PHOTOS STEVE NALLY
We promised it this issue, but decided to reshuffle.
This little gem from Lorbeks is the perfect getaway transport for anyone who appreciates a sweet set of curves from the fifties. See what JB had to say, next time, really!
JB GETS TO GRIPS WITH ONE OF THE FORGOTTEN GEMS IN THE FORD PLAYBOOK, THE MERCURY COMET CYCLONE GT
Ford’s Lincoln Mercury Division first released its Mercury Comet Cyclone in 1964 and named it after a famously fast Coney Island roller coaster, the Cyclone.
The ‘compact’ coupe was powered by a 156kW 289ci V8 with a four-barrel carby, and came with a choice of three- or four-speed manual or Merc-O-Matic auto transmissions.
Mercury persisted with the 289 V8 for 1965 but for 1966, with the car built on the larger Fairlane chassis, it released the high-performance Comet Cyclone GT with a Holley four-barrel, 250kW 390ci S-Code V8, optional handling package, front disc brakes, a three-speed manual ’box or optional four-speed manual or Merc-O-Matic auto with GT Sport Shift. Also standard were dual exhausts, fibreglass bonnet with fake air scoops and GT badging.
The Merc-O-Matic equipped GT was good for 0-100km/h in 7sec and high 14-second quarter miles and Mercury advertising pronounced that the Comet Cyclone GT “will start a glow in any red-blooded American driver”.
I don’t know if I started glowing when I saw our Tiffany Blue feature car on the floor at The Healey Factory (yes, they do more than Healeys there) but it sure is a good looking jigger. Not that I think many people would recognise it as a Mercury because its stacked headlights echo our ZC and ZD Fairlanes, which were four-doors, of course.
This is a b-i-g car and it just goes to show how much Americans like ’em large because the 5.15m long, 1570kg Cyclone GT was regarded as an ‘intermediate’- sized vehicle in 1966.
Evidently, it was praised by motoring mags at the time for having a big boot and I can vouch for that. I jumped in it and I reckon you could have fitted another four of me in there!
But it’s a beautifully proportioned two-door as only the Yanks can do, with
a long bonnet and boot and Coke-bottle hips and there’s also an absence of fussy exterior styling; this car was made for performance driving not for posing in.
And when you fire up the 390, there’s absolutely no doubt where this car hails from: a Detroit V8 is a Detroit V8 and this engine is no exception. It has a nice rumble from inside the cabin (and sounds even better outside, I’m told) and is as smooth as silk. It feels pretty strong, too, and has some get up and go. The 390 has buckets of torque, 579Nm to be exact, and the GT just lopes along in traffic attracting stares. With this engine, three speeds in the auto ‘box are more than enough.
But you’d want to make sure the thing was pointing straight before you planted the right foot on a wet road because it will spin the rear tyres with the slightest provocation in the dry and there’s a helluva lot of car behind you to catch. The steering, in typical US-style, is over-assisted and lacks any feel whatsoever so, if you did get it sideways big-time, you’d be busier than a one-armed paper hanger, as my old mate Dick Johnson used to say. It’s probably the only downside of this car.
I like the simple interiors of these ’60s cars, with their acres of shiny vinyl.
The straightforward dash has five gauges with the large central speedo easily visible through the huge thin-rimmed steering wheel and a dash pad-mounted tacho adds a performance touch.
Obviously, handling in tight corners is not this car’s forte especially on relatively narrow rubber, and while it has discs up front, you won’t be dive bombing MX-5s into corners.
No, despite its original performance intentions, I reckon this coupe is built best for cruising.
So, if you love American cars you would love this beast. If it was mine I’d have a different power steering system fitted to get some feel but other than that I loved the car and it’s very unusual in Australia; Mercury only built 13,812 hardtops and 2158 convertibles in 1966.
ENGINE 6391cc OHV, 16v, V8 POWER 250kW @ 4800rpm TORQUE 579Nm @ 3200rpm TRANSMISSION 3-speed automatic Suspension independent wishbones, coil springs, dampers, anti-roll bar (f); live-axle, leaf springs, dampers BRAKES discs/drums WEIGHT 1570kg PRICE $39,500 CONTACT The Healey Factory 03 9872 3900