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1966 Mercury Comet Capri - Call It… Persuasion

Shawn Calrson's '66 Mercury Comet

By Eric English, Photography by Eric English

When you see this '66 Mercury leap off the starting line and turn high-9s at 135, you know this isn't an average street/strip intermediate. Of course, it's natural to want to know the source of the big power, with any number of candidates coming to mind. Most likely would be a big-inch small-block with some kind of assist; a big shot of nitrous or a centrifugal blower, perhaps? Dare you guess a GT500 engine swap? All such answers are dead wrong, because if you knew owner Shawn Carlson or his dad, John, you'd also know they aren't into the predictable. They chose to use a big-block, and in this case, it's not even the easy way out via a mega-inch 385-series Ford. Instead, they built an aluminum FE. You don't build Mercury if you're looking for Easy Street.

Shawn was raised in a modest house where drag-race Fords were lived, eaten, and breathed. His dad had all kinds of fast Ford and Merc street and strip cars, so it's not hard to believe that father and son were willing company at every car event under the sun. We suspect Shawn probably even drank blue Kool-Aid in his sippy cup, such was the level of brainwashing…er, persuasion, that occurred in the Carlson household. Not that it's bad, mind you, because whatever gets you to the end result seen here is all right in our book. The engine of choice here is a big and bad 511-inch all-aluminum FE, and while it's never been on a dyno, we'd figure it takes something like 650 horses to the wheels to move a 3,300-pound Comet this quickly.

Life for this particular Mercury began with a 200-inch six-cylinder under the hood and low-level Capri trimmings. The latter are still evident on the rear quarters and sometimes create a head-scratcher for observers. Turns out the Capri model was slotted between the base Comet 202 and the higher-level Caliente, all of which fell below the top-dog Cyclone GTs, which enthusiasts are likely most familiar. In this case, the Capri shares the exact same appealing hardtop lines as the Cyclone, and when done up in the factory Emberglo paint, you wouldn't want for anything to change. One thing Shawn did change was the stock flat hood, which was replaced by an original fiberglass hood that's said to be sourced years ago from Bud Moore's personal NASCAR inventory. It's similar to the stock Cyclone GT hood, but the scoops are more aggressive and funnel air to a plenum that fits over a 14-inch round air cleaner. Secondary to the big-horse FE, this rates as our favorite piece on the car.

Shawn says it took him 13 years to build his Comet to completion, finally rolling under its own power just this past summer. That's a whole lot of patience, which was also a beneficial personality trait when it came to searching out an abundance of NOS trim parts, which help make this '66 simply stellar. For Shawn, the car is the culmination of years of dreams, hard hands-on work, and cold, hard cash. He certainly doesn't live for our approval, but we're going to give him some anyway.


Tech Notes

Who: Shawn Carlson

What: '66 Mercury Comet Capri

Where: Snohomish, Washington

Engine: With 21st Century big cubes being available in small packages, plenty of folks see no reason to build a true big-block anymore. Carlson isn't one of them, and witnessing the allure of 511 cubes of all-aluminum FE between the notched shock towers, we understand the sentiment. In this case, the engine is based on a Shelby alloy block punched to 4.375 inches, stroked to 4.250 via a billet Scat crank. Action Machine in North Seattle did the machine work, and Shawn screwed it all together using Oliver rods and Diamond pistons to yield a 13:1 squeeze. Kuntz and Company ported the Edelbrock heads and intake, installing 2.25/1.75-inch valves in the process, which take marching orders from a stout Comp solid roller. Other notables are the Holley 1050 Dominator, Hooker 21⁄8-inch Super Comps, Jesel rockers, and an MSD ignition. Gotta love those Mercury script pent roof valve covers!

Transmission/Rearend: Both father and son have always rowed their own, but Shawn figured an automatic was sensible for this particular build and purpose. That means a Performance Automatic–built C4 with transbrake and 4,500-rpm Continental convertor. Further arrears is a Moser aluminum centersection in the 9-inch, along with Moser 4.56:1 ring-and-pinion, spool, and Mark Williams 31-spline axles.

Chassis/Suspension: Shawn's Comet launches straight and true, thanks to custom through-the-floor subframe connectors and a six-point cage. Other than drag shocks, the front suspension is fairly stock, while the rear employs Cal Tracs traction bars and adjustable leaf springs, and QA1 double-adjustable shocks. The front disc brakes are SSBC-sourced, while the rears remain factory drum.

Exterior: The "glo" part of the factory Emberglo paint becomes evident when you see this Mercury in low light. Credit for the great body and paintwork goes out to Ron Garneau, who finished the job using two-stage DuPont products.

Interior: This surely has to be one of the nicer interiors we've seen on a car this quick. Shawn tried to give everything a nice factory-fresh look, to include sticking with the original column shift/bench seat configuration. Trimcraft re-covered the seats in an original Pearl White Sierra vinyl, and Shawn even found a NOS dash cluster that included a factory clock.

Wheels/Tires: Those are Weld ProStar 15x3.5- and 15x8-inch wheels and Hoosier 28.0/4.5-15 and 30.0/9.0R15 tires.

Performance: With just a few strip outings under his belt in 2013, Shawn's best e.t. so far has been 9.70 at 136 mph at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Washington. He likely won't be getting faster, as he's not inclined to put a bigger jungle gym in the car.

Special Thanks: Shawn did the lion's share of the work on his Comet but received critical help from his dad, John, a master fabricator. John's handiwork can be seen in the seamlessly finished notched shock towers, custom subframe connectors, rollcage, and 31⁄2-inch exhaust system. Girlfriend Jill Jennings has been a big help as well, particularly during the final push of finishing the car. Not only did she lend plenty of moral support, she was hands-on during engine installation and last-minute detail work. Jill grew up around cars and obviously understands the addiction. Very cool!

By Eric English
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20 comments
Georgia Foley
Georgia Foley

i need a car like this or similar. without paying skyrocketing prices for it. just a nice normal one that i could have for driving every day. any chance of that happening in my lifetime? btw, i am 50. lol

Rick Karrasch
Rick Karrasch

The most GM-like styling of any Ford ever. Thought that then and still do. Not knocking them.

Kenny Cargill
Kenny Cargill

Loved the feature on this car... and he's local!

Tim Sperry
Tim Sperry

I own one with a 427fe motor.it run in the 9:00 with a four speed.

Jim Gillgam
Jim Gillgam

I love the look of the 66 and 67 Comets and Fairlanes

Wilkins Sr Dave
Wilkins Sr Dave

Have owned 4 66 cyclone gt 390s. Ran one at Fremont ca in 67,8,9. Wish I could find one.

Wade Lowery
Wade Lowery

Dad was the first gear head and also a ford purist, from model A's to a 69 talladega. We also had an original boss 429 engine sitting in a stand from 73 until 93 when he put it in a 34 five window. Still have it.

Allen Heath
Allen Heath

My dad had a comet it was a beast, then he got a 65 mustang couple 289 hi pro. 4 speed And I fell in love at 5 years old. been a half ass gear head ever sense.

Breece Bowen
Breece Bowen

My '66 Cyclone was good at the track but it never lifted the front end!

Fletch Bryan
Fletch Bryan

Got to be gear heads standard normal upbringing has about ruined us... 50 and still plays with loud obnoxious toys..... YES

Steve LaMonte
Steve LaMonte

I'm from a family of gear head but i ain't got a sweet ride like that must be cuz we had no moneys lmao

Jimmy Carnline
Jimmy Carnline

No.. I turned out to be the first gearhead in my family but my parents played a part in it unwittingly. My dad bought a 1970 Mercury Cyclone, 429, 4 speed in Oct, '69.. He bought it because he thought it was a nice looking car for the family. He didn't think of it as a rare muscle car. Just another car as far as he was concerned. It was basically my mothers car. He preferred to drive his Ford pickup. By the time I turned 16 in 1982 they gave me that car and bought a new Ford family car. I knew how cool of a car it was and after replacing the white wall Sears belted tires with raised white letter radials and cleaning the engine compartment of 13 years worth of dirt and grime it became my first automotive obsession. I regret selling that car.

Allen Jason Watts
Allen Jason Watts

Dad grew up in a junkyard. For family van had a pretty nasty high compression 460 with 4.11 gears. ;)

Karl Loper
Karl Loper

Family of 7, 5 kids, I am the only gearhead.

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