After searching in vain for the Todd Ryden-recommended phantom ghost-town racetrack, we st
On the freeway, we were startled to notice that the car had only 66,000 miles and it felt completely new. By that we mean new in 1967. The second owner had purchased it from somewhere in upstate New York and proceeded to ditch the factory six and Select Shift Merc-O-Matic transmission and replaced them with a 390 FE and a Top Loader four-speed. Thanks, whoever you are. The third owner had rubbed out the paint, fixed the trim, and finished the restoration so it could sit in his garage as a sculpture. Other than a drivetrain upgrade, the rest of the car was completely stock, so it was really nice to drive once we were at peace with the overassisted power steering.
We were already trying to find the top of the tach on the I-10 south on the way back to El Paso to drop off the rental and drop in on Todd Ryden and the guys from MSD Ignition. They had just enclosed their chassis dyno with some barn-tin and were as eager as we were to find the redline and the maximum power of the 390 so we could plan cam swaps and intake upgrades. They also showed us their brutal, blown Gen III Cadillac CTS-V and let us take it on some demonstration passes behind the shop.
Most people relate the P-51 Mustang to the shark's-mouth-nose art, but it was actually the
From the factory, the '67 Mercury lineup was packed with optional big Ford powerplants. The base models came standard with either the 200ci six-cylinder engine that made an advertised 120 hp at 4,400 rpm or one of several versions of the 289 with 200-250 hp depending on the compression ratio. Our Comet 202 sedan was optioned with the six-popper, but you could step up to the Cyclone package with a 289 or the Cyclone GT with a 320hp 390ci engine. There was also a Cyclone Super package with a 427-inch FE engine and a standard four-speed transmission. With the exception of some of the 427ci engines, all of the FE engines were part of the Marauder series that included the 390 ci, the 410 ci, which was a 390 block with a 428 crank, and the Super Marauder 428. These engines were rated between 270-345 hp depending on displacement and compression ratio and were standard on the fullsize Park Lane, Brougham, and Marquis in 1967. The Super Marauder was standard equipment in the '67 S-55 if you are looking for one.
Knowing this, we were kind of disappointed when we saw the 200hp dyno figures. The donor engine was likely from a Ford truck, but the Comet still felt like a musclecar.
The engine blow-by was beginning to catch up to us right in the middle of the desert. We p
Where Are We?
Our road-trip plan was to avoid most of the main arteries between the cities in the hope of stumbling upon something interesting. Todd Ryden tipped us off that there was a dirt-oval racetrack down near the Mexico border that had been built but then abandoned years before. We had to leave Todd after he debated about going back to work or going with us; it was a tough call. We jumped off the interstate and entered Highway 9, which runs so close to Mexico that the lines on the map become one.
The smaller highways in the southwest desert are festooned with tiny border towns and vintage visitor centers that are normally stocked with information on every oddity within a 20-mile radius. Each time we crossed a state line, we'd drop in and collect the pamphlets about towns such as Truth or Consequences, so named for a '50s-era radio game show that wanted a town to change its name for a publicity stunt.
We crisscrossed the map using the interstates for only a few miles at a time to load up on beef jerky and gas, and navigated using the free cartoon maps provided by the local tourist traps. The car cruised at 70 mph with surprising comfort and zero road feel but we didn't care. Aside from a stolen credit card and a near miss with an SUV, the trip was all pecan logs and cheesy turquoise jewelry.
The trip totaled two days. It would have been longer courtesy of a side trip to Joshua Tree National Park, but a black cloud had formed over Los Angeles and the wipers hadn't been used in a decade. Still, we wanted to stay out there. The Comet is the ultimate '60s cruising vessel and it deported us to a better time when there was less traffic, $0.25 ethel lead, and nothing to watch on TV.