension does it too, for the same obvious reason.
How else would those massive loads from the front suspension be carried on a unibody?
This is also the main reason GM went with a front subframe for the ’67 Camaro/’68 Nova; it was the only practical way to use the same front suspension of the Chevelle and such. Same would have applied if they wanted to use the Galaxie suspension in the Thunderbird: a subframe would have been essential.
I was thinking about the modern strut suspension towers as I wrote my comment, but most of my experience working on those is with the “modified” McPherson strut system in Fox Mustangs and T-Birds, where they aren’t so much of an imposition.
It would be interesting to see if Ford ever experimented with a heavier front subframe on the compacts similar to what GM did with the Camaro and Nova. Or maybe a torsion bar system like Chrysler used.
Thanks Paul, learned something new today, not a rarity on CC!
This makes perfect sense about the spring location on the early unibodies. AMC touted the high-mounted front springs in their X-ray publications as providing a better ride than the competition, but the real reasons are for engineering and cost saving.
And every car I’ve owned has had a strut-type front suspension (fwd or rwd) with the exception of a 1977 Chevy Impala.
Rocker panels. They never rusted on these. (However, everything else around them did.)
Nice detailed article .