1963 Mercury Comet Custom

ROBERT C. REED/HICKORY DAILY RECORD: Sarah Rhyne of Hickory stands beside her first classic car, a 1963 Mercury Comet Custom while parked at The Episcopal Church of the Ascension.

To view more photos, scroll to the bottom of this article. 

When and how did you acquire the car?   

I had been looking mostly at (Ford) Falcons because of their reputation as a good starter car for a first-time collector and there are so many out there. A friend asked me once if I’d ever buy a Comet. I told him I love them but I’m never going to find one. Well, I happened across this little green ‘63 model in Tennessee but kept telling myself it was too far. Impulsively, I sent a message to the owner asking some general questions. The more I asked, the more I liked what I was hearing. Up to that point, almost every car in my price range needed a considerable amount of work done. I told my pal Jim about the car and he was in.

On an overcast Sunday morning in June, we got an early start on the drive to Cookeville, Tennessee. Three hundred miles later the sun came out and we arrived in the little town. I wanted to take the car for a test drive. So I gave full disclosure I had never driven a three on the column and had spent very little time behind the wheel of a car without power steering or power brakes. I put it through its paces through some curvy back roads. The owner looked a little nervous in the passenger seat. It was a scorcher that day and it took us quite a while to load it up on the trailer. We headed out and almost as soon as we got up to speed on the highway, we looked in the rear view mirror to see the car hopping around all over the place. It gave us quite a scare and didn’t bode well for the mountains ahead. We re-adjusted and had smooth sailing the rest of the way. I think it took twice as much time going back. It was a long day, and it was worth every minute of it.

Tell us about your car (specs, restoration, etc. in detail.). 

This car was intended for Edsel but ended up in the Mercury line. My car in particular came out of Memphis and spent most its life in Kentucky. John Malcom purchased the car from its original owner in 1996. The car was a two-tone Castilian Gold and Presidential Black. In 2001, he had it painted Deep Emerald Green, which was a Ford color.  The car’s 260 (cubic inch) V8 was completely rebuilt by Jones engine machine shop in Crittenden, Kentucky in 2002. In 2003 the third owner put in a dual glass pack exhaust system and three years later rebuilt the 2 barrel carburetor among other things. He also, put in a Pertronix ignition system, rebuilt the generator, changed out the rear center section for a 355 ratio, new shocks all around, and really too much to list. I’m very fortunate that the last two owners were meticulous in their record keeping. I have every receipt for every hose, gasket, rubber seal, you name it. I was told the car had been garage kept by all three of its previous owners, and the underbody is evidence of that.

By the time I got my hands on it the interior is what needed the most attention. I searched the world over and found a guy out in Washington who had new original stock seat covers so my husband and I hog ringed those on the front bench. With some elbow grease and vinyl dyes I salvaged the back seat along with the carpet. I fabricated my own kick panels then moved on to the door panels. My mother and I came up with a pattern we liked and she sewed the materials. Lastly, I had a new headliner and wind lace installed.  

Do you have a fun or interesting story about the car?  

I haven’t had it too long yet, but it’s always fun to drive and nothing short of interesting to work on.

Why do you love the car?

I really just love driving and being in it. It’s just a totally different experience cruisin’ along in a classic. Taking it out on country roads, the way it sounds and smells. You can’t beat it.

What is the most interesting feature of the car? 

It got the mid-year 260 V8, and this was the last year for its rear styling and fins.

What do people often ask you about the vehicle? 

“That’s your car?!”

What value do you place on the car?                    

That’s really hard to say. It’s a Comet, Custom, four door. I’ve yet to go to a local show or cruise and see another. A lot of old timers are preoccupied with two-door cars, but as time goes on I don’t really know how much that is going to matter to anyone.       

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