Tony and his Comet Special S-22 convertible take the measure of Desert Hot Springs

His name is Tony, and he drives his 1963 Mercury Comet Special S-22 around Desert Hot Springs. We’ve met twice, and each time he has apologized about the restoration being incomplete.

“Still looking for parts,” Tony says, explaining about the latest thing, a new radiator of aluminum because copper and brass ones are scarce on the ground.

No one would ask me to judge in a concours d’elegance, but I say the Comet looks pretty good. And who doesn’t appreciate aluminum?

I’ve always liked that era’s naming scheme for the compact and midsize Mercury models: Comet and Meteor. Both names could be good ones for dogs, too. And we know Comet was a reindeer.

Neither the Comet nor the Meteor stood a chance of living up the the implied speed of the names, but so what? They’re simpler and more poetic than EQE 350 4Matic, which sounds like a tax form.

For 1964, the Comet Caliente replaced the S-22 in the lineup. The name was hard to accept. It was redundant, for one thing. A Comet was already cosmically hot and would probably burn a hole through the earth without having to add a peppery sauce.

In ’65 the the Comet Cyclone combined astronomical and meteorological phenomena. I was only 10 years old but wasn’t having any it.

I’ve failed to ascertain what S-22 referred to. It was the top trim package, but S-22 sounded vaguely space age. Mercury also offered the Meteor S-33 and the Monterey S-55. So it’s a progression of perhaps random numbers.

In any event, Mercury had the field covered in the taillight department. If you couldn’t tell the Comet was stopping or turning, you belonged on Planet S-22.

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