A Comet Convertible Makes Britain Brighter

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A good car show will cover a broad spectrum of automotive tastes. Those that happen in my neck of the world are often tiny, desperate, pathetic affairs where a dozen wizened old timers sit on folding plastic chairs next to their wizened old Morrises, glancing up from their ham sandwiches occasionally to glare at people walking by in disinterest.

Those that aren’t terrible tend to be excellent. This one that I attended last year during our annual hour of sunshine was absolutely terrific, with everything from MG Metro to Cadillac Fleetwood represented. Best of all was the assortment of cars the like of which I had never seen on UK roads. This Mercury Comet was one of them.

Please click on the images to enlarge and clarify.

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There were a lot of cars spun from the Falcon platform over the years, the most numerous by far being the Mustang, of which there is a generous sprinkling of feverishly maintained examples across the British Isles. I’ve never knowingly seen a Mercury Comet over here, though, and I’m pretty sure I’d remember the Convertible if I’d met one before.

The styling of the Comet, launched in 1960, naturally reflects the stylistic crossroads where two decades met. There was still masses of chrome going on, and rounded shapes were much in evidence. There are vestigial jet-age fins out back, but the Comet was naturally far less gaudy than larger machines from the Ford stable, or any other for that matter.

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To European eyes the Compact status of the Comet wouldn’t even begin to make sense. Although a lot smaller than Thunderbirds, Galaxies and the like, the Comet is still a lot of car by today’s standards. However, as far as the visitors to this rural car show were concerned, the gloriously shiny open-top machine reflected every stereotypical image of American glamour.

There are elements of the styling that I really appreciate here, and which have been rather tragically lost to fashion and progress over the years. The chrome grille and bumpers, though restrained by the standards of the day, are a work of art. The concave fillet between the taillamps, though a little over-fussy with its printed blackwork, has at least been “designed” and gives a unique visual signature.

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My favourite aspect, though, is that chrome strip running from bow to stern and looping around to return forward. It may have been an accident of design, but to me that brightwork recalls the lines of the powerboats of the era. I could imagine the driver putting his toe down, causing the bow to rise and the stern to dig in, just like a Chris Craft would have done.

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But would those deliciously understated dog-dish wheelcovers be rotated by any great force? Well, If the A-suffix registration number is accurate, we’re looking at a ’63 car here, and that year was the first that the 260cid V8, was offered in place of the thriftpower six, or so the ever-reliable Wikipedia tells me. Anyway, running the plate confirms the year and that it first appeared on this island in 2008. It also holds a pleasant surprise; Cylinder Capacity: “5000cc”.

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The chances are this capacity is not precise (probably more like 4942cc) and is the result of a little bit of rounding up to ease administrative burdens, but we’re likely talking about almost 5 litres of Windsor V8. Whatever, this thing could well have a whole crapload of horses just a toe’s twitch away. I’d much rather roll in this 5.0 than some white ‘Stang GT Ragtop.

Seeing this car, on this sunny day, has reminded me of the changing ways in which we enjoy our own cars. Sitting here, typing this during my lunch break at work while in my old Audi, the sun has risen and I’d dearly like to fold the roof away. Alas doing so would mean breaking out the angle-grinder and said roof would be tricky to reinstate later on.

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My point, though, is that I’d love to have chosen my car with these sunny days in mind, and in hindsight I should have done. I’m lucky enough to have that choice. But if I was one of the millions of company-car users that clog our blacktop arteries, I would have had to choose based on CO2 emissions and P11D values; a convertible invariably rates very poorly where it comes to company car tax, and so our roads become more and more filled with generic resale-silver turbodiesel sedans with ego-boosting Sport badging and boardroom-impressing big spangly wheels.

Variety is the spice of life, and our roads are becoming increasingly less interestingly seasoned.

[Photos Copyright 2014 Hooniverse/Chris Haining]

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