About two weeks ago, my daily driver bit the dust. Shockingly, the 1997 Thunderbird I had been driving for a few years only had 95,000 miles on the clock when it went into a massive state of overheating, which, in turn, led to a massive welding of the Modular V8's innards in such an awesomely intertwined effort that the car is now useless. Unfortunately, the cost to resurrect such a car from the dead is actually a greater expense than the running car would be worth as a whole, so I had to start shopping around for something else.
The thing is, I am a carpenter by trade, second generation actually, and the most "logical" decision for a new daily ride would be a pickup truck. However, I am also the person who sold his practical daily driver and bought a 1979 MGB back in 2009 which proceeded to catch fire on three separate occasions. Following the sale of the MGB, I bought a 1979 CJ7 which came with no doors, but it did at least have a bikini top. Did I mention that before any of this, I restored a 1966 Mustang between the ages of fifteen and sixteen, which I drove daily until the end of high school, between 2001-2004? I have a thing for old cars, but what I don't tend to have is a thing for practicality - to a point...
Enter my new daily driver:
A 1963 Mercury Comet - Born on July 12th, 1962
Yes, this makes absolutely no sense to most people, but the fact of the matter is that I am unlike most people. I have this need to drive cars that are not all that common because the older I get, the more I realize I don't want to be like everyone else out there. The funny thing is that I don't want an uncommon car specifically for attention, but for appreciation of something that doesn't exist anymore - a pure car.
I am only twenty-eight years old, but my mentality about personal comfort by today's standards precedes my birth date by a few decades at the least because I thrive on mechanical knowledge and like things I can fix with a wrench and the occasional hammer. My preference is to not have power windows, climate control, "infotainment", heated seats, an automatic transmission, nor a sunroof. The less distraction I have in the car I drive on a daily basis, the better, and when your car is a three speed on the column, this mantra rings even more true.
Seatbelts were federally mandated in the United Stats in 1966, so would you like to guess what my Comet doesn't have? (I'm adding them later. The mounting points are pre-threaded, under the carpet.)
I bought this car from the second owner and I have no idea how long he had owned it prior to that point, but it spent quite some time in storage and I did have to do some catching up on the maintenance end of things. Why buy a car from an air conditioned showroom when you can buy one straight out of a barn, right?
The oil on the rocker arms was actually petrified and crunchy.
The gear oil had the consistency of burnt deep fryer oil and oddly smelled like lacquer thinner.
The truth is, I could have bought something newer and I could have bought something more practical to my career, but I couldn't have bought anything that has more character than my little Mercury Comet. I'm sure something will break in the near future and I'll have to spend some time doing roadside repair, but that's just the thing for me because aside from a catastrophic, internal engine/transmission/ring and pinion issue, most problems can be patched up roadside in under half an hour on a car like this. After owning an MGB for a few years, I can attest to this as being true as long as you keep a tool bag and about $50 worth of spare bits in the trunk at all times.
One of the few friends I still speak to from my childhood works in Research and Development for Nissan USA and he laughs every time I buy an old car because even though his career and passion is in the more cutting-edge and advanced aspect of the automotive experience, he appreciates hearing about my adventures in the old steel of the past. Today he said: "I give you a year in that thing. Yes, consider it a challenge.". Mutual respect from the other side of the spectrum. I love that.
You may be saying in your head:
"That's fine for people who live in the middle of nowhere, like I bet you do. Driving a car like that everyday wouldn't work in the city."
Actually, I live in Metro Atlanta, a little over half an hour from downtown and our traffic is notoriously horrendous in every direction. My biggest adjustment is having to shift gears on the steering column, but that is becoming as second nature to me as shifting on the floor was before that point. Most of the dozen cars I have owned have been manuals because even in bumper to bumper traffic, driving a slushbox is torture to me.
Really though, the Comet still needs a few odds and ends which I will add to the process along the way (including getting rid of those awful wheel covers), but I'm more proud of this car than I would be of anything fresh out of the showroom any day.
I live in a world where everyone who has "made it" drives a BMW and blends in with every other person sitting in traffic.
I try to buy cars that match my personality. I don't buy cars that make my personality match everyone else's.
Grace and Peace,
-J. Drew Silvers