Much like the old days at General Motors, where the product hierarchy started with Chevrolet, then Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, and topping out with the luxurious Cadillac. Similarly, Mercury automobiles were the steppingstone between Ford and Lincoln.
The space age was the rage in 1960 and auto marketing was not going to miss out on shooting stars—or the Mercury space program. The Mercury Comet arrived on the planet in 1960, and like other makes, had underpinnings borrowed from corporate sibling the Ford Falcon, but with an upgraded interior and a bit more highbrow trim package.
Though the Mercury automobile debuted in 1939, the Comet was a singular vehicle in the final days of the Edsel motor company. The Mercury Comet came into its own under the Ford-Mercury-Lincoln banner in 1962. By 1964 the Comet included the hot-as-cayenne Caliente model.
Ron Brandau’s 1967 Mercury Caliente, featured here, has only 2,300 miles on it, a quarter-mile at a time if you’ve heard that old joke! This factory hot rod, heavy on the hot, was heavily drag raced through the late 60s and early 70s in Ohio.
Having been through an extensive restoration, you would never guess its racing history. It is drop-dead gorgeous. Ron believes the incredible original interior was likely boxed and wrapped during its service as a dedicated race car.
The history of the Mercury Comet starts with this sublime factory-equipped 427 cubic inch high-end, yet bare-bones, wolf in sheep’s clothing racecar. Mercury did not have any of these sitting on the back lot. Special ordered typically for one reason, racing, the car came without undercoating or sound deadener, which saved 150 pounds.
You’ve heard of a ‘blue plate’ special, well this is a blue oval special. Some Mercury purists claim this heavy-duty Merc has nothing to do with Ford, but it is powered by a 427 cubic inch blue oval Ford muscle motor ridiculously underrated at 425 hp. With a chuckle and a grin, it was common insider knowledge this beast was more like 500 hp!
Some folks say the 427 was a Chevy engine. True, but there are 427, 428, and 429 Ford power plants. Past the depth of this article, those three Ford engines, with only one cubic inch difference between each, had different architectures, as they say in the engine design department.
In 1966 the Comet’s platform changed from compact to midsize, based on the Ford Fairlane. The R code 427 seen here designated a dual quad (two 4-barrel carburetors) naturally aspirated system. This monster was the same basic power plant that motor-vated the infamous Shelby AC cobra. Actually available with two separate induction units, four and twin four-barrel carburetors, these were denoted by Ford as “4-V and 8V” carbs. The “V” indicates the number of Venturi in the carburetors.
As noted, those who checked the special-order box for this engine had one thing in mind, drag racing. The Mercury Caliente with this big block power plant was the top of the top adding fully 25% to MSRP back in the day. This car sold for a bit more than $4,000, $1,100 of that was the engine and top loader four-speed manual transmission. The same price as a new Chevy Corvette Stingray of the day.
The highly sought-after and collectible R-code 427 Ford is a machine to be reckoned with. And get this. There were only four Mercury Comet Caliente R code cars built! That alone, car lovers and friends, puts it in the classic wheel spotlight.