Mercury Comet: Some Racing, Some History, And A Very Rare 1974

Greg Zyla
Q: Greg, I always look forward to reading your columns and you’re “the go to guy” for tough questions.
Back in 1974, my fiancée (now my wife) went car shopping with her parents. Her parents were Ford people and they wanted her to buy a big car. But she fell in love with a little 1974 Mercury Comet, a two-door, 250-inch six cylinder with an automatic transmission.
The thing that set this Comet apart was the color. it was orange with an orange interior and included in orange the steering wheel and column, dashboard, seats, headliner, door panels, package tray and even the seat belts. The only things not orange were the dash pad and carpets, which were finished in black.
She had that orange Comet for 11 years, but marriage and kids forced us to part with it for a four-door model. (She cried for several years).
Fast forward to September of 2012 and by luck she was able to find a 1974 Comet that was a near identical twin to her original Comet except for a white top roof panel. It had just 29,000-miles and she bought it immediately. She then added a set of 1967-1968 Cougar mag wheels.
A few years ago, we went to the Carlisle, Pa. car show where we met the folks from the East Coast Comet Club and asked about our rare, all-orange Comet. They looked at our pictures, asked some questions but couldn’t recall much about our Comet’s colors, as the interior was a one-year only option in orange. Also, nothing colored orange in our interior can be replaced, so our question is: How many of these Orange/Orange Comets were produced in 1974? Any information will be greatly appreciated.
Also, over the years I’ve had four Impala SS models, four GTOs, one Chevelle, and built a 1961 Impala bubble top with a 402 big block and a 1940 Ford Deluxe (351 engine) . I’m currently working on a 1934 Ford five-window with a 302-V8 and five-speed manual. Thanks Greg very much. Chip and MaryLou Rogers, Towanda, Pa. p.s.-I’m like you as I eat, sleep, and think old cars, and doo wop rock and roll.
A: Chip and MaryLou, thanks for being loyal readers of my column and your very kind words. Letters like yours truly make my day!
Your 1974 Comet is really an attractive car, especially with the rare all-orange interior and those great looking mag wheels. I tracked down the paint color codes, as this special orange exterior paint was only available in the Mercury line in 1974 and 1975. And, as you mention, the interior/exterior orange color combo was not available in 1975.
As you probably know, the Mercury color Orange code number is 5W and the manufacturer number is 5296. It was marketed by Ford and Mercury simply as “Orange” in the color descriptions. Overall, the 1974 Comet two-door production came in at 64,751 units riding on a 109.9-inch wheelbase with a base price of $3,008.
I have to mention some Comet history, too.
Many Comet enthusiasts may not know that the original 1960 Comet was built to be a compact size Edsel and join the full-size Edsel at Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln dealers. However, the abrupt ending of the Edsel in 1960 after just three years caught the Comet vehicles already built in a dubious position. So, Ford did the only thing available to them at the time and they released the 1960 and 1961 Comets to showrooms with no official brand identification badges other than the Comet insignias. It was like a car without a home.
Finally in 1962, Mercury dealers and its union workers took the fledgling Comet under its corporate wing and it became a very popular Mercury. A friend of mine had a 1961 Comet, and I remember two things about it: no Mercury badges and an aftermarket “Moon” brand HUGE throttle pedal! (Hope you are reading this Kathy Allen Orazi).
Overall, Comets were produced from 1960 to 1969 and again in 1971 to 1977. Through its run, Comets were always first cousins to the sibling Falcon, and then grew up alongside the mid-size Ford Fairlane and finally back to the smaller Ford Maverick.
Comets were also very popular on the nation’s drag strips, where four corporate backed flip-top body fiberglass nitro Comet Funny Cars appeared in 1966. These Comet funny cars were preceded by special exhibition-only S/FX vehicles known as supercharged factory experimental drag cars. Back in ’64, there were only a few cars running S/FX, including the factory-backed Dodge 330 Max Wedge “Dodge Chargers” (three were built) and the famous 1964 Comet of Jack Chrisman.
Unlike the “Dodge Chargers” that ran on gasoline and driven by Jimmy Nix and Jim Johnson, it was Chrisman’s Comet that ran on nitro methane for more power and louder experiences. Although the Dodges ran in the 10-secnd range at over 130-mph they were no match for Chrisman’s nitro burning Comet, which went close to the 150-MPH range on a cool night. So with all respect to the Dodges, Chrisman’s Comet receives my vote as the Godfather of the funny car thanks to the nitro in the tank.
OK. I did digress. I guess you’ve all figured by now that I can’t locate any orange interior production numbers for these 1974 Comets. I’ll keep trying, but can’t promise I’ll find anything. And since Chip and MaryLou’s letter was so interesting, I decided to add some of the above info on the Comet.
Thanks for your enjoyable letter and continued good luck to you with your 1974 Comet. It is a rare one, interior numbers or not.
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