Eye Candy: 1968 Mercury Comet Cobra Jet

Supposedly a Mercury is a Ford — everyone said that — and so when I spotted a 1968 Mercury Comet, around 1972 while searching Auto Traders and looking around town, I bought it.

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‘The salesman did not know what they had’

The car: 1968 Mercury Comet Cobra Jet

The owner: John Castonguay Sr., Mississauga

The story: My love affair with cars started when I was 16, the day I got my license. My friends at the time were strictly Ford, so I had no choice but to stick with Fords.

My first hypo car was a brand new 1969 Ford Fairlane 428 Super Cobra Jet 4 speed, the perfect family car for a dad with two babies under 2! Unfortunately, it was stolen after only about eight months. The police recovered it a few days later, but it was beyond restoration.

Next came a 1969 Mercury Cobra Jet 4-speed, which I kept for a few years, meanwhile keeping an eye open for a big-block car that I could bracket race on weekends, something best done with an automatic transmission.

Ford was more the underdog at that time, which only made me more determined, since everyone else had a Chevy or Mopar. Supposedly a Mercury is a Ford — everyone said that — and so when I spotted a 1968 Mercury Comet, around 1972 while searching Auto Traders and looking around town, I bought it.

It was discovered quite by accident, at one of the used car lots that pop up on empty lots in Toronto.

The salesman did not know what they had, or what motor was in car. I knew it was a Cobra Jet — a very special engine — but thought someone had installed it. Even I wasn’t aware that the factory made only made 24 Cobra Jet Comets that year, all with automatic transmissions. It was purchased after some haggling over price.

The Mercury is equipped with no options except for the Cobra Jet package, C6 automatic transmission and 9” 31 spline rear end.

It has been only slightly modified with headers and mild camshaft; the rear gears are 3:7

For years we bracket-raced it at Cayuga dragway every week, in the points, but now it is almost entirely used for pleasure driving during the summer, some car cruises, car shows, and the rare return trip to the track. It still sneaks into the high 12 seconds@107 mph.

My two sons grew up with the car, at Cayuga, and against all the rules both learned to drive on the Cobra Jet when they were about 14, steering it around factory parking lots. Their mother never knew (until now).

Our oldest grandson, now 23, also learned to drive in this car, mastering manual steering.

The grandkids, now 6, 8, and 11, can’t wait to go for drives, especially to Queensway Cruise and the ice cream truck.

My younger son, Vince, has an almost identical car, purchased in San José, Calif. It was to be parts donor for my Mercury. But it was in great condition, too good to part out, with a very solid body. It has a vinyl roof and the easier-on-gas 289-cubic-inch V8.

I would still like to totally restore my car. But as it turns out, a Mercury is not a Ford. Mustangs and Fairlanes are plentiful, but Mercurys, and the 428 engine, weren’t produced in those huge numbers. Parts for the engine and body are difficult to find, and expensive.

This car has provided more than 40 years of fun for me, my wife, my sons, and now my grandkids. Lots of heirs waiting for this one.

Show us your candy: Got a cool custom or vintage car? Send us pictures of you and your family with your beauty, and tell us your story. The more photos the better — of the interior, trim, wheels, emblems, what you admire. Email and be sure to use “Eye Candy” in the subject line.

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