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Garden Find: 1964 Mercury Comet Caliente V8

Pity poor Mercury, a once-proud marque that was ultimately badge-engineered to the point of irrelevance. They tried to be an upscale provider of cars to fit every market including, full-size, intermediate. compact and pony 2+2. Today, we are going to review Mercury’s compact entry in the form of a 1964 Comet Caliente. It is located in Jupiter, Florida and available, here on craigslist for $2,800.

In ’64, the Comet was redesigned with a squarer, more angular exterior design, a similar redesign as experienced by its corporate stablemate, the Ford Falcon. Comet variations for ’64 included the performance-oriented Cyclone, the Caliente two-door hardtop and convertible, and 404 and 202 models in two and four-door sedan styles as well as station wagons. Of note, in July 2010, USA Today reported on a 91-year-old Florida woman, Rachel Veitch, who was still driving her ’64 Mercury Caliente and managed to reach a total of 562K miles before stopping. The car didn’t wear out but Ms. Veitch’s eyesight did so she stopped driving.

This Caliente is listed as a Texas car and the seller states that it, “has very little rust because it’s from Texas.” Experience tells us that may be true in West Texas, not always the case in East Texas. That said, the rust does appear to be confined to surfaces but a closer look is warranted – especially due to its garden storage location. The underside shows mostly surface rust but there is some rust-through too that is noticeable in the included images. The body panels are fairly straight but there are some slight dents showing here and there, nothing excessive, however. The Caliente-only trim looks to be complete and in place – a good start towards restoration or just a revival.

Here’s where things get interesting, this Merc has a non-operational V8 engine with a manual transmission in place. The seller is pretty mum regarding the powertrain specifics other than to add, “Motor and transmission still in car missing carburetor will need to be rebuilt motor seems to be frozen.” The VIN clearly indicates this car as a K-code which is a four-barrel carburetor equipped, 289 CI V8, made available mid-year ’64. The intake manifold on the in-place engine is for a two-barrel carburetor which makes one think it’s a 260 CI V8 which was the standard ’64 V8 motor. The VIN decodes as follows:

  • 4 (year): 64
  • H (assembly) Lorain, Ohio
  • 23 (model) Caliente two-door hardtop
  • K (engine) 289 CI w/ 4 barrel carb. (260-2 would be an “F”)
  • 548851 (sequence number)

Decoding at the trim tag reveals:

  • 63C: (model) Caliente two-door hard-top
  • G (color): Palomino
  • 69 (trim): Palomino
  • 14A (date): 14th day of  January
  • 22 (DSO) Dallas
  • 4 (axle): 3.25:1
  • 1 (transmission): three-speed manual

The confusing thing is that there is a floor-mounted gear-shift lever, similar to the one used with a four-speed manual, but if you look at the steering column, you can see the remnants of the column shift lever for the three-speed. So we have an unknown V8 engine with a three-speed manual transmission and a shift lever where the four-speed shifter is usually located.

While looking at the steering column, it’s hard to avoid the wreckage that constitutes the interior – it’s a mess. The seats and dash pad are destroyed, the carpet is gone, which is helpful in revealing the condition of the floors. With the doors open, you can spy some pretty serious pillar rust, hard to tell, however, if it is invasive. The backseat is as bad as the front seats but at least there is a center console in place. The instrument panel, at a distance, looks to be dechroming itself, not unusual for old chrome plated plastic, especially when exposed to the elements.  Of course, I don’t recall Mercury using a hand grenade for a shift knob…

This is an interesting car because of the possibilities. It’s probably not a restoration candidate like a Cyclone would be, but it would make for a neat street/strip machine or maybe a resto-mod – it’s a cheap start. What do you recommend, what would you do with this ’64 Mercury Caliente?


  1. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

    Might as well go full on street racer. The 289 can be built for high output in both torque and horse power. Interior is completely in a position so the owner has the option of their personal tastes. Body work and paint would be last on my list, perhaps in a pearlescent white or some variant of light and heat reflecting color. Suspension and brakes are a personal taste. For me it would be upgraded on a as needed basis. I was an A.S.E. certified auto mechanic from 1974 to 1999 so I could do all the mechanical work necessary, but I never mastered paint and body work so that would have to be outsourced. Unfortunately I’m no longer in a position to spend the time necessary. Good luck to whoever gets this machine.
    God bless America

    Like 6
  2. local_sheriff

    Not a very nice example but not the worst either. Comets like this are still plentiful and don’t seem to catch much $. Though it’s a compact car I like this design a lot probably because it’s evident Mercury tried to make a pocket version of its bigger brethren even though it shares the basic body with the Falcon.
    Every time I see a Comet like this I feel the urge to build a classic race car like the Gordon Shedden #69 Cyclone seen at Goodwood 😁

    Like 3
    • JoeBob396

      #69 is a badass 64 Comet. Thanks for the link.

      • local_sheriff

        Yeah, #69 sets the standard but it’s far from the only badass Comet out there. I think the one in this write would make a usable starting point for a street legal corner carver /race car build

  3. Dave

    What would I do with this car? Pull the pin on that grenade (maybe that’s what happened to the original motor?) and run!

    Like 3
  4. Robbie M.

    I want it! The grenade shifter is the bomb! :P

  5. Geo

    Originally, the Comet was going to be a compact offering from Edsel. When Edsel was killed off in 1960, Ford gave the Comet to its Mercury dealers as a stand alone nameplate that was neither Ford or Mercury. The first Comets that were oficially branded as Mercurys were the 1962 models.

  6. Mark Evans

    Crush It. P>O>S> ugly then as now. My dad had one. Brrrr.

  7. Rick Hatch

    If it was closer to California I would snatch this up. I believe a k code would be a high performance 289. The standard 4 barrel engine would be a A code, k code mustangs worth big bucks

  8. KKW

    Just because it’s a 2brrl, doesn’t mean it’s a 260, could still be a 289. By this time, these had really become more of a counterpart to the Fairlane, more than Falcon. Sharp little cars, hopefully it receives the proper treatment

    Like 2
  9. H C Member

    This 64 Mercury Caliente is pretty much Mercurys version of the Ford Falcon Sprint. Great little cars, but for not much more money you could find one at least in driver condition. This one needs everything. But its a fair price for a roller version

    Like 1
  10. chrlsful

    like the grill (very much) and rear 1/4 flare, the dash and rear end (‘transom”).
    Lota wrk here, bud hasa 202 he’s had 40 yrs or move. Just restoring after 20 sleep.

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