The Comet was originally planned as an Edsel model. It was reassigned to Mercury dealerships after the demise of the Edsel brand, where it was marketed as a standalone product for 1960 and 1961 as the Comet.
Developed concurrently with the Ford Falcon, early pre-production photographs of the sedan show a car remarkably close to the Comet that emerged, but with a split grille following the pattern established by Edsel models. Early Ford styling mules for the station wagon model carried the Edsel name as well.
Due to the demise of Edsel, the Comet was initially released without any divisional badging, only “Comet” badges. It was sold through Mercury dealers, but would not be branded as such for two more years.
Introduced in March 1960, initial body styles were 2-door coupes, 4-door sedansand 2- and 4-door station wagons. Two trim levels were available, standard and “Custom”, with the custom package including badging, additional chrome trim and all-vinyl interiors. In 1960, the only engine available was the 144 cid Thriftpower straight six with a single-barrel Holley carburetor which produced 90 hp (67 kW) at 4200 rpm. (Some sources list it as producing 85 hp (63 kW) at 4200 rpm.) Transmission options were a column-shifted 3-speed manual and a 2-speed Merc-O-Matic automatic transmission (unique to the Comet, despite sharing a name with the Merc-O-Matic installed in other Mercurys).
Ford had purchased the name “Comet” from Comet Coach Company, a professional car manufacturer in which the term belonged to a line of funeral coaches, mainly Oldsmobiles. The coach company then was renamed Cotner-Bevington.
In Canada, for the 1960 model year, Mercury-Meteor dealers sold a compact car called the “Frontenac“. The Frontenac was considered a model in its own right and was badge-engineered version of the Ford Falcon with only minor trim differences to distinguish it from the Falcon. The Frontenac was produced for only one year. The Comet was introduced to the Canadian market for the 1961 model year and replaced the Frontenac as the compact offering by Mercury-Meteor dealers.
Even after a late introduction…. Ford sold over 110, 000 Comet’s in its first year.
Vintage Commercial for a 1961 Comet
Sources: Wikipeda, Ford Motor Company, Crazy about Cars