The 1965 Mercury Comet Cyclone
One of my favorite under the radar cars of the mid 60’s is the Mercury Comet Cyclone. The best of the Falcon, Mustang and mid year cues all rolled into one package that had style and class to go with the punch. So in this episode of Crown Classics we are gonna move into Mercury and check out the Cyclone.
With Ford’s Total Performance campaign in full swing during the mid-1960s, both the Falcon and the Comet were bestowed with performance images—the Sprint for the Falcon and the Cyclone for the Comet—introduced in 1964 on Mercury’s restyled compact. But while the Falcon Sprint was limited to a 2-barrel 289, the Comet Cyclone was powered by the 4-barrel “Super Cyclone” 289, updated to 225 HP, same as the Mustang and making for a peppy package in the lightweight Comet.
Available only for the two-door Comet hardtop, the Cyclone package added chrome moldings, checkered-flag Cyclone emblems, unique grille and distinctive chrome-plated wheelcovers with bright lug nuts, as offered only on the Cyclone. The interior included bucket seats, floor console, a 3-spoke Rally steering wheel and a 6,000 RPM tachometer mounted on the instrument panel. Under the hood, the 289 was equipped with chrome air-cleaner lid, dip stick, and oil filler and radiator caps, while the handling was updated for V-8 performance with larger drum brakes, 5-lug wheels and heavy-duty suspension with higher-rate springs, stiffer shocks and a quicker steering ratio
Between the years of 1960 and 1965, the Comet's body underwent a total of three major revisions in order to keep foot traffic hopping in Mercury showrooms. And in 1965, the Comet line consisted of a grand total of 12 different product offerings in three different bodystyles.
Imagine the profit that must have been generated to keep a one-year-only bodystyle in 12 different flavors afloat. Something must have been working, though, because the Comet was still selling pretty well. A total of about 165,000 Comets found buyers in 1965, which doesn't sound like a lot until you realize that the 1965 Comet accounted for 47.5 percent of Mercury's entire output that year.
Through a 1965 lens, changes to the Comet that year were relatively minor. The car's essential "body-in-white" stayed the same, while the nose underwent a significant facelift. Gone was the wide mesh grille with horizontal quad headlamps wrapped in a chrome strip. In its place were handsome, though decidedly Ford-like, stacked headlamps with a forward-leaning horizontal bar grille.
By its third year, performance trims of the Comet began to hit the streets. By 1964, the Comet had put on lean muscle mass with the first Cyclone Super 289 V-8 rated at 210hp. Specially built 427-cu.in. SOHC Comets were tearing up dragstrips, and the Comet name began to be associated with performance. At the top of the performance heap was the Comet Cyclone, which replaced the not-so-hot S-22 trim of the Comet in 1963. The Cyclone debuted during the 1964 model year.
Early in its life, the Comet made do with a very short list of standard features that included such lavish luxury items as carpet. But by 1965, the Comet really came into its own as a sporty, almost luxurious car. And at the top of the line was the Cyclone, which was loaded with equipment that belied the car's compact roots: Stainless steel wheel covers, bright drip-rail moldings, wheel opening and lower body moldings, lower back panel appliqués, all-foam bucket seats with horizontal-pleat vinyl coverings, luxury armrests, tachometer, padded dash, console, black vinyl instrument panel appliqué, walnut-tone three-spoke sports steering wheel, color-keyed carpet and an engine dress-up kit which included chromed rocker arm covers, oil fill-pipe cap, radiator cap, air cleaner lid, oil dipstick handle and choice of black or white vinyl tops.
For 1965, the Comet Cyclone was powered by the 289-cu.in. V-8 with 225hp, the same engine that was put into Mustangs. And for more power, there was a special high-performance package, better known as "Hi-Po," available with the Cyclone, and it shared the 271hp V-8 which, when installed in a Mustang, was known as the "K" code car. In the Comet, the engine code is "A." When equipped with the Hi-Po package, a 1965 Cyclone came standard with: 289 four-barrel high-performance engine, four-speed Toploader transmission, nine-inch differential, performance suspension, quick-ratio steering and 8,000-rpm Rotunda tachometer. However, the following items were extra-cost mandatory options with the 271hp engine package: four-speed transmission, heavy-duty front suspension, low-profile rayon tires and 42-amp alternator, according to 1965 sales information.
Similar to Chevrolet's COPO cars, the Hi-Po option was not a check-off option on a dealer order form, but rather a District Special Order or DSO. The High Performance package cost $440.10, and with transistorized ignition, cost $516.10. Neither power steering nor air conditioning could be ordered with this package.
1965 Cyclones are rare today, and best estimates are that only about 400 authentic models of both the 225hp and 271hp models exist. Only 90 were built with the 271hp engine, according to the Ford library. Most Comet Cyclones were built in Lorain, Ohio, but some were built in Los Angeles. An L.A.-built car would have the letter "J" as the second character of the VIN.
The base engine for the Comet Cyclone was a 289-cu.in. V-8 with 225hp at 4,400 rpm and 305-lbs.ft. of torque at 3,200 rpm, with 9.30:1 compression. The cylinder blocks were built with durable precision-cast alloy iron, five main bearings, hydraulic lifters, a Ford C5MF-9510-A four-barrel carburetor, and the correct code for this engine is "C."
The optional engine for this muscle car was the infamous Hi-Po 289, a true muscle engine rated at 271hp at 6,000 rpm, with solid lifters, 10.0:1 compression ratio, bore of 4.00 inches and stroke of 2.87 inches. This engine put out 312-lbs.ft. of torque at 3,400 rpm.
For those of you buying a Cyclone with the Hi-Po package, there is no indication of the car's Hi-Po status in the vehicle identification number. Rather, they are all "A" codes like a standard Cyclone. Verifying a true Cyclone can be substantiated by consulting an original build sheet, normally found behind the instrument cluster or under one of the seats. At the bottom of the build sheet should be a notation that indicates that the 271/289 engine package should be substituted.
The optional engine swilled super premium gasoline through an Autolite C4GF-9510-D four-barrel carburetor into a cast-iron intake manifold and large valve heads, which pushed the exhaust through high-flow cast-iron exhaust manifolds. Optional tubular headers came in the trunk for dealer installation. Factory estimates show that about 90 Hi-Po Comets were delivered in 1965, and our feature car, owned by Daniel Mansfield of Guysville, Ohio, may be the best surviving example and likely the last ever built, on June 28, 1965.
The Hi-Po package had numerous upgrades over standard Cyclones, such as a riveted flex fan for increased cooling and a dual-point distributor with mechanical advance. A 42-amp alternator (with larger pulley, in part to keep the belt from flying off during a 7,000-rpm shift) was fitted, in contrast to the stock 38-amp unit. The Hi-Po engine also used a wider harmonic balancer and a heavy-duty cast-iron water pump with a much larger impeller. The 225hp Cyclone had an aluminum water pump. The engine block, heads and intake manifold of all Cyclone engines were painted black, and the Hi-Po package included chrome rocker arm covers and a chrome open-element air cleaner.
The crankshafts, made of nodular iron, featured six integral counterweights, plus an external counterweight at each end. Main bearings had steel-backed micro-babbitt material. The slipper-type pistons had a three-ring design and were manufactured of precision-machined aluminum alloy with embedded steel struts, resulting in expansion control. The first compression ring featured chrome plating, and phosphate coated the second compression ring. The lower oil ring had dual chrome-plated rails and a steel expander spring. Forged steel rods with separately forged caps measured 5.155 inches long. The nodular alloy-iron camshafts proved strong too, and rode inside five replaceable steel-backed babbitt bearings.
These lightweight, durable engines have few problems when the oil and coolant are changed regularly. Not only powerful, they proved equally sound after a 100,000-mile durability run at Daytona International Speedway in 1964, in which drivers pounded Comets continuously for 40 days, totaling 100,000 miles, with no mechanical issues.
So if you own a Comet or looking to buy one here are some notes to take from Crown and what you must understand as a Comet owner.
Thanks to the fact that Mercury made copious use of Mustang parts in the Comet Cyclone, mechanical restoration parts are relatively easy to come by. Just about everything for a mechanical rebuild, from carburetors all the way to rear brake wheel cylinders, is available from Ford restoration specialists, or Crown Classic Auto Parts. (314)385-1830 ask for Mike.
Not so with interior trim, or exterior sheetmetal, though. Comet metal is scarce. Original Auto Interiors in Columbus, Michigan, offers carpet sets for Comets and has NOS original cloth and vinyl by the yard to recover those rotted seat covers. AutoKrafters in New Market, Virginia, sells dash pads. Some parts available include carpet, weatherstrip, trunk mats and headliners. An all-important gasket, which seals the pot metal taillamp bezel to the rear body panel, is not, but Mansfield says more than two dozen Comet club members have used a reproduction windshield garnish molding made for 1964 Fords, which, if cut to size, works perfectly.