The expensive cap is for Dan Spere's '64 Comet station wagon. Parts for this car are hard to find. He was unable to locate a real gas cap even after the car was put back together. Out of the blue, a guy walking past at a car show offered Dan the real Mercury cap for $125. Yes, that's a ton of money for a gas cap, but for a few years, Dan just had a generic cap with an M glued to it. He still uses the fake cap when he races the car, not wanting the original one to disappear.
Dyno Don Nicholson raced a '64 Mercury wagon in NHRA Super Stock for a short while, and this car came to be known as The Ugly Duckling. Not to Dan, though. He's carried a torch for Mercurys for years, starting with a very rough '66 Comet Cyclone GT he used to own. Looking at old photos of Dyno Don's car, Dan thinks these '64 wagons are some of the most beautiful cars ever made. His favorite styling element is the character line sweeping up from the tandem headlights forming "eyebrows" that connect the grille to the fenders.
This car was rough when he bought it, too. Responding to an ad in Recycler, Dan was treated to a shell with hood, fenders, and bumpers shoved into the cargo area. It was mostly complete, not rusty, and the windows rolled up and down, so he bought it for $300. That was in 1997, and Dan was still in college and working full time. He dropped in the 302/C4 combination from his Cyclone, and the Comet served as his daily driver until he graduated and got a good job that afforded him the opportunity to accumulate the parts he wanted to build it up. First on the list was the teardrop fiberglass hood, painted Wimbledon white, of course
After more saving, Dan acquired a 351 Windsor that Speed-O-Motive had built for a customer who never picked it up. That opened up a flurry of building and modifying. Dan began to assemble the wagon in the image of Dyno Don's race car. An upgraded C4 came from Mike's Transmission, and the old 8-inch rear was replaced with a locker-equipped 9-inch. Dan then bought a MIG welder and taught himself how to use it. He notched the right shock tower to make room for headers and welded up a 3-inch exhaust system from the collectors, ending in turndowns just before the axle.
Just because Dan built his Comet to look like a vintage race car doesn't mean it just sits around or goes to the occasional show. Dan races the car frequently, and his best run to date is an 11.405 at 116.56 mph-fast enough to require a six-point 'cage, which is close to the top of Dan's list of things still to-do. His goal is to get as close as possible to 10-flat on his skinny slicks, probably with a bigger, solid roller cam and a shot of nitrous. If you're in western Oregon this summer, look for Dan's Mercury pulling the wheels off the line in search of that goal. Dyno Don would be proud.