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1964 Mercury Comet Caliente Hardtop - Capturing Nostalgia
Building A Blast From The Past In A World Gone Future
It seems today's cars are all about comfort and convenience. Power windows are the norm to such a degree that my friend's child was fascinated by the hand-cranked windows in his dad's Mustang II. And yes, he rolled them up and down repeatedly. Things like power steering, power disc brakes, and air conditioning are now expected, even in the most econo of econoboxes. Not so in the '60s. Back in the day when the likes of Dyno Don Nicholson were driving B/FX Comets, like this one, down the quarter-mile strip, folks were not used to such "frivolous" items as a/c and AM/FM radios. Heck, some folks would even delete the heater!
To many people there is something fascinating about a car so close to the elements, so raw. Wes Mangum is one of those people. What you see here is Wes' ode to the '60s, and its muscle-bound era of fast cars and tougher-than-nails drivers. "My goal was to capture the nostalgic drag racing Comets of the '60s. The most famous name that comes to mind is Dyno Don Nicholson who drove these types of cars down the quarter-mile track promoting Mercury," said Wes. We think he has done a great job of pulling that flavor into the little '64 hardtop Comet Calenete via a selection of parts reflecting the era, while keeping the car decidedly streetable-not something a Don Nicholson's car would have been.
Wes was smart in another way as well; he started with a clean and reasonably priced example, then applied his mods from there. Wes definitely went with the old adage: the better the body, the cheaper the resto. Even so, he had the body media blasted, primed, and painted the original Wimbledon White with the Candyapple Red accents.
To give the car its "look," the mods were pretty straightforward and well thought out. Up top, the Comet hood is the low-slung, twin snorkel model from Crites. Out back, the springs were relocated, and a set of 15-inch steel wheels mounting 235/60R15 radials were bolted to the Currie 9-inch rear axle that houses a Detroit No Spin and 3.73 gears. Rolling stock up front consists of dual redline 185/75R14 radials mounted on vintage Radir wheels. Braking is taken care of with 10-inch drums up front and 11-inch Torino drum brakes out back. The interior is amazingly stock with white bucket seats and a column shift. Wes even decided against a tach on the dash in favor of the clean look.
Under that dual snorkel hood is a San Diego Superchargers 302 that packs Edelbrock RPM heads and intake, as well as a 650 Holley carb. The guts of the engine are top notch, and exhaust gasses are sent out via a set of Doug Thorley headers. Doug even designed and installed the system under the Comet from the header flange to the exhaust tips! Behind the strong running 302 is another San Diego Superchargers piece, a solidly built C4 that directs power to the aforementioned 9-inch.
What attracted us to Wes' car wasn't the flashy paint job (though it is nice) or a wild setup; it was the nostalgia racer theme. as themes go, the '60s racer is hard to beat. So, Wes, can we borrow it for a wheelstand test?