The 1965 Mercury Comet Caliente Is Hot

1965 Mercury Comet in Peacock Turquoise
Photo by Mark Gittelman

Let us take you back to 1965. This is a time in automotive history when the muscle car wars really started heating up.

Cars like the Chevrolet Impala Super Sport powered by the 409 monster motor were squaring off against powerful cars like the Ford Galaxie 500. Although the battle raged between the big three, Mercury wanted in.

They took their best shot with the bare-bones street cruiser styling of the Comet. The company took a road less traveled by touting the reliability and strength of the midsized Mercury.

With a reasonable sticker price, adequate power and low maintenance costs, these automobiles proved they deserved a spot in the driveway. Join me as we explore the Mercury Comet from the 1960s. We'll also talk about the high-performance Cyclone and Caliente versions. Finally, we'll review the details of the brutal 100,000-mile endurance test ad campaign.

Beginning of the Mercury Comet

The midsized Mercury Comet launched in late 1959 as a 1960 model. It utilized the unibody Ford Falcon platform. Mercury offered the first generation cars in a two door Coupe, four-door sedan, and station wagon body styles. Originally planned as an economy car, the standard power came from a small 2.4 L straight six in 1960.

The following year the company beefed up the standard engine with a 2.8 L in-line 6 cylinder to squash complaints of poor performance. Consumers did have the opportunity to special order the 4.3 L 260 CID V-8 as well. Transmission options remained simple from 1960 through 1963. Manual transmissions came in the three on the tree version. However, the 2 speed Merc-O-Matic became the most popular choice.

Second-Generation Mercury Comet

Mercury built the second generation Comet for only two years. The 1964 and 1965 cars are considered by many car collectors as the sweet spot for this midsized marvel. The completely redesigned squared off styling provided a fresh muscular look. The larger engine bay allowed for installation of the biggest Ford engines.

Toward the end of 1964, Mercury slid a 427 V-8 under the bonnet. They called the ultra high-performance model the Mercury Comet Cyclone. However, they only built about 50 in total. These cars dominated the NHRA super stock category and attracted world-renowned race car drivers like Ronnie Sox. In 1964 Ronnie Sox walked away with the trophy for the NHRA winter nationals piloting the 427 Cyclone.

The Mercury Comet Caliente

When people hear the word Caliente they tend to apply the Spanish meaning of the term to the automobile. Of course, Caliente translated into English means hot or a description of attractiveness. When I asked a Spanish teacher for the precise meaning of the word she told me it represents someone who is promiscuous.

When you apply the term to a Mercury Comet it really describes the top level of trim offered on the automobile. These cars offered plush deluxe carpeting, chrome body side moldings and Caliente badging. This level of trim also included an interior lighting package not seen on many models at this point in history. Mercury offered a limited edition Caliente convertible in 1965. These came standard with a power motor operated ragtop.

The first time we came across a Comet Caliente, we thought the special model name was a reference to the engine. We expected to see a super hot 427 cubic inch Cobra motor under the hood. However, any big block Comet carries the designation of the Cyclone. Standard power for the loaded Comet Caliente came in the form of a 289 cubic inch small block V-8. These engines also found their way into the Mustang pony car that launched in late 1964.

The base V-8 produced 200 horsepower with a two-barrel carburetor. This increased to an impressive 270 horsepower from the high-performance four-barrel equipped version. The most valued combination includes the hotter engine with a four-speed manual transmission.

This leads us to the question of how valuable is this automobile? In showroom new condition a 1965 Mercury Comet Caliente convertible is valued around $25,000. Motivated buyers who locate one in exceptional condition with low miles have paid more than $30,000 to take the vehicle home.

Mercury Comet the World Durability Champion

The Mercury division came up with a great advertising campaign to promote their second generation Comet in 1964. They called it the durability challenge. First, they ran the cars for 40 days and 40 nights at the Daytona Motor Speedway Durability Run. They logged over 100,000 miles with an average speed of over 100 miles per hour. Out of the five cars that ran only one had any mechanical issues.

Next, they put the Comet through an East African Safari adventure rally. Six Comets took the field with 92 other entries. Only 21 cars finished the punishing race. Two of these cars were the Mercury Comets. The company expected a better showing in the African Rally and tabled the idea for a more traditional form of advertising the following year.