Joe Greeves
November 1, 2009

Chuck Winters' '65 Mercury Comet Cyclone
As many of us older enthusiasts have found out, qualifying for Social Security is a definite plus, especially when the checks arrive every month. Probably the only downside is that it formally signals the end of childhood. However, if you work it right, you can get a second shot at that magical time. Chuck Winters, a postal employee in Tampa, Florida, isn't quite ready for Social Security yet, but is definitely taking steps to guarantee a second childhood, thanks to his beautiful '65 Mercury Comet Cyclone, a car he's been dreaming about since age 16.

Chuck's car history goes back to the time when he was 12 in Albany, New York, and a regular Sunday visitor to Albany's Lebanon Valley Dragway. At age 14, he was able to convince his grandmother into buying his first car, a '35 five-window Chevrolet Coupe. Intent on overcoming the mistakes of youth, Chuck has been a Ford guy ever since, owning a series of interesting cars to include a Boss 302, a '36 Ford pickup, and the Mercury Comet Cyclone in these photos. The Cyclone is a comparatively rare car-only a few more than 12,000 were produced in 1965-and Chuck has been looking for one for a long time, going back to when the car first appeared. That moment occurred at age 16 when, once again at the strip, Chuck saw the first flip-top funny car built by Don Nicholson that used a replica of the Cyclone body. The sleek styling of the two-door hardtop made an impression on the teenager that is still strong today.

It took almost 20 years, but Chuck finally found the car of his dreams right in his own neighborhood, sitting in a restaurant parking lot. The man who owned it bought it for his son, but it turned out that the son had his heart set on a Pontiac Grand Prix. The owner was looking to sell and Chuck was ready to buy. Unrestored, but in fairly good shape, the car was a daily driver for about five years. Unfortunately, when a few things began going wrong the car became a long-term lawn ornament. In 2003, the rejuvenation process began in earnest with Chuck planning to restore the car to original condition. As he got deeper into the project however, he realized that many of the parts were too far gone to replace, so the theme shifted to creating a restomod.

Luckily, Chuck met Steve Hines, a body shop expert who became the lead in the restoration as well as a close personal friend. "Steve is a master of all trades," Chuck told us. "He does it all." The rotisserie restoration began by replacing the floorpans and a portion of the front frame that was badly rusted from a radiator leak. Rain seeping in the back window necessitated more rust repairs there as well. Most of the suspension remains stock, except for the new Rod & Custom Motorsports disc brake upgrade-11-inch disc with single-piston calipers front and rear along with 1-inch lowered springs, KYB gas shocks, and heavier sway bars (1-inch in front and 3/4-inch in the rear).

Once the car was solid, efforts turned to rebuilding the Cyclone's 289ci V-8. After boring the motor 0.030-inch over and fitting it with oversize pistons, engine builder Chi Chi Diaz turned up the heat using a Cobra 302 hydraulic cam and Mallory electronic distributor with Flame Thrower coil for a hotter spark. With a nod to modern fuel, the iron heads were modified to accept unleaded and they help to create the 9.3:1 compression ratio in the cylinders. A more efficient Edelbrock 600 cfm carb increased the airflow over the factory original while the Doug's 2 1/2-inch primary Tri-Y headers were the perfect choice, offering improved scavenging and fitting inside the close confines of the Comet engine room. The headers feed 4-inch collectors and a pair of rumbling MagnaFlow mufflers. To counteract all that new acceleration and activate the new discs, Dearborn Classics had just the right compact power brake booster, small enough to fit on the firewall, underneath the factory cowl/fender brace. After closing up unnecessary holes in the firewall and moving the battery to the rear, the engine compart-ment was painted to match the exterior. Billet accessories sparkle like a jewelry collection on the engine itself. The newfound power from the 289 was multiplied by the rebuilt, four-speed T10 Borg Warner transmission, spinning an 8-inch rear with 3.00 gears.

Chuck loved the symmetrical styling of the car from the outset, so the customizing modifications are subtle, beginning with removing the rocker panel chrome and customizing a hoodscoop from an '08 Mustang, recontouring it to fit the flatter Comet hood. Shelby Mustang Bullet mirrors replaced the overly large originals and 18-inch Boyd Coddington Harm rims fill the wheel wells, using 7-inch wide versions up front and 8s in the rear. Fuzion ZRi tires get the power to the ground.

The interior was next and, amazingly the front buckets sport the original upholstery, although the padding has been replaced. The rear bench seat was rebuilt and reupholstered to match. Fresh black carpeting was added along with a Grant wheel and a set of six white-faced Teleflex gauges. Comfort during Florida's sultry summers comes from the new Vintage Air A/C unit, with an engine-turned stainless steel accent panel added to the bottom of the dash to accommodate the vents. Stereo was the perfect interior wrap-up addition to this long-distance cruiser, filling the cab with music, thanks to the stock-appearing but reconfigured head unit that now offers a choice of AM and FM radio, CDs, and iPod tunes. In addition to the 6 1/2-inch Kenwood component sets in the kick panels, there is a second pair of 6x9s mounted in the rear package tray.

Steve Hines added the final touch to the project, spraying the head-swiveling two-stage orange candy called Mango Lite. He teamed it with Black Pearl that's been laced with Copper Metallic, both shades from Planet Color. The completed car has become the culmination of a lifelong dream with Chuck and his Cyclone, now regulars on the Southeastern show circuit. Future plans include a new frontend with rack-and-pinion steering and, so that his dream car can travel full circle, Chuck plans to install a competition clutch that will bring him back to the dragstrip, recalling those days when the Cyclone love affair first began.

The Details

  • Chuck Winters' '65 Mercury Comet Cyclone

    Engine

    • 289ci V-8, bored 0.030-inch over
    • 4.030-inch bore
    • 2.87-inch stroke
    • Cobra 302 hydraulic cam
    • Modified iron heads
    • 600 cfm Edelbrock carb
    • Mallory Electronic ignition

      Transmission

      • Borg Warner T10 four-speed
      • Factory clutch
      • Hurst Shifter

        Rearend

        • 8-inch
        • 3.00 gears

          Exhaust

          • Doug's Tri-Y headers
          • Dual MagnaFlow mufflers

            Suspension

            • Front: Factory coilover-upper-arm, 1-inch lowering springs, KYB gas shocks, 1-inch sway bar
            • Rear: Heavy-duty leaf springs, KYB gas shocks, 3/4-inch sway bar, 1-inch lowering block

              Brakes

              • Front: Rod and Custom Motorsport, 11-inch disc, single-piston caliper
              • Rear: Rod and Custom Motorsport, 11-inch disc, single-piston caliper

                Wheels

                • Front: Boyd Coddington polished Harm, 18x7
                • Rear: Boyd Coddington polished Harm, 18x8

                  Tires

                  • Front: Fuzion ZRi, P225/40ZR18
                  • Rear: Fuzion ZRi, P245/40ZR18

                    Interior
                    Black Naugahyde buckets and rear bench with matching door panels, polished center console, Grant wheel, white-face Teleflex six-gauge package, engine turned stainless steel panel accenting the dash and holding Vintage Air A/C vents, paint coordinated with the exterior

                    Exterior
                    Planet Color Mango Lite and Black Pearl paint, Shelby Mustang bullet mirrors, chrome removed from rocker panel, limo tinted windows, custom hoodscoop from an '08 Mustang GT