29 September 2014

What Drives You: Life with a 1972 Mercury

To express themselves, some people paint pictures; Robert built a car

(Editor’s Note: From pearl, metallic flake and candy-colored paint to modified small-blocks, big-blocks and flathead V-8s, the proud owners of custom cars are opening up their throttles and bursting forth with their classic build stories. Join us as we get down to the nuts and bolts of these builds and tell the stories of car builders worldwide — finding smiles and unforgettable memories behind the blood, sweat and tears. If you have a custom with a great story and would like to be considered for our “What Drives You” series, contact Tara Hurlin at thurlin@hagerty.com.)

While walking through a local car show, something caught my eye; it was a car I had never seen in the area, and it drew me in immediately. A 1972 Mercury Comet GT with a 427 sat in front of me with the hood opened, displaying immaculate chrome details, skilled pinstriping on the front fenders that also flowed down the sides, and a unique, colorful interior that matched the exterior with blue hues swirled with yellows, silver and black.

A proud owner stood nearby, eager to share with curious onlookers the story of his car, and at first glance it was clear that this man was crazy about his Mercury. Every fine detail on this Comet is an expression of himself, entirely customized to his liking. Soon I realized the connection between car and owner, and grew to appreciate the owner as much as the car.

Robert purchased the vehicle new from the factory, and it hasn’t left his hands since. Back in 1966 he had purchased a new 427 engine and installed it into a race car, where it remained for a few years. In 1973, the Comet project began, and this car gained the 427 engine.

“Ford made the 427 as a pure race engine, and enthusiasts consider this engine legendary,” Robert explained. On closer inspection, you notice that the massive engine is shoe-horned into the Comet’s engine bay. It had been meticulously cleaned; so clean, in fact, you wouldn’t think twice about eating off of it. The engine bay is plumbed with A/N fittings, and in some areas, bulkhead fittings are used to display a clean, high-end look. An aluminum radiator cools the 427, and the car is set up to run manual brakes because there was no room in the engine bay for a brake booster. Robert proudly stated, “I built it to drive, and driving this car makes me feel young again.”

I spotted the interior as an afterthought, and I’m glad I did. It’s made of marine material that he took from his mom’s old boat. It suits the car perfectly, and carries sentimental value. Each customization was done for a reason, and Robert said it best; “Some people paint pictures, and others make sculptures; the Comet is my work of art. It is my baby, one of the loves of my life.”

This car is full of memories, which makes sense; after all, it has been with him for 42 years. Favorite memories include driving to car shows with Nancy, his wife of 39 years; the thrill of making four laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; and cruising to various locations such as Tulsa, Okla., Memphis, Tenn., San Antonio, Texas, Minnesota, and many more.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise: Robert proudly admitted that his will dictates that the Comet may never be sold outside of the family.

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