1971 Mercury Comet: The Mini Merc

1971 mercury comet: the mini merc

1971 Mercury Comet: The Mini Merc

1971 mercury comet: the mini merc

Thomas Klockau

Mercury. Has it really been a dozen years since the brand disappeared from the face of the earth? Hard to believe. But yes, the last Mercury built, a Broughamtastic 2011 Grand Marquis, came off the line in early 2011. It’s just one of several marques that have vaporized since I was a kid—including Oldsmobile, Plymouth, and Saab, among others.

1971 mercury comet: the mini merc

Thomas Klockau

But back in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Mercury was an important part of Ford Motor Company. While Ford was naturally the volume seller, Mercury fought the good fight for middle and upper middle-class customers against Oldsmobile, Chrysler, and Buick.

1971 mercury comet: the mini merc

A 1960 Comet at the 2017 Aledo, Illinois, car show, with its distinctive “cat’s eye” taillights. Thomas Klockau

The Comet morphed throughout its lifetime. The original 1960 Comet was intended to be a small Edsel, but that fiasco and the resulting short life of Edsel Division meant it was sold through Mercury dealers instead. Later in the decade it became an intermediate; a Cardinal Red ’66 Comet Cyclone convertible paced the Indy 500 that year.

1971 mercury comet: the mini merc

Thomas Klockau

But times were changing, and the Montego, originally an upmarket Comet starting in 1968, became the entire midsize line. As a result, the Comet nameplate was moved back into compact territory, as a version of the 1970 Ford Maverick.

1971 mercury comet: the mini merc

Thomas Klockau

Although the Cougar had been introduced in 1967, the ’71 Comet was smaller than the average Mercury had been, especially the Nimitz-class Marquis Brougham, Monterey, and Colony Park station wagon.

1971 mercury comet: the mini merc

Thomas Klockau

And so it was that the 1971 Comet was the smallest, and of course, lowest cost Mercury offering, at 181.7 inches long and having a 103-inch wheelbase (the four-door got a 109.9-inch span). The base two-door started at $2217 ($16,377 today); the sedan, $2276 ($16,813).

1971 mercury comet: the mini merc

Thomas Klockau

As the 1971 brochure advised, “How do you make a better small car? Mercury has the answer. Take the best small car ideas, like easy handling, simplified maintenance, low price and great gas mileage. Add big car styling without skimping on extras. Make big car performance available with either a standard 170-cu-in six, or a choice of two optional bigger six-cylinders, or 302 two-barrel V-8, all of which can use regular, 91-octane gas.

1971 mercury comet: the mini merc


“Result: the all-new Comet for ’71, available in three fine models.” That said, standard equipment was pretty sparse for a Mercury, though it did include carpeting, front and rear armrests, and a cigar lighter. An Exterior Décor Group dressed it up more appropriately, with bright rocker panel, upper bodyside and roof moldings, full wheel covers (same type as shared with

1971 mercury comet: the mini merc
), and a deluxe gas cap. There was also a GT model, which added the expected stripes, scoops, bucket seats, and a blacked-out grille.
1971 mercury comet: the mini merc

Thomas Klockau

The base 170-cu-in six had 100 horsepower, with a 115-hp 200-cu-in six, 155-hp 200-cu-in six, and the top-dog, 210-hp 302 V-8 available optionally. The biggest difference between the Comet and its Maverick cousin was up front, with the “power dome” hood and protruding center grille giving it a more important look over the Ford version. Out back, a quartet of taillights borrowed from the midsize Montego replaced the more basic looking Maverick units.

1971 mercury comet: the mini merc

Thomas Klockau

For the model year, 54,884 coupes and 28,116 sedans were built. That was small potatoes compared to its corporate sibling the Maverick, which saw 73,208 sedans, 159,726 coupes, and 38,963 of the sportier Grabber coupes sold for 1971.

1971 mercury comet: the mini merc

Thomas Klockau

The Comet carried on in pretty much the same form all the way through the 1977 model year, the primary difference being the larger front bumper being added in 1973 and a matching rear bumper in ’74.

1971 mercury comet: the mini merc


And starting in 1975, it would no longer be the smallest Mercury in the dealership, as the Pinto-based Bobcat joined the lineup with a similar power dome hood and fancier-looking grille compared to the Ford version. It would last through 1980.

1971 mercury comet: the mini merc

Thomas Klockau

Our featured car was spotted at the monthly Coralville, Iowa, cruise night held at the Coral Ridge Mall back in July 2021. I zeroed in on it right away. I hadn’t seen one in a LONG time, so I took many pictures. It was a very nice survivor, a base model with no decor groups and seemingly few options. It was even still sporting its original Mercury hubcaps. I appreciated its honesty. It was pretty cool!

1971 mercury comet: the mini merc

Thomas Klockau

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