Advertisers spend millions of dollars annually trying to create brand loyalty. From the toothpaste and deodorant you buy to the car you drive, their goal is to convince you to buy their product. However, we doubt that advertising played much of a role in Chip Crenshaw's brand loyalty. Crenshaw is a welder/estimator living in Central Florida and a dedicated member of CAMEO, Inc. No, it has nothing to do with classic, ladies' jewelry. CAMEO is the Comet and Mercury Enthusiasts Organization and trust us, Chip is as enthusiastic as they come about his Mercury Comet. As a matter of fact, he owns four of them, each completely restored and meant to be driven. In addition to their styling, Chip likes the awesome power-to-weight ratio you can achieve when you upgrade these lightweight cars with a big, modern powertrain. He has attended the last five Hot Rod magazine Power Tours, relishing the time spent behind the wheel of his blazingly quick Comets. His latest, this '74 Indigo Black and Sublime Green two-door, has recognizable Comet sheetmetal, but underneath, its new personality is loaded with high technology and state-of-the-art refinements.
With the help of his good friends, Bill Roberts and Alex Alvarado, Chip set out to make this latest car one of the best ever, with show worthy and road worthy the two most important considerations. To create a rock solid platform for the planned new motor, the chassis was reinforced front to rear with 1x2 rectangular steel tubing, incorporating cross bracing and custom-designed, hand-fabricated crossmembers. The Comet shock towers were eliminated to accommodate the new wider engine and a Rod and Custom Motorsports Mustang II front suspension, with tubular A-arms and Eagle coilovers, was added to solve the space crunch. A new power rack-and-pinion steering was added for driver comfort. Out back, traction bars and Gabriel shocks stabilized the 9-inch Currie rear. The team trimmed a Mustang fuel tank to fit the space in the modified frame and all four wheels were upgraded with oversize 11-inch disc brakes. Crenshaw chose 15x6 Weld polished aluminum rims up front and 15x8 versions in the rear, using BFGoodrich 60 and 65 series rubber to get the power to the ground.
All that was a preliminary effort to handle the potent new Man-O-War, 427 Windsor block from World Products. The four-bolt-main block uses Eagle I-Beam rods, forged Mahle 10.5:1 pistons, an Eagle forged steel crank, and a Comp Cams hydraulic roller setup. Breathing is enhanced thanks to a hot rodder's dream sheet of aftermarket parts that began with the Air Flow Research 205 heads, a Trick Flow intake manifold, a 90mm Accufab throttle body, a 4-inch PMAS mass air sensor, and a 10-inch K&N cone-type filter. Igniting the air/fuel mixture occurs thanks to precisely timed explosions from the MSD 6AL ignition and MSD Blaster II coil. Carefully modified 13/4-inch headers allow for steering shaft clearance and dump into a mandrel-bent, 21/2-inch stainless steel dual exhaust. Thanks to the X-pipe and a pair of Flowmaster three-chamber mufflers, the 427 creates a throaty performance roar when you hit the loud pedal. Keeping temps in the green, an oversize Griffin dual-pass radiator with an 18-inch electric fan attacks any heat buildup. In order to control the almost 600 hp, the team installed a Lentech four-speed AOD transmission and a 3,400 rpm stall speed torque converter, along with a Lentech shift kit.
With power taken care of, detailing was next. One look inside the engine compartment will show you the care and engineering that went into this car. Roberts concentrated on building the engine and mounting all the components. Multiple handmade brackets throughout the build show that this was no simple, bolt-together exercise. Alverado added his talents, installing the air-conditioning, hiding the hoses in the fenderwells, creating custom gas and brake lines, and routing everything to maintain the sanitary look. Note the trans cooler, mounted on the inner fender panel and fitted with custom duct work that's hidden from view.
But high-performance was only one of Crenshaw's goals for his latest Comet. A quick glance at the interior and you'll see that luxury and comfort were also high on his list. Tom McFadden of Bitchin' Stichin' in Deltona, Florida, began the makeover with Dynamat in the doors, floors, kick panels, firewall, package tray, and trunk. He created the block pattern, black leather interior, covering both front buckets and the rear bench seat. Look up and you'll see his custom leather headliner, then check out the handmade leather dash cover, and finally note the matching side panels in the trunk. Black Dorsett nylon-pile carpet covers the floor and as a finishing touch, McFadden stitched the Comet logos into the dash and headrests.
While that might have been enough for most, it was just the starting point for Crenshaw's high-tech Comet. The car boasts a Grant steering wheel and a row of Autometer Phantom white-face gauges in an aluminum housing. The large Auto Meter tach with shift light keeps track of the high-revving 427. Power windows were installed, using nostalgic AutoLoc window crank-style switches. Custom billet controls were designed for the air-conditioning, electric door locks, driving lights, and electric fans. A B&M Hammer shifter adds a competition flavor.
Crenshaw kept the body fairly stock, wanting the original lines to show through. A fiberglass hoodscoop was added to clear the intake and Tri-Bar headlights up front give the car a European flair. Instead of the usual two taillights and two backup lights, the Comet sports four taillights with custom-fitted Mustang reverse lights mounted in the rear pan. Preferred Auto in Deland and Crockett's Auto Body in Orange City wrapped up the two-year build, accomplishing the bodywork and paint, spraying the car a combination of Indigo Black and Sublime green.
What's the next item on the agenda? Now that the car is complete, Crenshaw is looking forward to this year's Power Tour, enjoying it with his good friends Bill and Alex. The best part is all three will be driving Comets from Chip's garage! Hey, got an extra car for your favorite automotive photojournalist?
Chip Crenshaw's '74 Mercury Comet
- World Products Man-O-War Windsor 427 block
- 4.125-inch bore
- 4-inch stroke
- Eagle 6.200-inch I-beam rods
- Mahle forged pistons
- Total Seal rings
- Eagle forged steel crankshaft
- AFR 205 heads, CNC ported, 2.080-inch intake, 1.60-inch exhaust valves
- Comp Cam hydraulic roller cam, 0.579 lift, 286/300 duration at 0.050
- Crane Cams shaft mount roller rockers, 1.6:1 ratio
- Ford Racing 42-lb/hr injectors
- Accufab 90mm throttle body
- Ford late-model Mustang EFI
- Trick Flow Street Heat intake
- Trick Flow valve covers
- MSD TFI distributor, 6AL ignition and ignition coil
- March Performance serpentine beltdrive
- Taylor ignition wires
- PMAS mass airflow meter
- SCT Performance Chip
- Lentech four-speed automatic overdrive
- 3,400-rpm 9-inch stall converter
- B&M Hammer shifter
- Currie built 9-inch
- Richmond 3.55 gears
- Custom-built headers, 1 3/4-inch primaries
- 2 1/2-inch exhaust
- Flowmaster mufflers
- Front: Rod & Custom Mustang II, tubular A-arms, rack-and-pinion power steering, Eagle coilovers
- Rear: Stock leaf springs, traction bars, Gabriel shocks
- Front: Disc, 11-inch rotor, single-piston caliper
- Rear: Disc, 11-inch rotor, single-piston caliper
- Front: Weld polished aluminum Rodlite, 15x6
- Rear: Weld polished aluminum Rodlite, 15x8
- Front: BFGoodrich Radial T/A, P215/65R15
- Rear: BFGoodrich Radial T/A, P255/65R15
- Custom black leather, bucket seats, Auto Meter Phantom gauges, Grant wheel, A/C, JVC Stereo with 6x9 speakers in the rear package tray and front kick panels, Optima Red Top battery in the trunk
- Custom Indigo Black and Sublime Green two-tone paint, Tri-Bar headlights, fiberglass hoodscoop, four Comet taillights, Mustang backup lights, Shelby Mustang gas cap