By on October 15, 2009

If this goofy-assed little car showed up at your premium brand’s doorstep and told you it was an unwanted orphan, would you let it in? And keep it as a foster child, or adopt it as your own? That’s the scenario Mercury found itself in with the Comet. And true to form, Mercury waffled.

The Comet was planned as a compact Edsel, but when that expensive little venture went belly up, it needed a home. Mercury let it into its dealers, but not branded as a Mercury, just Comet. After all, Mercury had a finely-honed brand identity to protect: uninspired, overwrought, wallowing Buick wanna-be barges that sold poorly. It wasn’t about to let the Comet sully that.

CC 53 036 800Was Mercury dutifully obeying Robert Farago’s oft-repeated maxim against eroding a brand by extension? Perhaps. Mercury was in the depths of its perpetual self-identity crisis, which was exacerbated by the whole Edsel debacle. Ford wanted Mercury to aim up even higher, at Buick; thus the Comet solution. But two significant events changed Mercury’s mind.

First, Buick came out with its own compact Special in 1961.

In GM’s heyday in the 1920’s, when the various divisions each decided to expand and fill the gaps between them, their off-shoots were sold under new names: Cadillac spawned LaSalle, Buick birthed Marquette, Olds created Viking, and Pontiac itself was an offshoot of Oakland. GM has quite the cemetery of failed brands. But GM’s decision to let Pontiac, Olds and Buick have compacts in 1961 changed the rules forever. And soon there was the addition of premium Chevys like the Monte Carlo and Caprice. The GM brand muddle was in full swing.

The second thing that changed Mercury’s mind was that the Comet sold quite well for the first couple of years, during those compact boom years. The real Mercuries didn’t. In fact the Comet outsold the big Mercs almost two-to-one in ’61. Probably explains best why the Comet became a genuine Mercury in ’62.

The Comet was a stretched and re-skinned Falcon. Actually, only the sedans rode on a lengthened wheelbase and had that loopy rear end. For cost-efficiency’s sake, Comet wagons were thinly disguised Falcons with a Comet front clip. Since Comets were planned to be Edsels, some parts still carried the “E” prefix. And that rear taillight lens looks mighty similar to those on the 1960 Edsel. CC 53 025 800

Except for the taillights and finlets, the Comet’s styling was actually ahead of the whole Ford clan in 1960. It almost perfectly predicts the ’62 Fairlane and Meteor twins, as well as Ford’s general styling trend in the first half of the sixties. Of course, it wears that ’58 T-Bird roof proudly, like so many other Fords of the era. And by 1962, the Comet’s tail entered a more mainstream galaxy.

Except for that longer wheelbase, the Comet shared its mechanicals with the Falcon. That meant only one engine for the Comet’s abbreviated first year: the 144 cubic inch (2.5 liter) six that packed all of 90 hp (gross) at 4200 rpm. That would be about 75 of today’s (net) ponies. That made it the feeblest of the semi-upscale new compacts.

The two-speed automatic strangled that herdlet of ponies dead in their tracks. Good thing the slightly stronger 170 cubic inch came along in ’61, as well as the little 260 V8 in ’62. But with a stick and a glass-pack muffler like this one, the little six at least sounds like it’s making half-way decent forward progress.

There’s a distinctive tone to these small Ford sixes. If they’re wheezing through the stock muffler, it’s very nasal, as in dire need of an antihistamine. With a less restrictive muffler, it reminds me of European and other vintage small displacement in-line sixes, like the old Opels, the Triumph six, and others of the period. It’s a pleasant, roarty throb, but smooth and obviously harmless. We’ll indulge in the joys of inline sixes more in the future.

CC 53 026 800Speaking of European influence, the Comet and Falcons actually had a four-speed column-shifted stick option for a couple of years starting in 1961. It was sourced from the British Consul or Zephyr, and was a pretty rare bird. Four-on-the-trees were almost unheard of in the US. Oddly enough, according to one source, last week’s GMC Handi-Van and its twin Chevy Van were supposedly available with a column-shifted T-10 four speed in 1968. Weird. Can anybody confirm that, or know of any other US four-on-the-trees?

Like its namesake, the Comet’s sparkle was short lived. Once it earned itself the Mercury name, it became a slacker, and sales began a long decline. Maybe the Mercury name is a jinx. The ill-fated mid-sized Meteor, which appeared in 1962, didn’t help. It was a lightly reskinned Fairlane, but because the Comet was already a lengthened Falcon, it was almost mid-size itself. The Comet and Meteor were almost indistinguishable, and it all devolved into a typical Mercury muddle. It was not the winged god that gave Mercury its name; it was the mineral: it’s impossible to give it definition, and it’s deadly.

For a few years starting in 1964, Mercury tried to inject some performance vitality into the Comet, including some wild factory-supported drag racing Cyclones. Amusing wheelie machines and cult favorites, but they didn’t really help sell the metal on Mondays. By 1966, Comet morphed into a mid-sized car, which then became the Montego. And by 1971, the Comet’s highly irregular orbit was completed, and it suddenly reappeared as a badge-engineered Maverick. Wish me luck on finding one of those. And if history repeats itself, maybe we’ll see a 2011 Comet badge-engineered from the coming new Focus, if Mercury is still around by then.

CC 53 034 800

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45 Comments on “Curbside Classic: 1960 Comet...”


  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    I love this thing! There was one a for sale sign on it in Sherman Oaks painted lime green and the owner wanted $4600.00 for it. Just two years ago. I stopped to take a picture of it. Definitely a CC.

    What a treat. Thanks,PN.

    BTW:the 64/65 Comet made a name for itself and got a lot of good publicity with it’s 100,000 mile speed runs and a trip from the tip of NA to the tail of SA with few if any repairs. Good move and a selling feature the Falcon didn’t have, though it did well in Monte Carlo.

    If there’s a Comet in Mercury’s new line, I’ll look, just out of reverence for this 1960 effort by Ford.

  • avatar
    hamburglar

    This looks like Tila Tequila from MTV

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    My first new car was a 73 Comet coupe (reskinned Maverick) with the luxury package option and a 302 2bbl 3 spd auto. Nice car, enjoyed it.

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    Nice article on an absolutely awful car.

    I recall reading once, years ago, that a super-rare option on full sized (GM?) vans was a 4 speed on the column. I believe this was in the early 70′s. Only a vague recollection, however.

    Hey, give me a break! I was only a kid then.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Another great article. This example actually looks like it is in good shape. What’s interesting is how well these initially sold. The Comet didn’t debut until March of 1960, but it still managed to sell over 110,000 units for the 1960 model year. Shows how many people really were tired of overblown Detroit land barges in the early 1960s.

    I doubt that we’ll ever see another (Mercury) Comet. The brand will most likely be gone by 2014. Lincoln is filling the slot that Mercury should have filled – cars that are a step above Ford, but definitely not luxury cars.

    I don’t know whether this is a sign that Ford is giving up on Lincoln as a true luxury brand, or has the good sense not to waste a few billion dollars in a failed attempt to bring Lincoln back to its former glory, as GM did with Cadillac.

  • avatar
    BDB

    Geeber–

    They’ll try to save Mercury if they have the cash left to do it post-2012. But right now Ford realizes it can either save two patients and have them live, or try to save three patients and have all three die.

  • avatar

    Love the little car – but where on earth did they get those colours?

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Hey, medium metallic turquoise was big all the way through the 60′s – you could get it on every make of American car. I had a ’56 Olds pass through my hands in the 70′s that had been repainted that color; the interior was still white and bright turquoise to match the original two-tone paint.

    That particular Comet does look to be in pretty nice shape. The brand new license plate implies that it may have just changed hands, and the mismatched outside mirrors imply that it had one owner who valued utility over looks.

  • avatar
    Highway27

    That’s close to the color of a ’69 Fairlane 500 I grew up with. It’s still one of my mom’s favorite colors.

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    Congrats on another very entertaining addition to the series! If I see one of these at a car show, I’ll keep an eye out for the hidden Edsel “E” logos.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    “Love the little car – but where on earth did they get those colours?”

    Hey… that bright acqua was a staple of the U.S. auto industry in the 1960s. GM had plenty of cars in almost exactly the same hue. There’s no accoutning for taste, I guess…

  • avatar
    Jeffer

    I owned a 1965 Comet for a short time, it had a mighty 202 cubic inch six, with a three on the tree and armstrong steering. It was actually a fairly peppy car, although the handling and braking left a bit to be desired. The odd thing was that, after a rear spring shackle broke, it was found to have a 9 inch rear diff. It was worth double what I paid for the whole car.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    Probably OT for Comets, but in the late 70s/early 80s Ford offered a 4 on the floor for some Econolines, with the stick shift sitting between the engine cover and the drivers seat. Even further OT, some 50s British luxury cars combined 4 on the floor with a bench seat by tucking the gearshift into a notch cut in the corner of the seat next to the door.
    Almost any possible gearshift layout has probably been built. My personal favorites are the dinky little dash mounted shifters found on automatic Corvairs and early 70s Post Office vans and the miniature gated shifter mounted on a steering column extension that you see on British buses and trucks with preselector transmissions.

  • avatar
    texan01

    My parents bought a brand new, ’65 Comet in 1966. They put about 100,000 miles on it, and according to dad, it was a miserable car, it’d catch fire about once a year, with the A/C on the six was a rattler, shaking the car to pieces. It managed to last Mom while Dad was doing his tour in Vietnam, but when he got back and they had some money saved, they traded it for a 1969 Chevelle, a vastly superior car in their opinion despite the Armstrong steering.

    Now my neighbor had a 1967 Comet Caliente, and that sucker was hot! little 289 V8 and all the California emissions you could throw on it in 1967. It was a 40,000 mile car when she parked in her garage, and it accrued maybe 100 miles a year after 1975. She sold it in 1998 and would refuse to sell it to me, despite my years of doing her yard work for little pay. I would drive it on rare occasions when she wanted to exercise it (she was in her 70s and 80s).

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    The 1960 Comet was my first automotive lesson. I was in high school. I owned a 67 Galaxie 500 convertible that I had repainted, and I thought it was too good to keep driving in salt country. In my teenaged mind, it was a perfect solution: Keep the vert in the garage and drive a cool but cheap car everyday. Then I stumbled across a 60 Comet 2 door.

    It was a black one with black and white interior. 144 ci 6 and a 3 on the tree. The interor was ok at best, the outside was not bad for its age (this was about 1978 or so)but was a bit rusty and the trunk lid wouldn’t open. Price -$600 for it, which was pretty high for a cheap car back then. But I was smitten.

    Somehow, I managed the fortitude to call my best friend’s dad. Howard was my car mentor, and I asked if he could look at the Comet for me. I drove it across town to his house. Hmmm – vacuum wipers, and the spring was no good on the drivers side.

    Howard took one look at the car, then gave me a look that said “why did you bring THAT over here to waste my time with?” If his own kid had brought it home, there would have been bad words.

    Howard drove it. Blow by. Vibration in the gearshift that he said should never be there in a Ford. He told me that he would not buy the car at any price. I was crushed and drove back to the owner, who was kind of ticked when I said no thanks.

    But I eventually wised up. When the interior needs work, the body needs work and the mechanicals need work, fuggedaboutit. So, being 17, I bought a 63 Cadillac Fleetwood instead. But that’s another story.

    After all these years, I would still kind of like a 60 Comet. The interior was a little nicer than the Falcon, and you gotta love the cats eye taillights. I still recall how solid the body felt on the car, as with all Ford products of that era.

    Great find and an informative article. And I happen to really like the turquoise one.

  • avatar
    h82w8

    Thanks for this Comet Curbside Classic!

    This has been like old home week on TTAC for me. First the Ford Fiesta, in which I learned to drive a stick, and drove/beat all through high school and early college years. And now an early ’60s Comet.

    My folks had a ’63 Comet wagon, white w/red interior, replete with vinyl “wood” siding. Have no clue what motor was in it – I was only 3 at the time they bought it, but I do actually remember going to the dealer to pick it up. Who knows, perhaps that’s what sparked my life-long car addiction. We took several family vacations in that Comet wagon, and my sister and I rode in the way-back with absolutely no restraints of thought of safety. Ah, those were the days… Safety, what’s that?

    Thanks for bringing back the memories!

  • avatar

    If they’re wheezing through the stock muffler, it’s very nasal, as in dire need of an antihistamine.

    Now that’s funny! Great line! I must have had the same engine in my ’62 Falcon. That thing barely made it over the Rockies when I crossed the country in 1970, and again in ’71. I could’n\'t push it much over 30 on the long inclines. Of course, going out, the car was carrying three of us, and the carb was somewhat clogged. (It got rebuilt in Salt Lake City for $40, probably about 160 in today’s $.)

  • avatar

    For a nice example of a ’65 Caliente, go to motorlegends.com, click on “people & cars” and it’s the fourth one, I think.

  • avatar

    See also http://ateupwithmotor.com/model-histories/family-cars/171-how-big-ford-fairlane.html

    I think the success of the Comet probably inspired the Fairlane. The size gap between a Falcon and a full-size Ford was vast — thirty inches in overall length — and the Comet made it clear there was a market for something in the middle. (The Falcon, as Lee Iacocca later noted, also offered very little for salesmen to “upsell.”)

    I’m not sure that the badging issue had anything to do with a desire to somehow preserve the Mercury brand. Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln was perilously close to the ax, and Ben Mills (GM at the time) had to plead with Robert McNamara for another chance. The cancellation of the Edsel brand came very, very close to the Comet’s launch date, to the point that Ford had already had “Edsel Comet” dealers signs made up. It may have been as prosaic as it being easier to do a separate marketing campaign for the Comet alone than to go back and add it to already-approved, already-printed Mercury ads and brochures. It would also have made it easier to move the Comet to Ford dealers if Lincoln-Mercury was killed.

    Incidentally, Chrysler originally marketed the Valiant as a separate marque. It had to do with a complicated and ultimately ill-fated plan to separate Plymouth from Dodge. That idea apparently died when somebody figured out that Plymouth was about to lose its sales position unless they rolled Valiant sales into the total. See: http://ateupwithmotor.com/model-histories/compact-and-economy-cars/167-everybodys-kid-brother-plymouth-valiant.html

  • avatar
    spyspeed

    My family owned three early ’60s Comets at the same time. They served us for nearly a decade before being given away to friends and in-laws.

    What a great greenhouse this coupe has! Convex rear windows kick ass! The hood and tail, though, are disproportionately long.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I had a 1963 Comet station wagon with the ultra rare 260 v-8. Only a few produced for a short run. For a wagon it was a very peppy car. The interior was simple yet stylish.

    I also had a 1963 meteor which had gauges for amp and oil. It had the V-8 260 engine as well although internally the rods were thinner and the pistons had an additional carbon ring on them. I’ve owned several 63 and 64 fairlanes. I would love to find a 63 Comet S-22 convertible with a V-8 and a stick.

    I like the 63 small Fords the best and if I could collect cars I would have an example of each. All were very reliable, economical, and fun to drive.

    I never owned a 6 cylinder version, I thought them too slow. I had a 2 speed in some of my Fords and installed a c-4 in one. They also offered the FMX trans, a rare option.

    Back then you had a lot of options within each model, Falcons could be had as Rancheros, there were 4 doors, wagons, sports coupes, and a myriad of engine choices all the way up to the K code 289 high performance.

    Good old days.

  • avatar

    And by 1971, the Comet’s highly irregular orbit was completed, and it suddenly reappeared as a badge-engineered Maverick. Wish me luck on finding one of those.

    Here’s one on Ebay:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1973-MERCURY-COMET-GT-ONE-OWNER_W0QQitemZ230387379737QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUS_Cars_Trucks?hash=item35a4286e19

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    @JK43123, All my cars are found on the streets of the Eugene area. No cheating.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    Early ’60s Ford Econoline van (or was it an Econoline pickup?) had a four-on-the-column option.

    Owner drove it on the rack, I did the lift, serviced it, then dropped it down. In backing it off the rack, all four gears in the standard “H” pattern were forward. After verifying for the third time everything was forward, the owner, having had his fun with me, told me it was a four speed. Knowing that, I went searching for the third rail.

    I do not remember if it was above or below the standard “H” or the lever went forward or back to get the gear, but it definitely was a four speed and he said it came from the factory that way.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Another recollection is that Ford claimed to get 30 mpg out of the Falcon with the 144 engine. I would guess that the Comet was close. Not bad considering the short gearing, 13 inch wheels and the decidedly non-aerodynamic styling.

  • avatar
    njdave

    My grandmother gave me her 63 Comet when she gave up driving. My first car. The funny thing is I was born a year before the car was!

  • avatar
    geeber

    BDB: They’ll try to save Mercury if they have the cash left to do it post-2012. But right now Ford realizes it can either save two patients and have them live, or try to save three patients and have all three die.

    But will anyone care by then?

    There really isn’t a place anymore for the old medium-price brands…Pontiac and Oldsmobile are dead; Dodge is now a mass-market brand that primarily sells trucks and minivans.

    Buick survives primarily because of the Chinese market; and even on this site, posters can’t decide whether Cadillac or Buick should take on Lexus.

    Where, exactly, will Mercury fit into the scheme of things? There really isn’t any room between Ford and Lincoln anymore.

    Originally Mercury was a “blue-collar” Buick. Then Ford tried to turn it into a true Buick competitor in the late 1950s. That effort failed, and Mercury’s salvation was a stretched and primped Falcon.

    Today the primped Fusion is the Lincoln MKZ.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    TTAC featured that old lady that has some 545,000 miles on her 64 Comet which she has had since new.

    I had a 66 Comet Caliente when I first moved to LA, and learned to drive on a full size 66 Montclair 4 door in a beautiful dark turquoise/ blue green metallic. That was my first automotive love [parents bought it new from Bonneville Motors Tooele, UT] and I have had a soft spot in my head for Mercurys ever since. This Comet has the same shade interior as that 66 did. So much nicer than mud, cadaver or charcoal as interior color choices you get today.

    It’s too bad if you guess correctly you don’t win the car, as I have always loved these Comets.

  • avatar
    folkdancer

    Thank you for the history. Really enjoy reading them.

  • avatar
    skor

    The Falcon was one of Ford’s great success stories. The Falcon begat the Comet, Mustang, and Maverick. It was built in South America, with it’s original 1960 body style, until 1995. The Falcon name still lives in the land of Oz. Possibly one the greatest ROI’s of any auto platform. The Falcon was the brain child of one Robert McNamara. McNamara left Ford soon after to join the new Kennedy administration as Secretary of Defense, where he became the architect of the Vietnam war, and invented the now infamous “kill ratio”.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Man these things were slow. Our young, sporty Anglican priest had one and couldn’t get by my Mum’s 1960 Ford Anglia on a mile long straight. As she said, “My speedo only goes to 80, and I don’t want to break that needle against that little pin sticking out of the instrument panel, so I wasn’t flat out. Ralph’s car isn’t very fast.” 39 hp Anglia 4 speed versus a 2 speed auto.

    The 260 V8 in later Fairlanes didn’t have any top end either. A ’65 Volvo 544 was a couple of miles quicker at the top end on a very rural back road with a three mile straight. I was in the Volvo, and it read 98 mph, that’s all. You remember these things when you’re only 18. My whole body was shaking from excitement, my foot hardly able to keep the pedal to the metal.

    Now, on the other hand, my friend’s souped-up 1966 or ’67 289/271 hp Comet Caliente coupe was a rocket ship, although it always threw the fan belt when he exceeded 7200 rpm. 7200 rpm was amazing in a street car in those days.

    Great article, Paul. Brings back the memories.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    That color made a comeback in the early nineties. My mother bought a loaded Mercury Sable in ’92 that sports a very similar color, called “Caribbean Green”. Taurus had the same color under a different name. I own that car today for use in commuting and Home Depot trips. The color is rather tiring after looking at is for so many years. I guess there really isn’t much that is new…

  • avatar
    GS650G

    The 260 V8 in later Fairlanes didn’t have any top end either.
    you didn’t go for a ride in mine.

    But fair assessment. The heads had small ports and the intake valves were only 1.60″ while the 289 got 1.78″ valves and larger intakes.

    I put 289 heads and intake on my 260 along with a few other tricks like a wind age tray, variable duration lifters, and electronic ignition. It was good for about 270hp at 7000 rpm. About the same HP as a K engine 289 but with more top end power overall. Top speed in my Fairlane was about 140 with 3.25 gears.

    The slightly smaller engine breathed great through the 289 heads and made a great roar when opened up hard. I do miss that sound.

    I had a rare timing cover on the engine. In 1963 they changed the oil fill location from the timing cover to the valve covers. I had a cover with the oil fill tube mount molded in but not punched out. Only a few were produced that way. I also had heavy Hi-Po rods and the front balancer that used the cam chain balancer as well. It was an interesting combination of engine parts.

  • avatar
    UnclePete

    Man I haven’t thought of Comets in a long time. My best friend’s mom had a 1964 Comet Caliente Convertible, 260ci V8, automatic, dark blue with white top and interior, wire wheel covers and fake woodgrain on the steering wheel. That car was a blast. I remember going pretty darn fast in it because it was so light, but the brakes weren’t worth squat. I remember it having a pretty good exhaust note too.

    We’d blast down the Long Island Expressway with the top down in the winter (and the heater going full blast). Hmm, I think I’d buy one if the price was right.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    My Aunt and Uncle had a 70′s Ford pickup with a 4 on the tree shifter. First gear was pretty much for climbing trees or towing a 747 over the Rockies, so usual practice was to start off in 2nd.

    My ’69 Saab Sonett has 4 on the tree too, of course, and a freewheel to boot!

    What was the LAST vehicle made with a manual column shifter?

  • avatar
    Towncar

    This is a little harsh on the Comet, I think. Yeah, it was born “goofy-assed” (well put), but few if any cars have evolved so fast styling-wise while remaining nearly the same underneath.

    By ’64, when it got a handsome mini-Continental face, it was selling very competitively even against GM’s new intermediates, which totally outclassed it in size and power. The ’65 got the only stacked headlights in the compact class, as well as one of the best bodies Detroit ever put out, IMHO–criply tailored, perfectly proportioned, and with just enough trim.

    The Comet may have started out as an orphan of the storm, but it turned into a great example of the benefits of adoption.

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    Paint it white and you’d have a dead ringer for the one that drove around and around on the fake streets of Mayberry for about 5 seasons.

  • avatar
    aamj50

    Of course, it wears that ’58 T-Bird roof proudly, like so many other Fords of the era.

    Say what you will, but at least cars of this era had some sort of brand (or manufacturer) identity. If you block out everything below the window line this Comet looks just like my old 1963 Galaxie 2-door.
    As The Vandals said:
    The front is kept up for society/
    But the back says I have personality/
    Even if it’s really, really bad!

  • avatar
    zenith

    The “Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln Division” VIN label persisted into the 1962 model of the Comet.

    My Dad ran that ’62 Comet wagon to a lot of dog shows in the late ’60s as my stepmother wanted to preserve the newness of their ’67 Country Squire for at least as long as they still owed payments on it.

    I didn’t think that the Comet DROVE badly at all.Parking was a bitch–Armstrong Steering was an apt description; though the few times I was allowed the Squire, I found it way over-boosted. No middle ground in the Fords of that era.

    Having had experiences with both the Powerglide and the Ford 2-speed, I prefer the Ford. The Powerglide was easier to make hunt between low and high.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Jesus, Detroit sure knew how to bring the fug back then. From the front it’s tolerable, but from the side it’s daft and from the back, hideous. (That being said, Europe produced some real turds back then too.)

    Nice find though, Oregon is an interesting place for a lot of reasons.

  • avatar
    NickR

    The ‘65 got the only stacked headlights in the compact class, as well as one of the best bodies Detroit ever put out, IMHO–criply tailored, perfectly proportioned, and with just enough trim.

    Agreed. The 65 was handsome, tidy design. I remember nearly being seduced by a 65 Comet Caliente a couple of years ago. With a 289 or a 302 these things fly, and look good doing it.

    Whatever happened to clean, simple designs?

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    What I like about this car is it’s simplicity. There was a time when cars were simple. Honda, during it’s rise to the top, advertised itself as “keeping it simple”. At that time, their cars looked like this, in a similar 1980s way. Some would call these cars honest.

    At the time of it’s introduction, these simple little cars were not family cars, they were second cars for daily use. This freed up their larger stable siblings to move onward and upward in size, complexities, and luxuries. Cars like the Falcom, American, Lark, Comet, Special, Tempest, Beetle, and F-85 displayed a simple design for the simple purpose of the daily suburban commute. There is still room for similarly designed cars today.

    Back in the 1950s, simple cars were stripped cars – the Scotsman, Delray, Custom, and these cars sold well because families needed two cars, and didn’t want two fully-equipped vehicles. The 1958 Recession demonstrated to the Big Three a need for simple cars as second family cars. So the compact car was finally gambled upon in a big way.

    Remember the surprise when these simple cars became upscale? The Corvair became the Monza, the Falcon became the Futura, and within three years Ford launched the Mustang based on the Falcon? Just as simple is always appealing, we see simple cars get mucked up for profit – then lose their appeal. Then the next simple thing comes along, right?

    The next big thing was the simplicity of pick ups, which attracted buyers initially, during the 1970s. Small trucks such as the Hi-Lux, Datsun, LUV, and Couriers were spartan and simple. During an age of personal luxury land yachts, this simplicity was found once again. They were inexpensive and easy to understand and appreciate. The enduring legacy of the Jeep, also proves out this quest for auto simplicity.

    And once again, we see the Big Three take these simple trucks and turn them into SUVs and incredible profits. The simple beauty of a 1970 Chevy truck turns into a HUMMER and loses it’s market charm in the process.

    So, where are today’s simple cars? Is it the Indian minicar, Tata? The Honda Fit? The Ford Ka or their Express trucklet? Which of today’s vehicles demonstrate the “start from scratch” simplicity seen in the 1950 Beetle, 1960 Falcon, 1970 B-210, 1980 CJ-7, 1990 Mazda 121?

    There is always a market for simplicity, especially during times like these.

  • avatar
    jplane

    That Comet has the craziest trunk and rear I have ever seen.  It looks like something from Mayberry.
    And it may be off topic, but  jpcavanaugh, I would love to hear about the Fleetwood

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    I think this little car looks cool in that color. I always kinda liked the styling, which I’m sure helped sell the car in those first couple of years.
    The first chrysler A bodies were odd looking, but that would change by 63. The chrysler compacts had it all over the ford compacts and the nova and it’s siblings in the engineering department. The suspension, brakes, engines and drivelines were far superior to the ford and gm offerings.
    I do love the looks of the comet, though, I even like the squinty slanted taillights. When I was growing up our neighbors down the street had a comet just like this one, it was a hideous shade of purple. Dunno whether or not it was a factory color. I remember it being a six cylinder by the flatulous sounds it made as it went down the street.


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