(first posted 7/14/2016) At the very beginning of this summer, I found myself taking inexpensive public transportation to the western Chicago neighborhood of Humboldt Park. One of my oldest friends from my ten-plus years in Chicago had made her annual return from Chile, where she had moved several years ago. Our mutual friends had some of us over to their house for beers, beats and conversation on their back patio. Whenever Shar is in town, I pretty much drop everything, knowing it will be another year before she and I will have another chance to catch up in person.
The neighborhood itself is beautifully flavor-rich with Latin American culture, and a welcome change from my own, diverse neighborhood up north in Edgewater. This was the canvas upon which I came across this Mercury Comet parked on the street not far from where my friends live, to the sounds of salsa and merengue music softly thumping in the background from a nearby house. This moment took my breath away.
I’ve never seen a Mercury Comet of this vintage in the wild, or an actual comet. I was in elementary school in 1986 when Halley’s Comet made its most recent appearance to the naked, human eye. Much was made at the time of it being the only such comet visible perhaps twice in one lifetime – every 75-76 years. I missed seeing Halley’s Comet back then, which was actually my first thought when I spotted this car. My second thought was that its paint (which might have been original for all its wear) looked like the color of Comet cleanser. It was, literally, a Comet-colored Comet.
This car has clearly led some kind of life, but it also looks completely stock and original – down to its painted steel wheels and dog-dish hubcaps. Referencing my title to this piece, perhaps this Comet hasn’t “fallen” so much as it has risen above what could certainly be much worse wear-and-tear from fifty-plus years of adventures. Even the trunk lid still has its pot-metal dealership emblem fastened to it, advertising one “Ron Butler” in a city and state I couldn’t quite make out. I didn’t risk taking interior shots, as house doors and windows were open, and I’ll admit it – I probably looked more than a little suspicious snapping all these photographs of this old Mercury. I’m glad I did, though.
The other thing that struck me about this Comet was just how Lincoln-like the front end styling appeared. The car on the above left is a ’63 Continental. The Comet’s “face” looks like a horizontally squished version of the big Connie, down to the quad headlamp arrangement, the horizontal line connecting each pair, and the placement of the turn signals. In direct profile, however, the Comet’s busy lines are in direct contrast to the Lincoln’s smooth sides.
This Comet is identifiable as a mid-range “404” model by the chrome trim on the sides. The four-door was the most popular 404 for ’64, with just over 25,000 sold out of 46,500 404 submodels, and out of almost exactly 190,000 Comets sold that year out of five bodystyles, including a convertible. (This was against close to 300,000 Ford Falcons sold for that year.)
It’s a blessing to be able to see stars as clearly as I can in my neighborhood in the city, and one of my favorite times to look up at the sky is dusk. Everything looks that much more magical against the backdrop of that luminescent indigo that appears before day turns to night. On this Friday evening in Humboldt Park, combined with the music and delicious food smells coming from nearby houses, and the tinkling bells of a passing ice cream truck, this ’64 Mercury Comet seemed to welcome me as a visitor to the neighborhood. Looking old and a little tired, yet content, it helped to set the tone for what ended up being a wonderful night with long-time friends.
Humboldt Park, Chicago, Illinois.
Friday, June 3, 2016.
Related reading from:
- Laurence Jones: Curbside Classic: 1964 Mercury Comet 202 – To the Moon and Back; and
- Paul Niedermeyer: Black Car Day Finale: 1964 Mercury Comet Caliente – Hot, But Not Exactly In The Best Way.