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K-Code Drop-Top: 1964 Mercury Comet Caliente

In 1964, the Caliente was the top-of-the-line Mercury Comet (except for the Cyclone performance model). As a convertible, only about 9,000 copies were built that year, so the number that may survive today likely doesn’t number more than a few hundred. Except for an older repaint, this example looks like a survivor-quality car that has been cared for over 65,000 miles. More like a daily driver, this Merc is in Bennington, Vermont, and is available here on eBay where the Buy It Now price is $17,995. The bidding is still underway and up to $7,600 with the reserve remaining in play.

As a compact, the Ford Falcon-based Comet was originally intended to be an Edsel product. But when that division folded in its third year, the Comet quickly shifted to Mercury. For its first two years, the auto carried no Mercury badging, but that changed in 1963. The name was used to capitalize on the Space Race at the time, which other Ford/Mercury products also took advantage of. The car got a restyle in 1964 and looked more like a small Lincoln rather than a cousin of the Falcon. While an inline-6 was standard fare, the early ’64 Comets could be ordered with a 260 cubic inch V8, while the 289 came along later in the model year (as was the case with the new Ford Mustang).

The seller’s car has a 289, meaning it was produced later on. And it’s the K-Code version which was like the D-Code in the Mustang that had a 4-barrel carburetor but with lower compression to run on regular fuel. This Comet was built with a 4-speed manual, something that was seen more often in the Cyclone edition. We’re told the auto runs and drives great and the only thing that may need attention is the factory air conditioning (notice the logo on the under-dash unit; A/C wasn’t integrated into the dash of the Falcon, Mustang, or Comet at the time).

This black Merc was repainted several years ago and looks fine from a distance, but up close it’s showing its age a bit. The seller thinks that one of the rear quarter panels had some work done, either from rust or some other body damage. The convertible top looks good and matches the interior which certainly is presentable. Chances are you could bring this vehicle home and start showing it next weekend.

Comments

  1. Tbone

    Hmm….muy caliente!

    Like 3
  2. Eric_13cars Eric_13cars Member

    Vermont, repaint, some work done on rear quarters….salt country, rust country. Inspect or caveat emptor.

    Like 3
  3. harry allen

    Being a Vermont vehicle considering the climate an inspection is an understatement in my opinion. However, it is a nice appearing vehicle and if it stood up to scrutinizing, I would not mind it being in my stable.

    Like 2
  4. al

    very good article I’m impressed that you knew that the comet was originally a Edsel most people don’t know that the first ones had no name badges just where called comets

    Like 0
  5. Artyparty

    Interesting that the Mercury K-Code was different to the Ford K-Code! Was there a Hi-Po version for the 289 for the Comet, like the Sprint version of the Falcon? We’re all of there engine codes different from Ford’s?

    Like 1
    • CATHOUSE

      After reading the comments below about what a K code 289 was in a 1964 Mercury I would have to say that this is one of the very few times when the engine code meant something different between a Ford and a Mercury. Generally speaking the engine code would mean the same thing for both makes.

      Like 4
  6. Yblocker

    Had it not been for the Mustang, there would probably be a lot more of these around, along with comparable Falcons. A 289 and 4spd is nice combination, and probably a rare one, only thing sweeter would be a “HiPo”, although I’m not sure those were offered in a Comet

    Like 3
    • Dan Keith

      What I read in a Google search was the Hi-po wasn’t offered until 1965 in a Comet

      Like 1
  7. Karo

    It’s not black, it’s dark green. Color S is “Cypress Green Metallic.”

    Like 3
    • chrlsful

      I think he means: repainted from blk to grn

      Like 0
  8. Randoman1 Member

    This is clearly not a HiPo 289/271. The “K” in the VIN tag is for the Mercury 298 V4 designation. The distributor has vacuum advance, wrong, the diff is an 8″ not the 9″ small tube. Small ALT pulley, single exhaust, blue not black, air cleaner? So many errors.
    see: https://mustangsandmore.com/ubb/Forum7/HTML/000570.html

    Like 0
    • Early Cyclone Owner

      The “K” in the ’64 Comet denotes the 210 hp 289. A “D” code denotes the 271 High Performance 289. That changed in ’65 when the “K” code was adopted and the “D” designation dropped from Mercury Division eliminate engine code confusion.

      Like 0
  9. Greg Millard

    64 Comet (NOT MUSTANG) 289 D code versus K code
    Post Fri Dec 30, 2011 1:31 pm

    I tried to get info on the 1964 D code engine compared to the K code engine in the comet (not mustang). I wondered if D was a 2 barrel 289 and K a 4 barrel. No one could give me an answer on this forum. I know all about the HiPo that did not come to be in the 64 comet, but there had to be a difference between the D and the K. This is an article I found on the net…

    The history of the K code Cyclone engine for 1964 is another of those fascinating, little known anecdotes. Ford, of course, was obsessing over it’s new Mustang in 1964 and 1965. According to published historical records, Fran Hernandez, Director of Mercury Performance was at odds with Lee Iococca concerning the K code engine. Hernandez wanted to include the 289, 271 HP High Performance engine in the Cyclone package. According to available public record, Iococca did not want any attention taken away from the new Mustang and the Fairlane, who featured the 271 HP engine as an option. There appeared to be a considerable amount of interdivision rivalry between the two companies, fueled by Mercury’s racing success in the early sixties. At some point, the engine option for Mercury was deleted and they were left with the D code 289/210 HP engine. At this point, Mercury engineers decided to improvise. They installed the 600 CFM Autolite four barrel carb from the 352 engine, a different manifold, and other changes that elevated the horsepower to approximately 230. They designated this engine the K code. This change actually worked in Mercury’s favor. There was some confusion among buyers, and the Comets actually outsold the Fairlanes.

    Is there any truth to this???

    E tract from durectconnect.com

    Like 3
    • Yblocker

      Well that story sounds legitimate enough. There’s one little thing I might debate, I don’t think any Autolite 4100 was ever rated at 600cfm, other than possibly the HiPo version, which only came with a manual choke. But I’ve been wrong before

      Like 2
    • Tom Cerwinske

      Everyone was excited when a dealer friend of mine took a 64 Caliente 4 dr in on trade a few years ago that had a K in the serial number. I thought it was strange that a K code motor would have an automatic. I did some checking and found most of the same info as above. In addition, I found in several places that the 64 (65) Mustang D and 64 Mercury K motors were identical and both used regular gas. The Mustang/Fairlane K used premium gas. Also, the guys at Mercury thought they were going to get the Mustang K Code motor and printed their brochures with that option. Since the serial numbers were already assigned, the K code motor became the 220HP regular gas 4-barrel motor. It would appear in the listing the person might not be aware of all this as he mentions it being a K many times.

      Like 0
      • Marlin Sparks

        This story is legit! I have owned 4 1964 comet calient’s. My homework is the same as represented above. Much back and forth between Ford & Merc. divisions with Merc. getting the hind tit.

        Like 0
  10. Davey Boy

    Very nice car. I once had a 1966 Mercury Comet four-door sedan 289. It had I don’t even know what the transmission was called but it was a two-speed / 3 speed automatic transmission. If you put it in drive it was a three-speed automatic if you put it in gear I guess you’d call it second,( I know it was a small Green Dot on the shift indicator) it became a Powerglide with only second and third gear available. Boy was that little thing quick. I can’t believe how fast it was for what it was. It only had 20,000 original miles on it. Original paint and interior except for the front seat which somebody put in something power from something else. Like an idiot I tore it apart to put the motor in a 64 Falcon Sprint. I was young and stupid and did not know the differences in ford. Only worked on Chevrolet where everything fit and everything interchanged. Found out the hard way that Ford changed drastically between 64 and 66 and the motor would not hook up to the standard transmission in my Sprint and I being the 17-year-old dork that I was at the time did not know how to remedy that situation so both cars ended up going to scrap. I almost cried when my 64 Falcon went to the junkyard. Man that was a nice little hot rod for its time. But the comet was an amazing car. if I had it now I would definitely keep the comet just because being a four-door nobody kept them and because it was a great little car to drive. Oh the ones we let get away

    Like 0
    • Yblocker

      All 289s had the same bell housing bolt pattern, would’ve been an easy swap, but like you said, you were a 17 year old dork lol

      Like 0
  11. Bill Hall

    About the AC. Until 65 all Fords where an add on underdash unit . I know this was when full size cars became in dash systems. The compressors always looked aftermarket since they were built by York and sometime in the 70s? Ford started by compressors from GM for certain models.

    Like 0
    • Yblocker

      Ford mostly used York and Tecumseh compressors, this Comet has a Tecumseh, with a cast iron case, Yorks were aluminum. I don’t recall ever seeing a Frigidaire on a Ford, but my memory is pretty short these days

      Like 1
    • Timothy R Herrod

      Ford also started putting quadrajets on some of their motors also in the early 70’s

      Like 0
      • Bill Hall

        I had 73 RANCHERO WITH 351 C ENGINE.IT HAD FORD’S VERSION OF A QUARAJET CARB

        Like 0
  12. Stan

    Good comments. Interesting.
    This must’ve been a real pleasure to drive off the lot.
    4 sp 289 w either 3.25 or 3.50 gears ⚙️. Put the top down and cruise. 😎 ⛱️

    Like 5
  13. Geof

    This is one of those cool old factory hotrods I used to see growing up. Takes me back to some of my favorite car memories.
    Guy had a 64 Ford wagon with one of the meanest factory 289s I’d ever seen. An older gentleman had a factory 64? Mercury wagon with a 427. I had a 71 Boss 351 Mustang.
    I’d love to own this one if had the room. I’d just cruise with an old school smile. Ride on!

    Like 1
    • al

      I had a bought it new 1968 Torino gt fast back 390 4 speed great car came with Firestone wide oval tires how many on here can remember them

      Like 2
  14. chrlsful

    slightly (that wuz 55 yrs ago). When I C 1 now that FB section looks as big asa aircraft carrier !

    Friend’s got 1 of these. Not sure what yr. Calls it a “22” or “R22”? I forget if there’s a badge w/that on it? Also the nxt yr (v)omit wuz a first (in merica? for ford?) to have the stacked head lights I think, a feature I’d almost buya car on I like so much. It wuz certainly a 1st for ford, no?

    A vert is a real plus but my fantasy for these cars (’60/6 down sz – ranchero, comet, falcon) has been in SCCA livery (r&p steer, lowered an inch, good tires, the 3.3 or 4.1 w/the trick head/intake, etc, etc). The Argie they run w/6 Mukunis or Keihns a la AKMiller circa 1963 on today’s track (Venezuela, Columbia, Argentina). There’s at least 2 classes down there (like here w/the circle track guys, closed engines/cant mess w/ got the tamper proof head’n other bolts?) C em scream on uTube if interested (AND they DO!). But that’s not the scca-like I seek. Take some good lessons frm there tho.

    Like 0
  15. DRC

    Had a 65 comet convert 289 with 3 on the tree. Could keep up or best anything thru 1st and 2nd gear, course going to 3rd race was over. Was one quick car had to sell it when Uncle Sam called. Really wish I could have kept it.

    Like 2
    • Greg in Texas

      My grandfather was a Ford Falcon nut. He had one of each version I believe. Fastback, Coupe and Wagon. At any given time, one was up on blocks, while the other two were the family cars. All were straight 6. 3 on the tree. As a little kid, they seemed like real hot rods. He was a very frugal guy, but for his passion for Falcons. The inline 6 never should have been abandoned. BMW simply refined the inline 6 and made it’s reputation on it. Unforced error by Ford, abandoning it’s roots of practicality. I don’t know if Nader’s slander against GM Corvair in same market niche was the culprit or not, but cars started getting smaller and more responsible and practical up to then. Imagine if it hadn’t taken until Ford Focus for a responsible car for the masses? We are about 30 years behind due to this point right here, where a nice design convertible Falcon underneath gets saddled with a behemoth motor the car wasn’t engineered for. It’s this type of departure that invited where we are today regarding man-made climate change. That if anyone still on the fence can’t accept, I feel sorry for them. We can’t keep embracing ignorance unless we accept we are doing it to ourselves.

      Like 0
  16. Greg in Texas

    Shame it has the V8. The Straight 6 is one you can keep driving. Brakes and suspension engineering was Falcon, which is straight 6 platform. This probably got parked over road manners, thirst and brakes wearing out quickly. A shame, because the style and proportions are great. It would be a great candidate for complete EV conversion. Canoo platform? Otherwise, no matter who is POTUS, gas is going to be $4 gallon, only kept low if enough EV cars get in the road to reduce demand. Only reduced demand levels off gas prices. Everyone understands this fact, yes? So if they want to sell corn in harvest season, the price goes low low. But you can’t find ears of corn for .10 cents each in winter. If people don’t want to buy corn at .50cents each during harvest, the corn sits there, going bad. Well refined gasoline in the gas station only have about 2 weeks of ‘freshness’ before octane drops and emulsification returns to stratification. So what if gas hogs stop swinging by for $4 per gallon? As the clock is ticking on the gas(corn)? Price drop. But if we keep driving like we don’t care, .50 cents per ear of corn in harvest season is going to keep happening. To drive the gas prices down, demand has to be moderated. Plug-in hybrid technology keeps driving range and petroleum jobs. We need petroleum jobs. We just don’t need excess waste and blind, mass consumption. Like I said: Sad this has an engine that assures it will be mostly parked. Again. Nice looking car. Hopefully someone preserves it with a better drivetrain.

    Like 0
    • Yblocker

      Odd. Very odd

      Like 1

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