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This or That: 1966 Mercury Comet Cyclone GT versus 1967 Mercury Comet 202

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1967 Mercury Comet 202 (top); 1966 Mercury Comet Cyclone GT (below); images by the author.

Editor’s note: This or That asks you, in an idyllic world, to add a collectible vehicle to your dream garage each week, but with a catch: You can only pick one vehicle from this pairing and it has to be for enjoyment purposes rather than as an investment.

Thus far we’ve paired cars from opposing brands. However, this week we thought we would mix things up a bit by putting a 1966 Mercury Comet Cyclone GT up against a 1967 Mercury Comet 202. Why a muscle car versus a base model your cheap uncle would have bought?

Let’s first take a brief look at the 1966 Cyclone GT. The Cyclone moniker made its debut in 1964 as the performance trim level of the Comet. At the time the chassis was still based on the Falcon design, although Comet’s extra length gave the body more visual presence. Flash forward to 1966 when the Comet’s redesign adopted true intermediate proportions borrowed from the Ford Fairlane, including its basic body shell. The Cyclone continued as Comet’s performance sub-series, complete with chromed wheels, checkered flag badges, its own grille and dual pinstripes, as well as a 200-hp 289 under the hood (which could have been swapped for a 265- or 275-hp 390). But for those who wanted better performance from their upscale FoMoCo division, there was the new-for-1966 Cyclone GT, available only in hardtop or convertible body styles. The $452 GT package provided – as standard equipment – a 335-hp four-barrel carbureted 390, non-functioning twin-scoop fiberglass GT hood, dual exhaust system, engine dress-up kit, heavy-duty suspension and front disc brakes, “console transmission controls” (three-speed manual was standard; a four-speed manual and an automatic were optional), and GT side stripes. Chrome wheels were included, too (our former feature car wore aftermarket wheels at the time of the photo shoot).

Although we couldn’t find a period road test of the Cyclone GT, Motor Trend tested a same-year Ford Fairlane GT/A that housed a 335-horse 390, automatic trans, 3.25 rear gear, and power drum brakes and steering. Appearing in the title’s October 1965 issue, it recorded a 0-60 MPH time of 6.8 seconds and ran the 1/4-mile in 15.2 seconds at 92 MPH. Incidentally, by the end of the model year, Mercury had produced 13,812 Cyclone GT hardtops, and another 2,158 Cyclone GT convertibles.

A year later the Comet line was given a noticeable facelift; however the rest of the body retained most of its design traits incorporated into the line for the ’66 model year. and, as was the case the previous year, the ’67 Cyclone and Cyclone GT performers soldiers on with little change to their standard equipment. There was, however, an addition to the powerteam section of the option chart: a big-block from Ford’s FE series, also known in FoMoCo vernacular as the R-Code engine.

Inserting a big FE block in a Ford intermediate came out of Ford’s need to compete on the NASCAR circuit, where 427 Fairlanes were a major force in 1966. Unfortunately, little of that on-track success filtered through the FoMoCo ranks initially. Mercury was given little attention by the folks inside Dearborn’s front office, other than to provide some Cyclone bodies for the new “Funny Cars” appearing at the drag strip; another hotbed for spurring street-legal performance car sales. Some of those were being raced by Dyno Don Nicholson and Fast Eddie Schartman, which in turn brought enough in enough customer interest to prompt decision makers to offer the engine publicly. Rather that manipulate a High Riser 427 under – and through – the hood of any FoMoCo intermediate, engineers managed a Medium Riser 427 that employed 1.34 x 2.34-inch intake ports that fed fully machined combustion chambers. A forged-steel, short-stroke crankshaft was installed and, of course, there was a new high-nickel alloy block with side oiling. With a 4.23 x 3.78-inch bore and stroke, the 427 was specifically built for high-RPM use, to the tune of 6,000 RPM at peak power. Torque was massive–480-lbs.ft. at 3,700. Yet the package was more than pure engine; thanks to a rear-mounted battery (although the battery in our feature car is under the hood), Toploader four-speed and deletion of factory-applied sealer and sound deadener that took between 120 and 150 pounds out of the car. Mercury had built a race-ready track machine – and it was in the form of a Comet. Not just a Cyclone or Cyclone GT, but also (in descending trim level order) in Caliente and Capri two-door hardtops, and the Comet 202 two-door sedan. Sounds like a winner, right? There was a catch.

Mercury charged a $1,000 premium for the engine alone. Then there was the performance. Time slips for similar 427-powered Fairlanes document 13.8-second /4-mile ETs @ 106 MPH, and a top speed of 132 MPH. It was perfect for racers – who recognized that the Comet 202 was about a half-foot shorter and correspondingly lighter than its trim level counterparts, in addition to the fact that the two-door post body was probably the strongest in the Comet line – but on the street is was nearly unusable. The end result here is rarity: Mercury built just 60 R-code Comet 202s.

Of the two, which would you add to your stable and why?