Automotive Orphan: 1961 Comet

With the demise of the Edsel brand, the Comet found itself to be something of an orphan. Originally designated to be sold as an Edsel model, the car was marketed through Lincoln-Mercury dealerships from 1960. However, it didn’t finally become a Mercury model wearing that brand’s badges until 1962, meaning that the early cars were essentially a model without a make. This 1961 Comet had been in dry storage for more than 25-years before being brought out into the sunshine and revived. It isn’t perfect, but it is a very nice original survivor that was referred to us by Barn Finder FordGuy1972. Thanks so much for the lead on this one FordGuy1972. The Comet is located in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and is listed for sale here on Craigslist. The asking price for this classic has been set at $6,500.

There are some rust issues to be dealt with on the Comet, but thankfully, the floors are all said to be good. Both lower quarter panels have rust appearing forward of the rear wheels, while there is also rust visible in the lower fender and bottom corner of the door on the passenger side. The rear bumper also looks like it has received a hit just left of center, but the rest of the external trim and chrome appears to be quite good. With the fin fixation beginning to disappear from American cars at this point in time, the fins on the Comet are still present, but far more subtle than they might have been only a few years earlier. What these fins do allow though is scope for what are quite interesting tail-lights.

The interior of the Comet is said to be original, and its condition is quite impressive. There is some discoloring of the vinyl on the top edges of both front seats, but the rest of the vinyl and cloth looks very good. It looks like there are the beginnings of some seam separations on the driver’s seat, so I would be inclined to address these before they deteriorate further. Otherwise, the rest of the inside of the car is essentially faultless and is just begging for someone to climb behind the wheel and enjoy this old beauty.

Lifting the hood on the Comet reveals the 170ci straight-six engine, which was good for 101hp. This power is sent to the rear wheels via a 3-speed manual transmission. After a couple of decades of inactivity, the owner has performed some work on the car to return it to good health. New tires and new shocks have been fitted all-round, while new brakes and hoses have also been fitted. The car has a new fuel pump, new battery, new fuel lines, a rebuilt carburetor, and a full service has been performed. The result of this labor is a car that is now said to run and drive like new. The owner also states that the odometer is showing 33,000 miles, and while he can’t guarantee that these are original, he believes that the overall condition of the car suggests that they might be.

One of the great unanswered questions of the entire Edsel saga is whether the Comet would have been able to save the brand if it had appeared sooner. I think that it’s doubtful, because the Edsel brand was already fatally wounded by the time the Comet was ready for release, and nothing short of a miracle would have saved it. Ford needed to recover something from that multi-million-dollar train wreck, and the Comet was it. Still, Ford was so gun-shy after the Edsel disaster that it took a further two years before they were willing to attach one of their own brand badges to the Comet, which could quite easily have killed the Comet as well. A good and original 1961 Comet is not the rarest of cars, but they can still command a respectable price. Prices in excess of $12,000 are not unusual, while a pristine example can sell for closer to $20,000. On the surface, that seems to make this particular car quite a good buy.

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Comments

  1. Krindall

    Seemed like every punk rock girl drove one of these in the early 80’s. Slow, but fun to drive, one of the few cars from this era I still see on the road on a regular basis

    Like 6
  2. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Back in the day, one of the guys in my HS had a Comet. It wasn’t the fastest car nor the most attractive. What It was was dependable. I don’t remember it breaking down any time during HS. I think most people have a love/hate relationship with them, either they love them or hate them.
    Personally I don’t care for them but that’s just me.

    Like 5
  3. Rube Goldberg Member

    Fun to see these again. I had a ’62 4 door Comet, again, one of the many $100 winter beaters I drove while the MGB was parked, until it became a beater itself. Every year brought a new beater, this, the ’63 Falcon 4 door, the ’68 Dodge Coronet 2 door, the ’64 American,,,you get the idea, these cars adorned the “back row” of every car dealer, the last stop before the junkyard. $100 bucks was better than the $25 at a junkyard. Probably the most lackluster car Ford produced, but filled an important need, cross town city travel, parked, sat all day, and returned home. This was no road car, although many used them as such. Mine was the 170 ( maybe 144?) 2 speed automatic, was horribly gutless. Pushing the gas pedal to the floor did little, but,,,dependable as a washing machine. Once you got it going, it would do 55-60, good enough for today. Great find, when cars were simple.
    It should be noted, while the Edsel was a disaster, this car was not the answer, it was this cars underpinnings went on to become the most successful car of all time, the Mustang.

    Like 9
  4. Arby

    My mother had one.
    Us kids called it the “Vomet”.

    Like 10
    • Robert L Roberge

      That was the result of a traffic accident involving a Comet and a Vega.

      Like 6
    • PatrickM

      As I heard, the Vomet was a merger between Valiant and Comet. It had bucket seats, a throw up top and a horn that went blaugh.

      Like 3
  5. Steve

    Cool little cars but not as pretty as a Mustang. Back in 08 I bought a wrecked 62 Comet S22 to fix and flip. It was rust free but needed a passenger front fender and grill. I found a nearly perfect grill from Desert Valley Auto Parts for $150 shipped in Ebay. (They tried to sell me the red 62 Comet convertible it came iff of for $1500!) Parts are hard to find but pretty cheap at auction as these cars dont have much of a following. I got it going (has tank had a drain plug and PO had used it before it sat.) it had AC but the compressor seemed to take half the power the engine made to run! It needed a whole paint job (ocean turquoise) but due to my “economic situation” (no job) i painted the fender only. I installed a set of new tires (13”!) for $100 and put it up for sale for $2,000. I ended up swapping it for a 1967 Massey Ferguson 2200 Industrial tractor with a 35hpPerkins diesel loader and box blade. The buddy that painted the fender saw it a few years ago at a swap meet in the same shape with a $6k asking price. No luck.

    Like 5
  6. Will Fox

    That RR wheel opening appears to have been bondo’d; they didn’t get the curve quite right. Overall though, this is a fairly well kept little Comet. My 6th grade teacher had a pea green `60 2dr. He said about the same–it may not be fast, but it’s dependable. In `71 or so, I think it only had about 50K miles on it. It had been his Mom’s.

    Like 2
  7. Wayne

    Front bumper damage on the right corner. I like it. I don’t believe that the 144 came with an automatic transmission. And I used to be able to tell the difference between by eye. But I don’t remember what the telltale was anymore. ( I have forgotten more than I knew?)

    Like 3
  8. Dovi65

    Great little time capsule. $6500 is a good deal.
    I knew the Comet was a separate/independent make for a year or two, but never hears it was ever intended to be an Edsel. Unless there was also a plan to field an intermediate model, the Comet would have been a bit out of place, with nothing to fill the gap between the Comet, and the full size series

    Like 4
    • Bill McCoskey

      Dovi65,

      The Comet was VERY close to being the new 1961 Edsel, so close that the taillight lenses are actually 1960 Edsel lenses!

      Plus, If you look at [if my memory is right] the grill & trunk lid emblems, there is a big letter “C” in the center. Look closely on the early versions and you can see that the emblem was originally the letter “E”, and that the center horizontal bar for the letter “E” was removed to make the letter “C” [The diecasting dies were modified].
      The type style of that “C” is identical to the 1960 Edsel “E”.

      I worked afternoons for a large regional Ford dealer part time in the 1960s while I was in school, and was lucky to make friends with the owner who went to the pre-production dealer conferences every year. He also said because much of the “paper” items [like brochures and service & parts books] were close to being printed, when they made the change to Comet, they chose the name because like Edsel, it had 5 letters, so the Comet name could be inserted into the various type lines without needing the print page to be totally revised!

      And here is a Ford trivia question; What model of the Ford Falcon came with a solid front axle, for several years?

      Like 7
      • Dovi65

        Bill McCoskey,
        The Comet “C” does indeed VERY closely resemble the Edsel “E” You learned me somethin’ new today!

        Like 4
      • Andrew S Mace Member

        Too easy: That would be the other “E” car from Ford at the time — Econoline!

        Like 3
      • KKW

        The Falcon van and pickup, also known as the Econoline.

        Like 2
      • Little_Cars

        Love your commentary, Bill. Wise man, you. But I don’t see any grille emblem at all, just the script on the hood. I don’t doubt there could be a “C” in the center badge on the trunk but my eyes cannot magnify the photo well enough. Great history…two of my favorite scale models in the collection depict the 60 Edsel hardtop and convertible. Excruciatingly hard to locate model kits from AMT.

  9. Keith Johnson

    My sister had a ’61 Comet wagon, which had very interesting taillights. It was titled as a Ford Comet.

    Like 2
  10. the one

    We called mine, “Comhack” ’60 wagon Auto, got it for free!.Actually sold it to a friend for $80 who drove the crap out of it for several years..

    Like 4
  11. Michelle H Rand

    I have had a 1960 tuxedo Comet (white over black and white) for over ten years now. It has been loved on intensely and has repaid me in spades. I actually sold a nice falcon sprint convertible but elected to keep my little 170 comet. It rocks.

    Like 3
  12. Bob McK Member

    Love the back lights.

    Like 2
  13. Little_Cars

    Studebaker color choice for the engine (?). Looks like clumsy parking lot damage under the lower front valance (was there ever one here?) especially on the passenger side. Doesn’t get any more basic than this car, but with the bubbles present I would suspect metal repair over several square miles between the door openings and rear quarters. Coolest interior ever!

    Like 2
  14. Del

    Nice little car.

    People have been commenting about body issue. If they are there than price is to high.

    Be nice to upgrade ti small block V8

    Like 1
    • philthy phil

      cut out the shock towers,mustang II style ifs,347,5 spd,disc brakes… very cool little resto mod…..only one at the car show

      Like 1
  15. bigdoc

    My Dad totaled my 56 Ford just before I left for the Navy in 67 so my Uncle Bob gave me a 61 Comet with a smashed up rear end to drive until I left. I had a ton of fun in that little car it certainly wasn’t fast but never failed to start and fun to drive.

    Like 1
  16. Mattman

    This car is a town over from my in-laws, and I’m almost positive the pictures are taken at the St Joseph Shrine in Stirling. You can see the priest in the background in one of the photos. Neat car, but a little pricey to me. 6v Duracell battery?

  17. David P. Reeves

    Wow! This is one of the top cars on my (within reason) want list! A white two door with the 3 speed! I wish I’d seen this a year or two ago before I bought my 1965 Comet instead!

    Like 1
  18. Morley Brown

    Solid axle, injected Buick nailhead– perfect, perfect Morley

  19. robert burra

    I like it ! Even if it is homely. Fix the rust issues, (parts are not to hard to find) Blackwalls on Cragers, and a 351. ,, Then go out and enjoy a oddity, without killing the wallet..

  20. DAN

    when I was in 6th grade, around 1976
    our school had 1 of these for the Halloween event
    $1 for 5 wacks of a sledge hammer……who knew it would became worth $$$$$$$$$$$$$$,LOL

  21. John C.

    My dad had almost the same car when I was growing up 62-63 Comet, same colors, white exterior red interior, I remember watching him do a tune up, such an easy car to work on under the hood, 6 cylinder.

  22. Pops

    Yes!! The same car my dad had, but in red.. Learned how to drive manual in this car, I remember I kept locking up the gears then would use a screwdriver to unlock them.. Took many a road trip in it.. Never forgot those cat – eye tail lights..

  23. Bill McCoskey

    Andrew & KKW,

    You both are correct, although for the first year the vans were simply known as the falcon van.

  24. Bill McCoskey

    Little_Cars,

    As to the AMT promos for the 1960 Edsel; Since the 1960 Edsel lineup was killed by Ford before the first snows of winter hit Detroit, that also meant the discontinuing of the promo models by AMT. So they were only available for a couple of months, if that long.

  25. JoeNYWF64

    If the engine is not in the best of shape, be prepared for a faceful & lungsful of smoke from the breather pipe up front idling at a traffic lite or in heavy traffic – no pcv. lol
    Good it does not have the 144 cube 6 which would make the car sleepy dawg slow, tho the 170 is nothing to go nuts over.
    Backup lites were optional.
    Even the driver’s door mirror was optional!! yowsir.

  26. BB

    My mom bought a bright red ’61 Comet brand new and loved the car very much, her first new car. I will always have a reminder of the car with a bump on my forehead. I was playing with the door handle when I was 2 or 3 and fell out of the car while she was driving. I ended up in the hospital with a concussion among scrapes and bruises.

    Like 1

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