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Still Around By J.R. Janicek

The Mercury Comet was produced by Mercury, a division of the Ford motor company, from 1960 through 1967. The original Comet design was based on the Ford Falcon platform which was also introduced in 1960. The two sister cars shared many of the same engine, suspension, and chassis components, while the Comet had its own distinct body lines, exterior ornamentation, and interior trim. The unitized construction developed by Ford in 1935 was used on both the Comet and Falcon. The Comet was a unique car, slightly larger than the Falcon with it's own identity evidenced by the many changes through the years. The Falcon was designed as the Ford economy vehicle, while the Mercury Comet was made as a plusher performer with an easier ride for those who would pay the modest additional cost. Described by Ford, the Comet had "big car ride, with small car handling."

One such soul that has a love for these old school muscle cars is Steve Carter of Carter Kustom in Brentwood, Tennessee. In 1992, Steve purchased this 1965 Mercury Comet Caliente for $800 in Southern California and dragged it back to his shop where he began working on it. The Comet needed a lot of work since its former owner neglected to give it a little TLC. No sweat, Steve got it running and when he tried to register the car in his name an issue arose... $2,500 in unpaid parking tickets its former owner did not take care of. After much discussion with the DMV, finally the powers that be gave the car a clear slate and Steve was able to move on... to Tennessee that is.

The car restoration... er... customization, was started in the southland of California, which included installing a Gary Martz front clip, with coilovers and control arms. The engine bay shock towers were removed during this process to make the 289ci engine breathe with relative ease and the frame was reinforced with two inch pipe.

After that was completed, Steve made the move to Tennessee where the car would be finished. Then again, is a custom auto ever really finished? We think not and considering Steve's car has gone through several changes this reinforces the point. For instance, once Steve got the car in Tennessee he began to work on the body modifications. Like most hot rodders, Steve likes his cars smooth, so the car was de-chromed, the door handles were shaved, and basically the metal was sanded smooth in preparation of a killer paint job.

Steve likes all kinds of variations of green, so he picked out Indian Turquois, with a violet-pearl mid-coat. Once the paint dried Steve liked the color, but felt his hot rod was missing something... ghost flames! BUT... remember what I said earlier about the car going through changes? Yep, after years of sporting the ghost flames, Steve recently got a crazy notion to mix several cans of silver paint he had layin' around the shop and hence Carter Kustom Silver was born. Steve couldn't resist trying out his newly invented paint, so he loaded up the paint gun and sprayed his Mercury beauty with an obvious silver flame pattern on the nose that does nothing more than scream: HOT ROD!

The paint job is cool, but the rest of the car is what makes it really K-E-W-L. The original suspension was reworked up front in Californ-i-a, but a few more suspension items had to be upgraded in Tennessee. The suspension consists of a 1" thick sway bar under the nose from a donor Chevy S-10 and the rear sway bar, 7/8" thick, was picked off of a Chrysler Cordova and inverted. The overall height adjustment is a four inch drop under the nose and a three inch drop under the tail, which gives the car that "oh-so-right" stance.

Under the hood, the 289 contains forged pistons, a Cam with 510 lift 300 duration, a balanced rotating assembly, hand ported Edelbrock heads, Flowtech headers, and controlling all of the action is a T-5 five speed tranny. The stock ignition system was a no-go and was replaced with MSD. The stock radiator was replaced with a Griffin radiator and a custom air breather element was hand fabricated and painted to match the exterior... including the current flame paint scheme. Completing the performance factor, as well as giving the car the right amount of grumble, Steve fabricated a custom exhaust with dual Flowmaster mufflers.

On the inside of the car, Steve swayed from his usual wildness and went with a completely restored Comet interior, but did upgrade the front seats to mid-80s Mazda RX7 buckets. The audio system was also upgraded to a Blaupunkt CD head unit that spins tunes to nine Pioneer speakers (one 10" sub, four mids, and four tweets) powered by a 600 watt Pioneer amplifier. See, even in a simple interior restoration Steve finds it difficult to stay completely stock!

Finally, what would a hot rod be without the appropriate wheels? One of the most popular wheel designs for hot rod aficionados are the American Racing Torque Thrust II wheels. Steve kept in line with traditional hot rod culture by choosing the smaller 17" versions with Bridgestone Potenza providing the black marks.

Just like a deer caught in the headlights, one can stand in front of Steve's Comet and really get lost in the details. Steve's Comet represents an era that has passed the auto world by, but this particular car is still around in spite of that little fact.

"...round-round-get-around I get around..."

Shout Out: "Special thanks to my wife for her never dying support and ESM for the feature!" -Steve


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