Rockin’ Vintage Tunes

One area of a car often changed is the sound system.  Sometimes, it’s simply replacing speakers or adding them.  Other times, it’s replacing the radio itself.  Currently, our 1963 Mercury Comet has the original radio:


Additionally, we also have the original speaker.  As you can tell, the buttons are worn but the radio itself still works.  You can tune in and listen to AM radio.  That’s right.  I said AM radio.  Forget satellite.  This thing doesn’t even have FM.  But to find a stock radio of this vintage that still works is not an easy thing to do these days.

So, what are our future plans?  Well, we’re going to leave it.  We have seen people put radios in the glove box, so that the stock radio is still there, but we’re keeping this one.  Micah and the rest of the family and I haven’t decided on the speaker situation.  There are cut outs that we could use to wire in a couple speakers in the back on the shelf, and maybe we will, but for now, we have the one speaker in the center of the dash, between the two defroster vents.


The S-22

When most people think of a classic car, they don’t typically think of a Mercury Comet, especially the earlier ones, of which the S-22 was the sportiest.  A Ford/Mercury enthusiast might think of the later Comet Caliente, which was a true muscle car, and certainly the Mustang and Thunderbird would be two Fords that come to mind, with perhaps even the later Mercury Cougar being mentioned.  The Ford Falcon also receives mention and that is the Mercury Comet’s close cousin.  They shared the same mechanicals.

The relative obscurity of the Mercury Comet S-22 inspired one site to name the S-22 a “forgotten classic.”  It’s a nice little article and worth a read.

Beat the Snow Driving and Winter Storage

Well, with the headers on, we were able to drive the car before the snow flew!  I drove it to work a couple times and even picked Micah up from wrestling practice in it.  Here it is in the driveway and garage:

In the DriveGaraged

We did notice there was still a barn smell to it when it would be sitting enclosed within the garage.  Quite a bit of that was coming from the cowl, so we purchased some Out!, a pet urine cleaner and flushed the cowl with that.  That has improved things even more but when enclosed one can still get some smell.  We might flush the cowl once more with Out! and see if we can figure out where else some of it may be coming from.  Of course, there are things we still need to do that could help:  a new headliner, new door panels, etc.  This spring, we should add Pertronix ignition, tackle some of the suspension, and look into the transmission (linkage is off but a C4 would be much better than the two speed Merc-o-matic it currently has).  Further down the road, a progressive Webber 2 barrel carb would be nice too.  The headers, pertronix ignition, and 2 barrel Webber won’t make it a speed demon, but they will definitely add increased torque and horsepower that will be useful for cruising.  I hope to replace the transmission with a C4 three speed as well, which will make a huge difference also.  Oh, and we need to add seat belts at some point too.  I’ll keep my eye out for a disc brake kit but that may be tougher to find.

Final Big Project Before Winter–Headers!

Well, the final thing we had to do before winter was address the exhaust situation.  The suspension on the Comet is shot, as one might expect, and this meant when the seller was getting it onto the trailer, the exhaust got hung up.  He cut the tail pipe in order to get it on but that made for one loud engine.  Imagine a turbo charged tractor and you’d be close.  The manifold was also quite rusted and, let’s be honest, it would be difficult to find a more restrictive exhaust manifold than the cast log-shaped blob Ford cheaply stamped out for its inline sixes.  So, we ordered a dual outlet header from Clifford Performance.

Unfortunately, the exhaust bolts were rusted solid.  So, I talked to a friend who recommended Robin down at Exhaust Pros on Main Ave in Fargo.  He had quite the time getting the bolts loose as well, eventually having to drill them out.  Once that was done, he noticed the stock starter was too big to allow the headers to be attached.  To get around this, we got a high torque mini starter from Summit.

The result is very good.  We did not go with a dual outlet, but had Robin use a Y tube so it has a single exhaust and looks stock, though it doesn’t sound like it.  The headers with the longer glass pack certainly is quieter than a pipe cut just after the manifold but it has a nice deep, throaty sound.  Frankly, it sounds a little like V-8.  So, we kept the stock look but now have a much better sound and with a better flowing exhaust, a little more power too, something I certainly won’t complain about.

Here’s a picture of the headers installed:

Headers Installed

Here’s the starter:

High Torque Starter

You can see how it had to fit within the tubing of the header system.  The hoses on the left are for the heater core.

Heating and Cooling System Back Together!

After the water pump installation, it was time to get everything back in order.  Installing the radiator was straightforward and simple.  There are merely some bolts holding it in and then the hoses are attached (including the cooling lines from the transmission).  The heater core housing was a little difficult to get back in, with dad laying on the floor of the interior and Micah on the engine side, helping to line up the four bolts.  The blower motor still worked, so all we had done with that is soak the blower cage in vinegar and treated it with a rust treatment from permatex.  Attaching the heater core hoses to the heater core was more difficult than removing the old, stretched, worn ones, but we got it in there.  Working under the dash is the difficult aspect to the project.  Once it was all together, we had to start the car and give it a test run.  Everything worked fine.  We weren’t sure if the thermostat would be fine but it seemed to be.  Once the engine warmed up, the defroster blew (non-mouse stink) warm air into the car for the first time in decades.  Here’s Micah attaching the upper radiator hose:

Radiator Hose

Water Pump and Hoses

While working on the seats and carpeting, we also ordered a new water pump and got new radiator hoses, hoses to and from the heater core, and a new belt.  Here’s Micah holding the old water pump:

Old Water Pump Removed

As you can see, it was pretty rusted and corroded.  The new pump came with a new gasket, so we used a little permatex gasket sealer, and put that in.  Looks much better too!

New Water Pump Installed

Replacing the water pump, hoses, and belt was a very straightforward project.  The alternator bracket bolts just had to be loosened.  Then the alternator can be moved inward, releasing the tension on the belt.  We slid the belt off and removed the four bolts holding the fan blade on.  The heater core hoses had already been removed, as we had tackled the heater core previously.  Three bolts hold the water pump in place.  Once removed, we made sure the surface was clean and then used the gasket sealer to help the gasket stay on the water pump, mated it up to the engine, and tightened the three bolts.