Wayne Cook
August 1, 2008

The beautiful Oxford White '64 Mercury Comet 404 you see here is owned and operated by Dominic Palazzolo of Clinton Township, Michigan. Dominic grew up in the heart of Ford country and he was weaned on Blue Oval lore while visiting the car shows and racetracks of his youth. There was a strong family influence as both his father and uncle were hard-core Ford musclecar fanatics. So complete was his exposure that when the time came for him to get a driver's license and find his own ride, only a classic Ford would cut the mustard.

Dominic's taste had been influenced by the great Ford musclecars from the Total Performance years, such as the Fairlane Thunderbolt and Boss 429 {{{Mustang}}}. So at age 15 he began his quest, looking for either a '64 Fairlane or Falcon. As a high school student, Dominic wasn't exactly rolling in dough, but he managed to cobble together the princely sum of $2,500 to put down toward a driveable project. However, the hunt got off to a slow start because, as many of our readers are no doubt aware, a classic Ford automobile, particularly one with two doors, is hard to find for that sum unless a very special deal comes along.

Such a deal did, indeed, manifest itself when Dominic's father noticed this '64 Mercury Comet for sale in a newspaper. The two went to look at the car that same night. What they found was an original-condition, six-cylinder-powered, two-door sedan. Although the driveline was nothing to write home about, the body was in nearly perfect shape with minimal rust and no collision damage. Dominic had hoped to find a hardtop for his first car, but it didn't take long for him to warm up to the sedan or "post" body style. The factory called it the 404, and even to this day, the car has a sturdy and business-like look to it that many classic Ford fans seem to appreciate. The post body is also a good choice for racers, because the added strength of the solid B-pillar makes it more resistant to flexing than either a convertible or pillarless hardtop.

Only 27,774 miles showed on the odometer of this one and, considering that the car was well within Dominic's ballpark price range, the little Merc' was just too sweet to pass up. Finally, after a bit of haggling, a purchase price of $2,650 was agreed on, with the extra 150 bucks coming courtesy of Mom and Dad. Little did the three of them know that a six-year-long restomod adventure had begun.

Dominic knew going into the project that finding parts for a Mercury Comet of this vintage might be difficult. Many companies specialize in Mustangs but little is offered for those working on a classic Mercury. He was not discouraged, however, and began to improvise wherever possible, gathering parts from across the Ford spectrum. For the frontend rebuild, he borrowed suspension components from the '65-'66 Mustang, while the front-disc brakes came from a '70s vintage Granada. The 5.0L fuel-injected engine originated in an '88 Mustang GT, and the 8.8-inch rear axle with disc brakes are from a late-model Explorer. To evaluate the condition of the body, the car was taken to a family friend who teaches an auto-body class for a vocational and tech school. At the school, the small amount of bodywork required was accomplished, and the PPG single-stage paint job was applied.

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Step By Step

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At this point, the Comet looked good and ran smoothly. You might have expected Dominic to be a happy man at this juncture, but it turned out he wasn't completely satisfied. The engine pirated from that '88 5.0L was getting tired, and Dominic realized this was his chance to build his own engine, something he always wanted to do. After talking it over with his dad, the decision was made to rebuild the V-8 using an Eagle stroker kit, with the longer stroke crank bumping the displacement out to 347 ci. Other engine components were scaled up to meet the demands of the increased internal volume. For example, the throttle body size was enlarged to {{{90}}} mm, and the exhaust system is a big 3 inches in diameter, from the header collector all the way out to the tip of the tailpipes.

It sounds to us like Dominic and his dad have a good handle on how to go about resurrecting a classic Ford car. The father and son team did about 90 percent of the work themselves on this project.

Dominic now enjoys working on classic Fords so much that he has decided to start his own business, tentatively called Dominator Motorsports. We admire his courage and wish him the best of luck in his new venture. It certainly didn't take him long to go from a high school novice to being something of an expert at the ripe old age of 22.

The Details
Dominic Palazzolo's '64 Mercury Comet 404 Engine

  • 347ci stroked Ford V-8
  • 4.030-inch bore
  • 3.400-inch stroke
  • Eagle forged-steel crank
  • Eagle forged-steel I-beam connecting rods
  • Keith Black pistons
  • 10.0:1 compression ratio
  • Howard's Camshafts solid roller cam with 0.619/0.632-inch lift
  • Edelbrock Victor Jr. aluminum cylinder heads
  • 2.05-inch intake, 1.60-inch exhaust valves
  • Heads polished and port-matched
  • 1.60:1 Ford Racing Performance Parts (FRPP) roller rockers
  • {{{Probe}}} Industries aluminum intake manifold
  • 90mm '03 Cobra mass air sensor and throttle body
  • FRPP 42-lb/hr injectors
  • Dominator Motorsports 3.5-inch induction and filter
  • MSD 6AL ignition
  • Ford distributor

Transmission

  • Tremec five-speed manual
  • BBK Ripper shifter

Rearend

  • Ford Explorer 8.8-inch axle narrowed 3 inches overall
  • 3.73 gears
  • 31-spline axles

Exhaust

  • Patriot headers, 1 5/8-inch primary diameter, 3-inch collectors
  • 3-inch aluminized-steel exhaust system
  • Hooker Aero Chamber mufflers

Suspension

  • Front: '65-'66 Mustang upper and lower control arms, lowering springs, Koni adjustable shocks, 1 1/8-inch antisway bar, manual steering
  • Rear: rear leaf springs dearched and turned over; springs relocated forward, Koni adjustable shocks

Brakes

  • Front: Granada disc, 11-inch rotors
  • Rear: Explorer disc, 10-inch rotors

Wheels

  • Front: Halibrand Cobra III, 18x8 inches
  • Rear: Halibrand Cobra III, 18x9 inches

Tires

  • Front: BFGoodrich KDW, P265/35ZR18
  • Rear: BFGoodrich Drag Radial, P295/35R18

Interior

  • '90 Tempo bucket seats; aqua and teal vinyl and suede upholstery; aqua replacement carpeting from Dearborn Classics; stock steering wheel; Auto Meter tachometer and gauges for oil, water, volts and fuel; Ford CD six stereo in glovebox, 6x8 speaker front, 6x9 speakers mounted on rear package tray

Exterior

  • Oxford white PPG single stage, paintwork by Pankow Center in Clinton Township, Michigan; original 404 trim; Crites BFX ram air hood; high-beam ram-air induction setup