(first posted 5/15/2016) When we left off in the third edition of this COAL saga, it was March 1966, I was newly married, was about three months shy of getting a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Adelphi University, had retired from carpet schlepping and was “trying out” retail work in an Allied Department Store on Long Island NY, and had received my dream career job offer from Shell Oil Company that would start on 6/6/66.
I was also without a car, having sold my COALs 1 and 2 (53 Chrysler and 57 Oldsmobile respectively) because my new bride Annie could not turn their non power assisted steering wheels.
Then I totaled my mother-in-law’s 1959 Ford Galaxie wedding gift.
Oh for the bucolic days of childhood, when all I wanted was to grow up and be an adult.
Quick, to the Newsday classified ads.
There were not a lot of cars that I could afford right then, but the short term simple solution was to get a cheap car that would last for a while and then, after I started at Shell, I’d be in the big bucks and the world would be my oyster. I immediately found the perfect car, cheap, light weight, very easy to steer (important), easy to work on if it came to that, roomy, and newer than any of the cars we had been driving, a dark blue 1961 Comet 4 door sedan.
Comet was Mercury divisions’ answer to the very popular Ford Falcon. Basically the Comet was just a slightly stretched Falcon that had upper scale pretensions, more room, and in my opinion a really unattractive pair of rear end tail lights.
Paul did a CC on a 1960 Comet a few years back; it’s in the archives here.
The T-Bird inspired C pillar was a nice touch.
I already had experience with a Ford Falcon and found it to be a simple, pleasant, and nicely styled machine to drive. My former employer the carpet store had a white Ford Falcon wagon that we used for light loads. With the tailgate down the rear visibility was great and I could back it up into very small curved private driveways for the delivery of lightweight carpet, padding, and tackless loads. It had a two speed automatic transmission and was good basic transportation without any of the pretensions and weight of larger, more glamorous cars. It was also trouble free.
What’s tackless you say? A great carpet business oxymoron!
Note-1: Tackless strips were used to anchor wall-to-wall carpets to the floor butted up against a wall. Each wood/particle-composite strip was three feet long and had (what I estimated to be) 877,000 tacks sticking out at an angle. Maybe a bit less, but there were a lot. Marty, the carpet warehouse manager would scan the diagram of the customer’s house, made some mental calculations while his cigarette bobbed, and then say “three boxes of tackless plus 12 extra strips”. It was those 12 extra strips that darkened my day and bloodied my hands. Individual tackless strips were not easy to remove from the box or load and deliver to the work site. I had to take care that the customer’s new carpet was not stained by my AB negative blood.
Gloves? We don’t need no stinnnkkkking gloves.
Note-2: In the late 1980s I would work at Digital Equipment Corporation whose founder and president was Ken Olsen. While Ken was a very wealthy individual and could afford pretty much anything, he was very fond of early Ford Falcons and kept a few for his personal use. The Boston Globe, in its February 8 2011 obituary of Ken Olsen, wrote the following: “Even when his own net worth was measured in the hundreds of millions, Mr. Olsen looked more like an engineer than an entrepreneur, favoring thick-soled work boots and preferring to drive a 1963 Ford Falcon because he admired its design and found it easy to maintain.”
As Annie and I were using borrowed cars from my family after losing the Galaxie, I made a quick cash deal and got the Comet registered and tagged. It had a 144 cu. in. straight 6 that put out 85 horsepower. The plugs and points were so easy to reach one could possibly tune it up wearing a white long sleeve shirt and not get it dirty.
I proudly brought the Comet home to our little one bedroom cottage that we were renting and Annie opened the driver’s door, paused a long two or three seconds, turned to me while pointing to the floor of the car and asked, “what’s that?”
What’s what? Oh, that. Right. That is the clutch. It’s easy to use. I’ll teach you.
There are times in one’s life when we have enough experience, and maybe some maturity, to be able to look back and identify the consequences of decisions made in the past, and how those decisions, good and bad, impacted the trajectory of our lives.
It’s obvious to me now that getting the Comet without Annie’s input was a bad decision.
I know that now. But, as many have said before me, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Before I describe how my manual transmission teaching expertise made quite an impression on Annie and some nearby motorists, let’s discuss the results of my getting-to-know the department store retail business. As noted in the prior COAL write up, Allied Department Stores offered me a part time position at their Long Island Gertz Store in a management trainee capacity so as to get a feeling for the business. If all went well and if we liked each other, they might make me an offer. It was an 18-mile commute each way. I was used to walking to work to the carpet warehouse so commuting was new to me.
First off, retail means 7 days a week (unless you live in Bergen County NJ where old fashioned blue laws still ban the sale of clothing, shoes, furniture, and appliances on Sundays). Even my former employer the carpet store was closed on Sundays and that wasn’t even the owner’s religiously designated day of rest. But I was an eager beaver and was being paid by the hour, so bring it on!
They assigned “management trainee” stints to me working a week or two in different departments.
I liked men’s furnishings and men’s shoes and bought some of those products using my employee discount in preparation for starting my real programming career in June. After all, I did not have a great wardrobe but would need one soon.
I loved the toy department. I wore my enthusiasm for it on my sleeve and customers responded in a positive way to that. I demonstrated and sold a lot of toys, even during a time in the year when toy sales were usually quiet. I also played with a lot of those toys.
The Pet department was fun. It was no problem for me even when I had to go in on my day off to handle the special feeding and cleaning needs of a live pet department. Store management told me they did not want to leave these tasks to some of the other, less trusted workers. I was flattered, and perhaps that is what they were counting on. I clocked an hour or two extra doing pet care and feeding chores on my day off. The Comet was easy on gas so those 36 miles were relatively cheap.
Predictably, the women’s wear and women’s shoes were not comfortable departments for me. When we were very young my brother Jeff and I spent what felt like hundreds of years waiting in women’s wear departments as our mother shopped, then tried on, tried on some more, shopped, and then tried . . ., well, you get the idea. I felt an immediate aversion to the women’s wear and shoes departments.
It was embarrassing for me trying to fold flimsy and dainty items back neatly after being handled by customers and I could not actually say anything constructive (or proper) to customers about these products. Why was I here? What kind of management track was this? The veteran female sales associates took pity on me and helped get me through that stint. They were all wonderfully sensitive people and knowledgeable workers; they called me honey.
Note 3: While Married With Children was still 21 years in the future, I learned with impressive speed what Al Bundy would teach the world in 1987, and that is that some people are just not cut out for some forms of retail sales.
That was OK by me because I had the Shell Oil Company offer in my pocket. All I had to do was keep up my grades, get that degree, keep working to pay the bills, keep the Comet running, and teach Annie to drive stick. Easy peasy.
Teaching Annie how to use the Comet’s three-on-the-tree transmission started well.
First we started at the kitchen table with ground school. I discussed engine torque, what it was and how it might not be so strong at low engine RPMs. Then we discussed (with diagrams – every topic had a diagram) the position of the clutch behind the motor and in front of the transmission, and what the clutch pedal did when pushed to the floor, and what the clutch pedal did when one let it up (gently, but not too slowly, and not too quickly either), and what the clutch friction point was and how to feel for it, and what damage could occur if the clutch was slipped too much (clutch plate wear) or if the clutch pedal was kept down too long (throw-out bearing wear), or if you put it into first while still moving without double clutching (first was not synchronized), etc. etc.
I assured her that she should not worry about the un-synchronized first gear because if she was moving at all, second would be fine. No smile or agreeing nod; Annie kept staring at the diagrams, probably soaking it all in and thinking how smart her husband was and what great diagrams he drew.
The next step was an orientation ride to a quiet street or parking lot. The Comet had no console so Annie could clearly see my feet doing their clutch and gas pedal stuff as we rode to a quiet part of town. I even showed her that the gas pedal wasn’t even needed when starting up. With the engine idling, I put it in first, let the clutch up to the friction point, and then just ease …. It stalled. Twice.
Well, this was embarrassing. The Comet’s little engine (85 hp, 138 lb.-ft.) didn’t seem up to handling no-throttle starts and as a result, would make it a harder car in which to learn to drive stick. The last car I did this in was my friend Richie’s 1963 three-on-tree F85, similar size car, much stronger motor (155 hp, 210 lb.-ft). Live and learn.
Note-4: Many years later I would show my younger soon-to-be-driving son Will the same no-throttle start in my 2002 5 speed PT Cruiser (definitely a future COAL and one you may find surprising). The no-throttle starts worked fine in the little ChryCo Cruiser. Its four cylinder engine (150 hp, 162 lb.-ft.) was not much stronger than the Comet, but it sounded like a Soviet tractor and pulled like one too.
We changed seats in the Comet. Stall. Stall. Screeching start and jerky stop. Stall. If I had been smart and been watching her face rather than outside the window and the clutch foot, I might have notice this was going really badly. We got to an intersection where there was more traffic than I anticipated and in the middle of a left turn the car stalled. Annie opened the door, got out, and quietly walked away amidst the now stopped intersection traffic. She did not say a word, or yell, or curse, or anything. Even the fellow motorists in the intersection were quiet, no horns, no gestures. It seemed like they knew what was happening and felt bad for
both of us for the pretty little blond girl.
By the time I slid over to the driver’s seat and parked the Comet Annie was nowhere to be seen. I looked and looked on foot in ever widening circles, looked in restaurant and store windows, then drove slowly around in ever widening circles, looking. Finally, with a non-trivial level of worry, I drove back to the cottage.
Annie had gotten home before me, on foot. She wasn’t overtly angry, overtly being the key word here. I was then introduced to what many men call the Marriage-Wall-of-Silent-Anger.
A few silent days later, Annie took the Comet out by herself and returned about three hours later and said “I got it; it was easy”.
She drove that Comet better, more smoothly, and quite a bit faster than I.
I guess I was a big jerk good teacher after all.
Must have been all those detailed diagrams.
The only issue with the Comet was a tendency for the engine to emit puffs of smoke through a pipe under the motor. It looked like some sort of crankcase vent tube. I was too busy during that time to investigate fully as the car ran well and I had seen similar emissions coming out of other Falcons and Comets. Probably a Ford thing.
Later in June, BBA degree in hand, proud owner of three cheap inexpensive suits, five white shirts, five ties from Tie City, a pair of wing tips from Gertz, and a four inch wide Samsonite plastic briefcase, I started work as a computer programmer trainee at the Shell Oil New York Data Service Center in the Sperry Rand Building in Rockefeller Center.
I commuted to Manhattan on the Long Island Railroad and could walk from the cottage to the elevated station, so Annie had the Comet full time and started classes at Adelphi University working towards the first of what would be multiple Masters degrees.
Clearly, Annie was intelligent, much more so than her husband. I suspect you the readers already knew that, and maybe some of you were also thinking “if only she had better taste in men”.
With the new programming job going well and Annie happy in her studies, we both finally felt we could relax a bit and stop feeling like we were juggling too many activities in too little time and living on the edge of a financial cliff. Perhaps it was time to say goodbye to the tears and fears of a questionable future, and say hello to a calmer life with some domestic peace and prosperity.
Well you know that’s not going to happen.
Thank you for reading this; be back soon.
What a treat. Thanks for this. The 60-61 Comet is my dream car.
Granny’s 60 Falcon had the vent tube. Stopped at a light people thought her car was on fire. Traded in not long after for the first new Maverick Grabber in Chambersburg PA.
I have never forgotten either of those cars.
I love those old Comets; I can’t believe I haven’t bought one yet. My personal favorite is a ’65 Villager, but even the early ones have a charm all their own. The anecdote about teaching your wife to drive a stick was great, and I think many people can relate. 🙂
I’m enjoying these stories a lot, especially the asides. The cars themselves are a bit before my time so they are interesting as well in a different way than normal. I’m trying to recall how I learned to drive stick, our car at the time I learned to drive was stick and I took my driver’s test in it but I cannot actually recall either of my parents teaching me. Either way I am determined to teach my own kids this dying art but am not sure how that will go as I’m not the most patient person in the world…
Very interesting COAL series here! When I was a little kid, an uncle of mine had a 1961 Comet. It seemed so exotic at the time, even though of course it was just a stretched and dressed up Falcon. I guess it was just the name “Comet” that made it seem so impressive. BTW, the dashboard really has a 1959 Edsel vibe to it. No big surprise there, I suppose, since the Comet was originally supposed to be a baby Edsel.
Back in the 60’s, my dad traded in my mom’s beloved Dodge Polara (she named it Sam) for a Simca, without talking to her about it.
She’s still bitter about it 40+ years later.
I really enjoyed the side story and picture of the carpet tack strips. When I bought my ca. 1951 house, it had carpet installed over nice oak flooring. I took out the carpeting and then had to remove those damned tack strips. In addition to the pre installed nails, the installer had added an equal number of galvanized roofing nails to each strip. Those nails made the strips break into small pieces as I tried to remove them, and the heads of the roofing nails tended to pop off when pried on. It took about two weeks of spare time and ten bloody knuckles to get all of the remains of those strips and nails out of the house.
I gotta agree about the design of the rear end of that Comet. Hideous tail lights and body sculpting. Front and side view, not too bad. Looks like something the Edsel design team came up with when they were drunk.
I’ve had my fill of removing these nasty strips. I got rid of all of the carpet in all of my rentals (and own house) years ago…hate the stuff! And of course they leave nasty little holes in the beautiful wood floors underneath.
Well it was going to be an Edsel to begin with, and things were going badly,so…maybe a little drowning of sorrows?
I used a straight edge shovel with great success removing those strips.
Another very enjoyable story from you.
It brought back memories of trying to teach Stephanie to drive my three-on-the-tree ’68 Dodge A100 van, while on our honeymoon, which was a camping trip in the desert! That didn’t work out as well as with Annie. She would never touch a stick again!
I have a soft spot for these ’60-’61 Comets with their goofy tail lights. These were a surprisingly successful car, sales-wise. If they had kept it an Edsel, maybe Edsel might have survived as a purveyor of upscale compacts. Never mind…
I’ve got a COAL in the can with teaching my wife how to drive standard, which was rather successful.
I’ve always loved those taillights too on the Comet, but what’s my VW’s speedometer doing in the final photo?
So I see. It’s scheduled for Wednesday morning, first thing. Thanks!
Neighbor had a ’61 Comet for years, his teenage son’s referred to it as the Vomit. But it was around a long time, must have been a reliable old car.
Remember Dad trying to teach my older sister to drive his ’66 Beetle, and looking out the front window as she jumped the curb and took out the mailbox. To this day she never learned to drive, but not for lack of Dad’s determination, it took a couple of weeks for him to decide driving was not for her.
I made the mistake of replacing the carpet my rental, a long story that turned into a landlords nightmare starting with how the installer obtained the materials.
The next renters dogs quickly soiled the 6 month old carpet, to my tenants credit she did have it replaced with vinyl wood flooring at her expense. The 1943 bungalow has nice pine flooring in the bedrooms, but living room had fireplace removed with a big sheet of plywood covering the fireplace cut out.
Really like the authors side stories and the 96 tears video as well. Great write ups.
I’m really enjoying this series! It’s really more like your autobiography through the prism of your cars. Since you got your first car in 1960, I assume it’s going to continue for a while. You use strikethrough, as in “big jerk good teacher,” to good effect, even if I can’t seem to duplicate the strikethrough here.
I learned to drive from a professional driving instructor, but I’ve heard that learning from a family member or SO can be fraught. I don’t know how much, if at all, this applied to you and Annie, but many years ago one of the advice columnists (Abby or her sister Ann) printed a letter from a woman who wrote, “There is something about the relationship that makes the teacher impatient and the learner unable to take criticism.”
What was with the smoke coming from the tube?
Surely I’m not the only person to have noticed that the Comet shared its tail light lenses with the 1960 Edsel.
The smoky tube is a “road draft tube”, and it was the original form of ventilating vapors from the crankcase. Before this the blow by was just allowed to escape to the atmosphere past the various seals in the engine, these seals were not intended to form a perfect seal and they did not. One of the reasons old engines were covered with oil. The road draft tube was intended to vent these gases from the crankcase out to the atmosphere, typically the tube was connected to the valve cover and then terminated under the car. The theory was that the draft created as the car moved along would help suck the gases out; this did work somewhat but cars that spent most of their life at low speeds didn’t generate enough draft to do much good. Plus they tended to clog up over time. The road draft tube was replaced by the positive crankcase ventilation (PVC) valve which was designed to recycle the blow by into the combustion chamber and lessen pollution to the outside atmosphere. We have come a long way since then.
A side effect of these draft tubes, was that, atleast on my 1959 “survivor” (or junk dragged out from some barn, and thrown haphazardly together) Opel Olympia, the undercarriage was covered in oil, so zero rust. There was rust elsewhere, but nothing under.
Not sure if that was intended, or just a random coincidence on my example.
Ive just converted a 73 engine to 59 spec with a breather pipe exiting under the engine, its attached to the sideplate covering the pushrod gallery not the valve cover but the unsealed oil filler allows top end breathing too.
We’ve got those on some of our old tractors. They stick straight down out of the crankcase because there’s not enough pressure for them to have any horizontal distance whatsoever.
strike-throughis easy if you know the trick; here it is:
Use the word ‘strike’ enclosed in “less than” < ; before the phrase you want to mark and enclosed in ''greater than” at the end. Thus using ( rather than < for demonstration purposes:
(Strike) whatever (/strike) results in
You don’t need to type out “strike.” “s” is sufficient. Just like Bold and Italic.
Great series! I’ve enjoyed it.
My mom’s first car of her own was a ’62 Falcon, automatic though. My dad sprung for the 170 for her. I always wished we had a Comet.
My dad taught me to drive a 3 on the tree in a ’64 Falcon wagon, with 260.
Fortunately for me, Mrs. Tom had a VW when we met, so she was already a gear jammer!
Learned to drive a stick in the 63 Valiant Signet I own. Brought it back from Yuma AZ to LA.
I’d only had a ride around the block with my Dad to learn how to drive it, and on the way back, in morning traffic merging from the 10 to the 101 stalled it on a slight grade in crawling traffic and started rolling backward.
Once I got it home it sat for a week until it was time to switch sides of the street for sweeping.
If one knew my Dad it would be pretty obvious why my training was once around the block. Patience was not one of his sterling traits.
Still have the car 35 years later and an invaluable, but dying skill.
This reminded me of my former wife teaching herself to drive a stick. She bought a brand-new ’78 Ford Fiesta (her mom drove it home for her).
Then she took it out to a nearby country road with a fairly steep RR crossing/hill (this was in NW Ohio; trust me, it’s flat there), and backed up/drove down said hill until she got it.
“Well you know that’s not going to happen.”
Student had a fling with her teacher? Needed a station wagon?
A badly rust-compromised ’64 Comet Caliente convertible was my daily driver for a few years in the early-mid ’80’s. With 200 ci six and two speed automatic, it was economical, fun warm weather car; less so in winter, though the heater/defroster did quite well. Best memories are of driving it on sunny winter days with the top down, side windows up, heater blasting on high, dressed for outside it was enjoyable in the front seat at easy, secondary road speeds. Rust finally got it, to the point the doors had to be lifted while slamming them shut.
Those ’60-’61 Comet sure looked funny to us kids going down the road with their slanted taillight, dim license plate light.
I was in 12th grade, in high school, in 1968, when I bought my first car.
It was a 1960 Comet.
I paid $40.00 for it, the body was excellent, but the 144 cu in engine was shot. They weren’t the strongest mills, but good on gas if in good shape.
In my shop class I stripped down the engine to rebuild it. It was so small that I could hand carry the raw block from counter to counter top by myself.
Once it was rebuild I used for a year or so, but the low power, put downs, got to me, so now the real fun started.
So I yanked out the little six, and dropped in a used 390 with a matched up gearbox. I made up a custom driveshaft, ½ Ford, ½ Comet.
Within one week I blew the Comets rear into the next state.
So in went a nice big fat Ford rear, with lifted up shackles, and the fattest mud and snow tires I could find.
I now had a car that was a true handful.
Since the carb hit the hood, I cut a hole in it, and added on one of those, old school bolt on hood scopes.
When I put my foot into it, the steering got really light. When the front end bounced up and down the top shock holders took a beating, and once actually ripped out of the shock towers. The way I knew this, was when I saw the tips of both shocks, sticking out of the new bulges and holes in the hood, not good!
If you took the side pins out of the front seatback, it would lie down, for a good sleeper. If you did this and also took out the rear seatback, with a makeshift back support, you could put those old long surfboards, right inside the car.
My first car, what fun,
Now I’m doing a ground up on a 67 XKE, that should put out about 50 hp over the stock 265 hp engine.
The fun just continues.
PS: The doors on a Comet and a Falcon, were the same.
That’s a lot of depreciation for an 8 year old car!
Many cars did depreciate quickly in that era. I bought a 1961 Ford Fairlane 500 for 75 dollars in the spring of 1968. The car was a runner but just barely; the engine was badly worn and the clutch was shot. Buying a car for $100 or less was common back then, at least for me and my peers, who didn’t have much money. As always you got was you paid for, any car purchased that cheaply was likely to need frequent repairs to keep on the road. I knew people who would buy a cheap car, drive it until it quit, and then just move on to the next “bargain”. A good system for some, although I personally wanted more reliable transportation.
Brutal cliffhanger! Just brutal.
Wow I just love your stories. Plus it seems we have much in common. Growing up my grandmother had a Comet, albeit slightly newer then yours, a 1963. I got to drive it very slightly as I had just gotten my learners permit w hen she traded it in for a 1970 Maverick. I also grew up on Long Island and also worked for Gertz Massapequa and also went into their management training program TV and Toy department manager. It was a great short term career on my way to becoming an architect in NYC. I also lived in RVC for our first year of wedded bliss. Oh well, that wedded bliss did not outlast my first car, a 1968 Ford Fairlane 500 fastback. A really cool and fast looking car even if it was really a dud underneath.
I can’t wait for ur next chapter!
A few silent days later, Annie took the Comet out by herself and returned about three hours later and said “I got it; it was easy”.
Right there I said:”Wow! She must be a keeper!”
Great story, thanks!
Wow, those are some tiny wheels. Fourth picture down, they look like they came off some roller skates!
They look perfectly normal to me. Of course then I am a crusty old fart who thinks the wheels of today belong on covered wagons, not cars. Each to his own.
“A few silent days later, Annie took the Comet out by herself and returned about three hours later and said “I got it; it was easy”.”
Yup that was how I learned to drive stick also. I had bought a 1990 Escort and it was my first stick shift car. My dad is not the most patient man when it comes to teaching things so we both were quickly frustrated.
I wound up taking the car out at 12 midnight and drive it from my home at the time to Clarksville MD via Rt 32 and back and I learned how to drive it. I still had not gotten the hang of reverse so I made sure to park the car in a space in out housing community that was on a slop so i did not have to use reverse in order to get out of the space. I got it eventually. As i keep two cars most of the time, I try to get one that is a stick and one that is an auto so i have the best of both worlds. This time around, i was not able to have a manual car as I had my 1995 Deville and the only small truck I could find that was cheap was an auto (though the way the clutch and shifter feel on the manual trans Colorado, I did not miss much)
I should post the clip of my then-13 year old “practicing” driving the Saab in an industrial park near us. “Dad, listen how loud it gets!”. “Shift! SHIFT!!!”.
Another enjoyable tale. I had about a 90 minute love affair with a 60 Comet. It was for sale and I drove it to have my car-mentor Howard look it over. Good thing too, because after that, I opened my eyes and saw the worn out POS it actually was instead of the beautiful car in the brochures that my mind kept seeing.
Same 144 six and 3 speed. And vacuum wipers. Had it been in much nicer condition, it would have been a nice little car. A black 2 door sedan with black and white interior. I was surprised how nicely trimmed it was.
I will also join the chorus of tackless strip haters. I am engaged in a long, slow process of de-carpeting my house. Those things are nasty to pry out of hardwood, with a tendency to break into 1 inch pieces with loose tacks left behind. I hate them.
My first American car was a 64 Mercury Comet, I have a soft spot for these cars. Nice read thank you.
My grandparents died in one of these when I was 8 years old, so I get a little twinge whenever I see one.
My favorite ‘teaching’ story involves my engineer dad, my mom, and engineer-wanna-be me. Growing up in the early 60’s in northern Pennsylvania, our house did not have air conditioning. It really wasn’t necessary as the temperature rarely went above 80 F, but humidity was a problem and so a breeze was a really nice thing. To that end, my dad somewhere obtained a
giantbig electric-motored squirrel cage fan and mounted it in our attic. The idea was to close all the windows and doors except the kitchen screen door and the fan would pull air in from the kitchen door, through the house up the stairway to the second floor and out through the attic fan.
My mother however insisted on opening our front door which was at the base of the stairway – this meant, of course, that no air was moved in the ground floor of the house as the fan pulled from the shortest path. This made the downstairs hot and humid because no air was moving and all the windows were closed.
Realizing that my mother wasn’t grasping the concept behind the system, I attempted to explain using a bright visual. I held a ping pong ball in front of here, and said, “Imagine the house is filled with water and this ping pong ball is floating on the water. With great patience and care, I theoretically floated that bright white dot from the kitchen door, through the living room past the closed front door, up the stairs and out through the fan!
Then I explained the eddying that would stall the ball in the living room if the front door was opened. It was so clear, and such a perfect visual demonstration – I was was damn proud.
Until my mother snatched the ping pong ball out of my fingers, said. “My house isn’t filled with water” and went and opened the front door.
Sounds like a sketch I saw on SNL in the early ’80s. Memories are dim now, but the characters are cavemen. One of them is trying to illustrate a point, saying figuratively, “Imagine that this rock is this guy, that rock is that guy ….”
Another character, clearly not very bright, says irritably, “We are not rocks!”
I should say that I’m sure your mother is intelligent! 🙂 FWIW, I could never get my mother to get her head around the binary system in numerous attempts over many years.
At first glance it appears to be a Falcon with something seriously off about the rear end.
I too have enjoyed your series very much. Interesting that Mercury pioneered the market segment that Oldsmobile came to own with the Cutlass.
Paul wasn’t kidding that the Comet was popular at the outset. It sold around 120,000 copies, roughly doubling Mercury sales without doing any real damage to full-size Mercury sales. That had to put a smile on the face of LM dealers.
A college fraternity brother of mine had a father who owned a Lincoln/Mercury dealership in St. Louis. Marty was permitted to drive a ’61 Vomit station wagon while at school. The little beast had the 144″ six and 2 speed automatic.
The car was seriously underpowered, and I guess Marty suffered an inferiority complex about that. Our frat house had a gravel driveway, and Marty decided he had to get the Vomit to spin a little gravel to show its prowess. He first tried just tromping the gas from a dead stop, but that didn’t work; no wheelspin could be induced. He then tried torqueing the engine against the brakes, and that didn’t work either, The final attempt was to get up as much speed as possible going down the driveway in reverse and shifting to drive while flooring the gas. The car would just perform a gentle stop and reverse direction without chugging a bit of gravel.
Another frat brother had a Falcon station wagon with the 144″ engine and three on the tree, and it actually wasn’t too bad. No hot rod, but reasonably peppy.
Did the Vomit have upchuck seats? Horn that went “ralph?”
Talk to me on your big white phone.
Our family had a ’62 Comet as our first “2nd” car when I was 11-12. My big brother learned to drive stick on that car…and I think I still have lingering neck problems from the whiplash I experienced!
That Comet was a 2 door, two-tone, black bottom, white top, B & W interior. It really looked pretty nice for an inexpensive car.
I recall two things that were a sign of how the bean counters won out over the engineers in those days: Ford loved to have the gas tank double as the trunk floor-with a mat over it. Yikes! And, our two door had these little foam pads, wrapped in plastic, stuffed between the rear wheel wells and the quarter panel. I can only assume they were insulators to stop some ‘drumming’ of the body with those relatively long quarter panels.
I recall in the auto tests of the day, acceleration with the 144, and manual drum brakes were woefully inadequate, which makes me not interested in driving one today! But as an 11 year old, already addicted to cars, I was glad to wash and wax and vacuum and pretend-to-drive our little Comet!
Goodness—have six years passed since this was first posted? A charming read, for both automotive stuff and real-world daily living and relationships.
I have no guarantee that this is THE 1961 Comet ad, but it (the one in the middle) is in the Newsday, sometime 1961–mentions 4-door and blue, but nothing about an automatic, so perhaps…….? (If so, OK to poach this and ad to the CC.)
I’d love to have one of these Comets/Falcons today, anemic or not!
There must be a better way to fasten carpet than carpet tacking. I have to be careful walking into my bathroom barefoot because the tacking will poke through the carpet and into my foot or toe if I step on it. Wouldn’t strong two-sided tape work? Still, I love having wall-to-wall carpet, and not having to deal with splinters, ants living in the cracks between planks, refinishing, scratches, squeaking when I walk on it; and I like the general softness underfoot of good carpeting and padding.uf
I’ve thusfar avoided Marriage Wall of Silent Anger by not getting married. But I’ve experienced Girlfriend Wall of Silent Anger, Roommate Wall of Silent Anger, and avoided Family Member Wall of Silent Anger only because that would require holding their complaints in for a later time rather than lashing out immediately. I’m fairly sure my first car held some silent rage against me too – I’m not sure what I did to it to deserve such unkind treatment, but I could say the same about my ex-gf’s and ex-roomies too.
I’ve never experienced a Comet firsthand either, but my mom drove a similar ’60 Falcon when I was a little kid. All I remember is lots of bare metal, nylon upholstery that scratched my legs in the summertime when I wore shorts, and a musty smell. The first Comets had taillights that looked like those from a ’60 Edsel and were intended to keep the family resemblance; the original Edsel vertical grille was quickly changed when it was decided the Comet wouldn’t be an Edsel but the taillights remained and used an Edsel part number, albeit a different part number than those used by 1960 Edsels despite having a similar shape. Some other parts, like the dash and radio knobs, are indeed shared with the ’60 Edsel.
There shouldn’t be tackstrips anywhere that you walk on, such as the transition into a bathroom, but if there are it’s likely due to a cheap, lazy, or unskilled installer. Or any combination of the three, usually from the low bidder installer of a big box store like Home Depot or Lowes. There is a way to use a Z-bar method that involves wrapping a bit of the carpet around a piece of metal and then it’s fastened to the floor. All quite invisible from above unlike a transition strip of metal and no sharp points to poke you from underfoot. You generally have to ask for it when ordering and then insist on it when the installer arrives, and sometimes need to make a call to the shop to ensure that the boss tells the installer to do it or (just as often) sends someone else to do that part of the install. You knowing the method exists solves the problem quickly 90% of the time. Strong tape can work temporarily but especially in a high traffic area isn’t a good long term idea.
If you have had problems with ants, splinters, and squeaks in a hardwood floor, rest assured that’s not normal or particularly common either. If ants are living in the cracks (which a good and maintained floor won’t have), then they are likely also deep in your carpet…I’ve owned close to a dozen homes with hardwood floors over the last twenty years ranging in age from virtually new to a century old, refinished or expanded the flooring in probably half of them and been in literally thousands of others so equipped as part of my profession and have never had such an issue beyond some minor squeaking in a very small subset of those homes, usually on staircases. Two-hundred year old homes with original flooring on the East Coast or wherever may of course be different.
Installer (a general contractor) was cheap and unknowledgeable, as he was at other facets of a major renovation from about 8 years ago, which will need another one to correct all of the problems (leaky plumbing, insufficient moisture barriers, violations of electrical code, gutter, drainage, and problems, HVAC issues, etc. Also, his subcontractor was a thief. Here we thought we knew what we were doing.
I’ve taught a few people to drive stick with a similar method, or if necessary holding the throttle steady just off idle first. “Ground school” consists of one or two sentences about how you’re stirring the machinery directly and the importance of releasing the clutch before coming to a complete stop. It’s important not to overcomplicate things.
Your article brings back lots of memories for me. My father brought home a ’61 Comet 2 door white, red inside. Had the high end trim. I wanted him to buy it. Had a stick. My mom said no. She was used to an automatic and never did learn even though my grandfather tried to teach her on his ’34 Fordor and several times since. The Comet test drive being one of my dad’s attempts. Later in the 60’s I acquired my grandfather’s 1960 Falcon. Yes, it needed a little throttle on take off, fortunately, I was used to this as the Dauphine I was driving required this as well. My Falcon had a nasty habit of popping out of 2nd gear going downhill. Dangerous, since where I lived at the time had many long descents. I do recall that the draft tube on these little sixes was in the front and that they were notorious for “breathing heavy.” My memories of Long Island begin in the ’70’s. Would go to Jones Beach on the LIRR and then take a bus from Freeport. Rockville Centre was where nice people lived. Barely remember Gertz, was more of a Caldor shopper myself.
I taught my dad to drive a handshift transmission in my Spirit R/T, also a much-less-than-optimal car for that sort of teaching of that set of skills.
At first glance, those taillights on this Comet could have been trying to woo people away from Chevvie buyers who had gone all in on a 1959 batwing, or a 1960 toned down bird Chevvie.
It took me about ten minutes to learn to drive a standard. A bit longer to learn that I must take my foot off the gas while the clutch is depressed while shifting gears.
I can’t wait to look over your next installment on adventures with Annie.
Great story about the car.
The rear almost looks like Exner was involved somehow! Seriously, what was Ford thinking with those fins? I’m pondering what this would look like with the fins shaved off, and the fenderline following the curvature of the trunk. It would certainly look more elegant.
In my cattier moments, my opinion is that Ford were thinking “Oh yeah? Well we can make a ’60 Valiant, too; just wait. Waitasec. Okeh, lookit this!”.
I thought exactly the same thing about the early Comet’s rear looking as if it had been Exner-inspired. All it needed was a toilet seat on the trunk lid to make it complete.
Those initial compact years sure were interesting, seeming as if the Big 3 were doing a lot of throwing things at the wall to see what would stick.
I have found memories as a 10 year old, with my Dad trying to teach my 17 year old brother how to drive a 3 on the tree ’62 Comet. (I suspect some of the arthritis in my neck today came from the whiplash I received then!) And my Dad was not a real patient teacher!
While a Comet had some good points, the 144 was woefully underpowered; the optional electric wipers only cleaned half the windshield on ‘high’. The small brakes were inadequate (attested to in vintage road tests.) And I still can’t believe how cheap Ford was to use the gas tank as the floor of the trunk.
Its not cheap it does save a lot of weight and Ford AU built its falcons untill the early 80s exactly the same.
I can’t believe the author did all that mansplaining and then made her drive in traffic off the bat. These days, that
couldwould end the marriage.
“It’s obvious to me now that getting the Comet without Annie’s input was a bad decision.
I know that now. But, as many have said before me, it seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Yep, dead man walking for sure. How many of us have been there once, or twice, or more? Raise your hands.
Two comets like this one(both two door models) occupied the short street I grew up on.
One was green, the other , beige.
The beige one went away first. The owners lived in an apt and moved.
The green one hung around until about 1970-71.
I think the owner, a widower by then, moved I believe. That guy also had a black mid/late 50’s pickup. Think it was Ford but not sure. It was red inside though..lol
A lady I have known for a long time-we met in 1983-was driving a Comet at the time. It was I believe a ’61 or ’62; I don’t know how long she had owned it but she drove it about another 25 years or so. The rear end was sagging and she had to periodically add transmission fluid, but it kept chugging away until it finally expired. She then advertised it for sale, someone bought it as a parts car. I have to say those old Falcons and Comets were certainly not exciting but they were reliable.
Ive had to go with the odd prospective driver to see if they know what they are doing with a Roadranger, you dont expect silent shifts from somebody who has never even seen that truck before but as long as they can get it in and out of gear on the move you know they’ll smooth it out after a few hours, A lot cannot even engage a gear to move away and its obvious they gained their heavy truck licence in a auto shift, or worse a syncro type truck, those ones just get sent away
You did the right thing with Annie show her the rudiments then leave her alone to figure how the jigsaw works.
It seems fitting that Ken Olson would find his Falcons so appealing. Driving around in obsolete cars, while running the 2nd largest Computer company in the world right into the ground, with his obsolete proprietary computer architecture.
Ken did not get the memo about the open systems revolution. DEC is dead. Good job Ken.