Rod Short
September 3, 2013

You could say that the kid never had a chance. Decades of car magazines with bookmarked pages are just one clue about the indelible mark that A/FX cars left on young Dan Parson Jr.'s mind. Names like Don Nicholson, Jack Chrisman, Eddie Schartmann, and Pete Gates filled his head with images of their altered wheelbase Mercurys with their big 427 cammer engines. It was something he could never quite shake even as a young man; a "Dyno Dan" mural of a Mercury Cyclone graced the exterior of his shop. Now, as a grandfather, Dan has captured those memories with this '67 Comet Cyclone that he's dubbed "Toxic Element."

"When I was a kid, these were the cars that I read about," Dan said somewhat sheepishly about his passion for these cars. "I'm a die-hard Ford guy. I've worked on a lot of Mustangs and I've owned some pretty rare Cougars in my day, but I don't know what it is about these Comets. I've had 11 of them!"

You can't really blame him, as those Mercury Comets did a lot to shape the drag racing we know today. Don Nicholson, Jack Chrisman and the team of Sox and Martin made a big splash with their '64 Comets in NHRA racing and the match racing trail. Sox and Martin jumped ship the following year, but were replaced by Hayden Proffitt as Mercury dealer associations banded together to campaign cars out of the Atlanta, Cleveland, and Los Angeles districts among others. Dodge and Plymouth responded with altered wheelbase cars, which after being quickly outlawed by the NHRA, found great success at independent events across the land. Team Mercury responded by modifying their stock wheelbase Mercury Comets accordingly, but it was the '67 all-fiberglass, flip-top Comet of Don Nicholson that changed the world forever. The first Funny Car was born, and nearly 50 years later, that car's influence is still seen in NHRA drag racing today.

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Of course, Mercury's Comet Cyclone was just about drag racing. It was a sibling of Ford's Fairlane and a relatively successful car in its own right. Made from 1964 until 1971, the Cyclone was the upgraded performance version of the Mercury Comet until it became known as just the Cyclone in 1968. With a 289ci V-8, the Comet Cyclone was overshadowed by the Mustang just like the Falcon Sprint was, even with a big-block option. Just 6,910 were reportedly sold out of the 80-some thousand produced in 1967, of which 3,420 came with the GT option package. Only 1,581 came with the four-speed Top Loader transmission. With a limited slip differential and 3.25:1 gears, these cars were capable, but the most desirable of the lot were those that came with the 427 FE side oiler. Although some reports say that none were reportedly made in 1967, others claim that five were made.

The most popular Comet from the '67 model year was the 202, which Parson used as his project car. While this base model came in either a two- or four-door version with a straight-six powerplant, the most interesting thing about this car was its smaller size. The 202 had the same wheelbase as other '67 Comets, but was about 7 inches shorter overall from the use of a different rear quarter panel. Positioned as a low-priced intermediate, this was the best seller of all the Comets that year—and the lightest also, which would have caught the eye of project car builders like Dan Parsons Jr.

"This is the first car I've ever built with the intention of keeping for myself," Dan said. "The kids were all grown up, the business was good, and I just couldn't shake the urge anymore. I found this '67 Comet 202 six-cylinder automatic sedan in South Carolina that was part of a package deal with a Torino wagon and a bunch of parts. It was pretty beat up, but it was a rust-free, solid car."