(First Posted October 15, 2013) 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All I know is that a college buddy (in the late 80s) had a ’62 Comet with a six and an automatic and it was infuriatingly slow. A loss on its own merits, regardless of what else might have been available when it was new.
Agreed. My father purchased a new Falcon in 1962 with likely the smaller six and three-speed. He is one who has always owned modestly powered vehicles, but even he talks about how underpowered it was.
This particular example has the automatic.
+1 A friend in high school had Comet with a six… What a dog
The two-speed Fordomatic really sapped the sixes on these cars. They weren’t exactly sparkling with the three-speed, but the difference was pretty considerable, at least if pushed hard. The 170 with the three speed was not bad for the times. And with the very rare four speed (which was also available on the Falcon, BTW), it was even better yet.
That was the Zephyr gearbox which was a much better car all round than the American junk heap
I really like this car. I like its styling much better than that of the Falcon. The fact that it sold half as many cars as the Falcon did would seem to be a big win for a Mercury of that era. It is one of the few Mercuries that gave you something more than you got down the street at the Ford dealer. A little more engine would have been nice.
This is a much more attractive car than a 63 Dart (there, I’ve really said it 🙂 ). But IIRC, there was no V8 available in the Dart until the 273 came out in 1964.
If a guy was looking for something with some real power, that little fuddy-duddy company in South Bend would sell you a Super Lark with the supercharged Avanti R2 engine, the same 4 speed stick used by Corvette, a Twin Traction axle, HD suspension and disc brakes. Nearly 300 horsepower in a 63 Lark goes a long way towards offsetting its uninspiring looks, in my book. A proto-GTO, but without the good looks.
But for most people, I would declare the Comet S-22 as the winner, with the best combination of size, power, and looks.
You’ve got a great point about the Studebaker. When deciding what I wanted to compare, I tried to spread it around and, noticing the wheelbase of the Stude was comparable, thought I’d stick their convertible in there. Whoa, was I surprised!
The Super package on a Lark was one rare bird, and cost over $600, making it a very expensive bird as well. It was not really publicized that much and they only made a few hundred of them. Andy Granatelli got one to over 130 mph on the salt at Bonneville, which is pretty amazing considering the car’s brick-like aerodynamics.
Let’s not forget that the new Windsor V8s were available on the Comet in 1963. The question is exactly when? I can’t readily find a ’63 Comet brochure. The Falcon’s 260 V8 appeared as a mid-year option. The Standard Encyclopedia lists the 221 and the 260 as optional in the Comet. Anybody have more info?
The 260 alleviated any lack of performance very handily.
All I could find is that both the 260 and 221 were available; I can’t help but wonder if one trumped the other, similar to the 289 trumping the 260 in the full-sizers mid-year.
The Comet started the year with only the sixes in 144 or 170 cu. in. form. The 260 was added mid-year at about the same time the Falcon Sprint appeared. I’ve never seen anything to suggest the 221 was available on the Comet, although it wouldn’t have been a bad combination.
The Falcon/Comet body structure needed a fair amount of beefing up to accept the V-8 and its significantly greater power and torque, which the Falcon was never designed for. My guess is that by the time Ford engineers were confident that the modified bodies were sturdy enough for customers, the company had already decided to phase out the 221 in favor of the 260 and 289.
Another consideration might have been the Corvair Monza Spyder, which had 150 hp. A Comet or Falcon with the 221 would have had 145 (gross) horsepower, putting them behind the Corvair; the 260 would give them a nominal 14 hp advantage with a lightly stressed, two-barrel-carbureted, normally aspirated engine.
1963 saw a Studebaker on the front row of the grid for Bathurst it was too slow to win and of course Falcons were totally uncompetitive, A Ford Cortina won the great race it had disc brakes Holdens which were faster had drums and couldnt stop.
I should mention pole position was decided by engine size not lap times in 63 Studes had the biggest engine available in OZ at the time and were used as police cars but they were not very fast. OZ assembled that is
Maybe it’s because the Falcon was sold new here and is thus quite familiar to me due to plenty still being around, but I prefer its styling to the Comet’s. Somehow the Comet front end looks frumpier than its twin-under-the-skin Falcon. But it’s the rear end that just doesn’t work for me at all. It looks really outdated compared to the rest of the car – like a 1950s design. The Falcon’s jet tube taillights looked modern and relatively lithe by comparison. Just my 2c worth!
The Falcon looked good but that was all the cars either rusted out in my area or fell apart, Comets were never imported though the compact Fairlane was and is popular it had the baby V8.
The irony is the XP Falcon used the hood and fenders (or should I say, wings and bonnet) from the older Comet. I’m inclined to agree though, I like the Comet’s front end but both finned rear end designs leave me cold. I prefer the 64 Comet to the 64 Falcon though
I don’t know. Already I’m torn between a sweet simple machine like a Falcon, and a nicer vehicle like the Fairlane/Meteor. This Comet sits between these types of Fords in a no-man’s land. It’s not really sporty, nor is it really luxurious. To quite a few, this Comet is a sweet spot, but to me, it is a miss.
Mercury to me means substantial traditional luxury because I never knew it to be anything else. I know sporty Mercurys were built, but they were too few to offset the traditional Mercury image of the car “Dad bought after the kids grew up”. Mercury had everything you liked about a middle-age dad. The brand didn’t surprise you by being inmature, it didn’t try to squeeze into kid’s clothes to look younger than it was – Mercury upped it’s class quotient, then waited for everyone else to discover it’s hipness. Ford was the cigarette smoker, Pontiac was the pot smoker, and Mercury was the pipe smoker. It is no coincidence that Mercury fell out of favor as traditional fatherhood had. Mercury had it’s heyday when Daddies discovered Farrah Fawcett draped over the trunk of a Cougar and Broughamification meant interiors that looked like where good pipe tobacco would be right at home. It was like the moment when Dad discovered that driving the babysitter home made him horny after he dropped her off at her parent’s, only this babysitter starred on “Charlie’s Angels”.
That being my imprinted Mercury brand image means that this Comet doesn’t satisfy like a Meteor, a Marauder, or a traditional Mercury. Comet really needed to remain as a Falcon wearing Sunday clothes until it could have been made out of a Capri. The Comet model name ended up on a Maverick, which was not a car that could have become a Mercury.
As compared to it’s competition however, the Comet makes a good case. But to me the Comet competition wasn’t the Tempest, nor the Dart – it was the Oldsmobile Cutlass, the F-85 and the Buick Skylark. Mercurys are always cooler than any Dodge or Pontiac, but it meets it’s match when compared to Oldsmobile and Buick. Ford knew this and that is why the Comet ended up in competition with it’s sibling the Meteor. As long as the Oldsmobile Cutlass and Buick Skylark remained as small as a compact, then the Comet had a good shot. However, when GM grew the Mercury Comet competition into the Intermediate class, all Mercury had was the dowdy Meteor to compete, and ended up splitting every difference in the book with the Comet.
So the Comet was left out of the cold by 1963.
We could add also the Comet vs Meteor, who was slightly bigger, and Comet vs Rambler Classic where AMC showed restyled the Rambler Classic and Ambassador for 1963 and was awarded Motor Trend “Car of the year”.
The Comet hammered the Meteor quite decisively, especially once the V-8 became available on the Comet.
Having grown up in the 70’s, I am predisposed to hating the following car names: Comet, Dart, Maverick. I can’t stand that the new Dodge (Alfa) is called Dart.
The three taillights thing is weird in light of the Impalas styling, it almost looks like the car that would have been born if GM had tried the “Cutlass” thing with Impala. Impala Supreme, Impala Ciera…
Don’t forget that the triple taillight design had already been in the Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln DNA since 1958, the ’58-’60 Lincoln Continentals, the ’59 Edsels, and the ’61 Mercury. The Comet application seemed like a natural extension of this cue, and it was continued in the ’64’s, albeit as a single piece light with the triple lens design imbedded. There were the big brother Mercurys of ’63 and ’64, too, with the triple taillights, l always loved that family resemblance thing.
The Comet is interesting in how closely the execution (a completely different body on the Falcon chassis) resembles that of one of Ford’s most successful vehicles of all time: the Mustang. Given that the Comet wasn’t anywhere near as successful as the Falcon, you would have thought there would have been some hand-wringing at Ford over whether the Mustang might end up being another Comet (and not recoup the considerable investment).
OTOH, the wheels had already been set in motion for the Comet (a smaller Edsel) long before the Falcon arrived on the scene, to the extent that the Comet was more of an afterthought and simply needed a platform and place to go so as to not have wasted all the effort.
In fact, maybe the way the Comet came to exist as a Mercury was a big factor in how Iacocca was able to get the Mustang into production (putting a new body on the Falcon platform to save costs).
The Comet was a good looker and a good all round car.The V8s had plenty go,I had a 64 6 cylinder auto which was ultra reliable for a 20 year old car.My sister had a 62 again reliable and stylish,all the glamour of an American car with none of the thirst and bulk.
These cars look like someone sliced the center out of a full-sized ’63 Ford/Mercury & glued the two outer halves together… sort of a photoshop gone wrong in real life. The widely spaced headlights and taillights look downright weird on a car this size.
Oh well, if you know the owner and he’s cool, I’ll mail him his missing wheelcover. Those tri-color lucite emblems are my favorite feature of this car.
I stumbled upon this car while looking for a house one night. The car was for sale, so I have no clue where it is now.
If Missouri’s license plates stay with the car regardless of who owns it, wouldn’t be too hard to find the current owner (particularly with a personalized license plate that reads, ’63 S22′). Even if not found, it’s a generous offer to keep a well-maintained old car 100% original.
Thanks. My hubcap collection is steadily growing thanks to the scrapyard and it seems kind of a waste to have all these relics just hanging on a wall and/or stacked on shelves where nobody can see them except me. It would thrill me if some of them found proper homes.
I used to sell some on E-bay but it wasn’t that fun and it’s certainly not worth the hassle anymore. I’ll take hubcap requests from any of the regulars here… (I’m still looking for that oddball K-car alloy wheel center cap — it will suck if I find one because I forgot who it was that needed one here).
Forget about the hubcaps and wheelcovers, and find Jason that piece of stainless trim for his driver’s door! 🙂
JP, would you believe I actually have 2 of those chrome pieces? And the clips needed to install it? Yes, it sorely needs to be put back.
google Hubcap harry Young NSW that junkyard has a massive collection
I know it’s an old post – but do you still have this hubcap? I have one on my ’63 Comet that keeps falling off…thanks!
I bought my first car in 1971 for $225.00 / it was a 1963 Mercury Comet S22 convertible with a 170 inline 6/ with a 4 speed manual/ Nile green with darker blue green bucket seats. I was the second owner with the owners manual /book still in the glove box and it had the original red/white and blue hub caps and fender skirts. I drove it home and was so proud, 2 years later I put a 289 HP engine with a 4 speed manual in it . I took my high School sweetheart to the prom in it. We have been married for 42 years now. What I would give to find that car and take my high school sweetheart for one more ride . I lived in Hope Mills NC and still do. I bought the car from a old lady (original owner) that lived in Rennert NC. I sold it in 1977 to a car collector in Aberdeen /PineHurst NC. If anyone just happens to have or see one let me know.
The Falcon Sprint that became available late in 1963 had the same features as the Comet S-22, plus the Sprint option included the 260 V8 engine. I suspect that these cut into sales of the Comets too.
According to a 1963 Redbook Trade In Guide, it lists a 260 option for Comets. My recollection is that Comet got the same “fastbook” roof as the Sprint in mid-year 1963 I would think the 260 option came along with that.
A nice writeup of these. There are a few of these floating around Seattle, not necessarily the S-22’s though.
But to be perfectly honest, I tend to prefer the more plain jane and honest looking Falcon over these, more for their pure, and simple design, especially the very early ones with the turn signals in the grill, rather than in the bumper from about ’62, on.
It’s like the 2nd gen Ranger trucks, plain and kind of dull, until you’ve ether seen many of them, or have owned one long enough, that basic, plain, but honest looks grow on you after a few years. That is how I was with my ’92 Ranger I had up from ’06-2012.
I now have a soft spot for those trucks, and do for the Falcon for the looks only as I’ve never owned one, nor ridden in one, nor knew anyone WITH one, outside of my uncle Joe as he had, I think a ’64 Falcon that his son drove for many years, but never saw in the flesh. However, they are popular with some hipsters here in Seattle as I see them, along with the Comet periodically. There is flesh colored very early Falcon still roaming the streets around these parts, and I spot it every so often.
here is a green Comet I found back in September.
The 260 V8 was an option for the ’63 Comet line. I’ve got a ’63 Comet Custom convertible with the 260 V8 but unfortunately with 3 speed on the column. It is still a lot of fun to drive and has power to spare. Getting it rebuilt this winter so will hopefully even have more get up and go. I am rebuilding it completely stock, as I agree, 100% original is the way to go with a piece of history. The Comet definitely has a “unique” look and not the most sexy ’60’s model but it is it’s quirkiness that made me seek one out and preserve it
Here is my ’63
My mentor in college in NYC, in the mid seventies had one of the 260 V8 convertibles. We would cruise down from uptown at the CCNY Engineering campus to his place in the Village, to either play darts or backgammon, sometimes at his place and sometimes at a favorite watering hole, killing time til my wife got off work.
The ride downtown on autumn and spring afternoons with the top down was great, and it had enough power to get by and get gone from any traffic weirdness the moment he saw daylight.
And after I was divorced, we would often run upstate with our women of the month club for a picnic or whatever.
A great car in the city or the country.
And a great time in my life.
RIP George R., former chairman of the C/S dept.
I also have a 63 Custom Convertible with a 260…it gets attention wherever it goes. Still retains more of the 50’s in my opinion with its modest fins and side SS trim.
She’s a beauty Ron! I like the fender skirts! What is the color of your car, Cardinal red or Rangoon Red?
Yes the fins are reminiscent the 57 T-Bird which I think is one of the nicest cars of all time.
I bought a ’63 comet about a year ago and have been working on it since. I didn’t know it at the time, but I think I have a very rare car, because I haven’t seen another, with the same equipment, and I’ve been looking.
It’s a S-22, convertible with a 260 and 4-speed. I see 6cyl/4 spds and 260/autos, but not my combination. Obviously starting with just 5757 convertibles, they are all kind of rare, but I’m wondering if you might have production numbers based on options.
Any help from anyone is appreciated.
Just noticed this post. I had a 1963 Comet S-22 covertible with 260 and 4 speed from 1979 to 1984 in Seattle area. It was teal on teal with white top. I seem to recall production for that combination was 4,702. Strangest thing was it had 63 S-22 plates as well. My dad and I restored it while I was in high school then sold it when I went off to college. Good memories…wish I knew where it was now.
63 Mercury Comet Custom
Had a silver 63 Comet S-22 Convertible, with a 6 cylinder and yes it was a dog. Worst part was the 4 on the floor, had a 5th gear called locked. It would just stick when shifting between gears.
An oldie but a goodie. Thanks Jason.
And I miss Paul’s comments on newer posts.
Sung to the “Colonel Bogey March” tune, and for those of us old enough to remember:
Comet. It makes your teeth turn green.
Comet. It’s made of gasoline.
Comet. It makes you vomit.
So get your Comet, and vomit, today!
Perspective lost to history now, but when these were new cars there was a definite link to the 1960 Lincoln Continental in the rear end tail lights and styling. No one mistaked one for the other but evoking the top of the line luxury car into a less expensive model never hurts.
Not only evoked, the taillights were the same units used on the ’60 Continental.
The red works reasonably well on these IMO, but not a style my eyes find pleasing.
I have been out of circulation for a while and have missed these curb side classics.
Rescued a s22 as above with a black top two months ago from a Manhattan parking deck. Was parked there for 10 years… Been bringing it back up to snuff but put over 1k miles on it already.. Is exactly like my first car when I was 17… Just turned 71 so reliving my youth… Glad I got it.. They are still out there