Spotlight on Classic Wheels – Shaw Local
Kind of like the good old days at General Motors, where the product hierarchy started with Chevrolet, then Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, and ended with the luxurious Cadillac. Likewise, Mercury automobiles were the stepping stone between Ford and Lincoln.
The space age was all the rage in 1960, and automotive marketing wasn’t going to miss shooting stars or the Mercury space program. The Mercury Comet hit the planet in 1960 and, like other brands, had underpinnings borrowed from the company’s sibling, the Ford Falcon, but with an upgraded interior and a bit more highbrow trim package.
Although the Mercury automobile made its debut in 1939, the Comet was a singular vehicle in the final days of the Edsel automobile company. The Mercury Comet took off under the Ford-Mercury-Lincoln banner in 1962. In 1964, the Comet included the Hot-as-cayenne Caliente model.
Ron Brandau’s 1967 Mercury Caliente, shown here, has only 2,300 miles, a quarter mile at a time if you’ve heard that old joke! This heavy-on-the-hot factory hot rod was heavily raced in the late ’60s and early ’70s in Ohio.
Having undergone an extensive restoration, you would never guess its racing history. That’s wonderful. Ron thinks the amazing original interior was probably packed and wrapped during his service as a dedicated race car.
History of comets
The Mercury Comet story begins with this sublime factory-equipped, but stripped down, 427 cubic inch premium race car, wolf in sheep’s clothing. Mercury had none sitting in the backcourt. Specially ordered usually for one reason, racing, the car came without undercoating or sound deadening which saved £150.
You’ve heard of a special ‘blue plate’, well it’s a blue oval special. Some Mercury purists claim this rugged Merc has nothing to do with Ford, but it is powered by a ridiculously underrated 427 cubic inch blue Ford Oval muscle engine at 425 hp. With a chuckle and a smile, it was common knowledge that this beast looked more like 500bhp!
Some people say the 427 was a Chevy engine. True, but there are 427, 428 and 429 Ford power plants. Beyond the depth of this article, these 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 platform was changed from compact to midsize, based on the Ford Fairlane. The R 427 code seen here denotes a naturally aspirated dual quad (two 4-barrel carburetor) system. This monster was the same basic powerhouse that powered the infamous Shelby AC cobra. Currently available with two separate induction units, four and two four-barrel carburetors, these have been designated by Ford as “4-V and 8V” carburetors. The “V” indicates the number of Venturi in the carburetors.
As noted, those who ticked the special order box for this engine had one thing on their mind, drag racing. The Mercury Caliente with that big-block power plant was top of the line, adding 25% to the MSRP at the time. This car sold for just over $4,000, including $1,100 for the engine and top-loading four-speed manual transmission. The same price as a new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray at the time.
The highly sought after and collectible Ford R-code 427 is a machine to be reckoned with. And get this. There was only four Mercury Comet Caliente R code cars built! That alone puts it, car enthusiasts and friends, in the spotlight of classic wheels.