Tuesday 2nd February 1960
Production of the Mercury Comet began in Lorain, Ohio, US. The Comet was originally planned as an Edsel model. It was reassigned to Mercury dealerships after the demise of the Edsel marque, where it was marketed as a standalone product for 1960 and 1961 as the Comet.Developed concurrently with the Ford Falcon, early pre-production photographs of the sedan show a car remarkably close to the Comet that emerged, but with a split grille following the pattern established by Edsel models. Early Ford styling mules for the station wagon model carried the Edsel name as well. At their debut, the split grille was replaced by one more in keeping with Mercury’s design themes. However, the canted elliptical taillights, first seen on the Edsel prototype, were used and carried the “E” (Edsel) part number on them. While the short lived 1960 Edsels used elliptical shaped taillights, the lenses used on both cars differed in length and width. Certain other parts from the 1959 Edsel parts bin, including the parking lights and dashboard knobs, were used on the first-year Comet. Keys for the 1960 and 1961 Comets were shaped like Edsel keys, with the center bar of the “E” removed to form a “C”.
Introduced in March 1960, initial body styles were 2-door coupes, 4-door sedans and 2- and 4-door station wagons. Two trim levels were available, standard and “Custom”, with the custom package including badging, additional chrome trim and all-vinyl interiors. In 1960, the only engine available was the 144 cid Thriftpower straight six with a single-barrel Holley carburetor which produced 90 hp (67 kW) at 4200 rpm. (Some sources list it as producing 85 hp (63 kW) at 4200 rpm.) Transmission options were a column-shifted 3-speed manual and a 2-speed Merc-O-Matic automatic transmission (unique to the Comet, despite sharing a name with the Merc-O-Matic installed in other Mercurys).
Ford had purchased the name “Comet” from Comet Coach Company, a professional car manufacturer in which the term belonged to a line of funeral coaches, mainly Oldsmobiles. The coach company then was renamed Cotner-Bevington. In Canada, for the 1960 model year, Mercury-Meteor dealers sold a compact car called the “Frontenac”. The Frontenac was considered a model in its own right and was badge-engineered version of the Ford Falcon with only minor trim differences to distinguish it from the Falcon. The Frontenac was produced for only one year. The Comet was introduced to the Canadian market for the 1961 model year and replaced the Frontenac as the compact offering by Mercury-Meteor dealers.
In response to complaints about the low performance of the 144 cid engine, a 170 cid straight-6 with a single-barrel Holley carburetor producing 101 hp (75 kW) at 4400 rpm was released for the 1961 model year. A new 4-speed manual transmission was also an option (a Dagenham without 1st gear synchromesh). The changes to the 1961 Comet were minimal such as moving the Comet Script from the front fender to the rear quarter as well as a new grille design.
The optional S-22 package was released. Available only on the 2-door sedan, it was billed as a “sport” package, although it shared the same mechanicals as regular Comets, with the only changes being S-22 badging, bucket seats and a center console.
Comet was officially made a Mercury model for the 1962 model year, and it received some minor restyling, mainly a redesign of the trunk and taillight area to bring the car more in line with the Mercury look. This is the first year the car carried Mercury badging.
The S-22 had six bullet shaped tail lights, while regular Comets had four oval with 2 flat reverse lights. A Comet Villager station wagon, basically a Comet Custom 4-door station wagon with simulated woodgrain side panels, was added to the lineup. (The Villager name had previously been used to denote the 4-door steel-sided station wagon in the Edsel Ranger series.)
While the 1963 model looked almost identical to the earlier models, the chassis and suspension were redesigned to accommodate an optional 260 cid V8 engine using a 2-barrel carburetor and producing 164 hp (122 kW). Convertible and hardtop (pillarless) coupe models were added to the Comet Custom and Comet S-22 lines this year.
The front ends of these Comets differed from their Falcon counterparts in that they had four headlights instead of two; similar situations would resurface in the late 1970s, with the Thunderbird/Cougar and the Fairmont/Zephyr.
The Comet was produced by Mercury from 1960–1969 and 1971-1977 — variously as either a compact or an intermediate car.