Jim Smart
August 1, 2002

Mercury's Comet was the Falcon's corporate competition during the '60s, only more upscale. When you sit a '65 Falcon and Comet side by side, these cars have similar features, including the same hardtop roofline. But that's where the similarity ends. The reason for this is simple. Mercury was a cut above Ford in an era where each division's status was quite clear on the corporate ladder. For those starting out in life with modest budgets, the choice was Fords. Those moving on up the sociological food chain bought Mercurys.

What makes the '65 Comet more distinctive today is its rarity compared with the Ford Falcon Futura hardtop. The Comet stands out in a crowded car show because we don't see it very often. You can imagine our 'tude when we spotted Don Bell's '65 Mercury Comet Caliente hardtop at the '01 Carlisle All-Ford Nationals.

For Don, his Comet is more than just a rare find, it was his mother's car to begin with 37 years ago. Sandy Bell graduated from high school in 1965. With a future ahead of her, she motored over to Bob Stubbs Motors in Miami and plunked down $1,995 for her first new-car purchase. The Mercury demo had just 1,900 miles showing. For a decade, she drove it as her primary mode of transportation. In 1976, it became a second car. In the '80s, the Comet became transportation for Don's brother Ron. In the early '90s, when brother Ron moved on, Don took the wheel for his daily transportation. Call this one a family affair.

Don understood the sentimental value of his mother's Comet. He invested the time and money in a detailed restoration that produced the glistening six-cylinder hardtop ride we discovered in Pennsylvania. That's Ford's fiercely reliable 200ci six supported by a three-speed cast-iron gearbox that's column-shifted. Remember those "three-on-the-tree" specials from the '60s? We like the chrome appointments Don gave the thrifty inline-six. If you study the instrument panel closely, it becomes immediately apparent where you've seen it. That's the same five-dial instrument panel found in the '65 Mustang GT and with the Mustang's Interior Décor Group. It was continued in all '66 Mustangs. Broad-based Comet bucket seats give the nimble hardtop a sporty flair. The Comet Caliente was on a par with the Falcon Futura--more generously appointed than the standard offering with a bench seat and a steel dashboard.

Driving the Comet Caliente is like driving the Falcon Futura hardtop. With all four windows down on a nice day, no automotive climate-control system offered in 2002 can compare. Cruising down an inviting open road gets us back to atonement with Mother Nature. For Don Bell, it becomes an experience just out of this world.

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