- The Washington Times - Friday, January 1, 2010

Along about the beginning of the 21st century, Pete and Sandy Robinson were at an antique car show in Harford County in Maryland when they came across a white Mercury convertible with a “for sale” sign in the window. The car was priced at about twice its realistic value, so the Robinsons kept walking.

Five years later, they learned the story behind that outrageous price.

In autumn 2005, Mr. Robinson saw an ad in a Sunday newspaper offering a 1966 Mercury Comet Cyclone convertible for sale. It was past prime convertible weather, so he didn’t respond to the ad despite his wife’s urging. He acknowledges, “I didn’t rush into it.”

He eventually called the phone number in the ad and asked about the car. “I was surprised that it was still there,” he says.

The Mercury was about 40 miles away in Dublin, Md., so the Robinsons went to see it that day. When they saw the white convertible, they recognized it as the one they had seen years earlier.

“I saw the look in his eyes,” Mrs. Robinson says, “and knew we were going to take it home.”

They learned from the widow selling the car that it had been white originally and somewhere in the past it had been repainted blue. According to the Robinsons, the widow’s husband had stripped the car to bare metal and had coated it with primer before he died. He had intended to paint the car red, but the widow thought it would be better to restore it to the way it had left the factory. After the car was painted white, Mr. Robinson says, the widow wanted to enjoy the convertible for a few years but some family members urged her to sell it.

That was the reason for the outrageous price on the car when the Robinsons first saw it. She had put the restored Mercury up for sale but priced so outrageously high that nobody would buy it.

Mr. Robinson started the 289-cubic-inch V-8 and it sounded good. He didn’t bother to drive the car, he just gave the widow a cash deposit to hold the car and said he and his wife would return the next day to take the Mercury home.

Records indicate that only 1,305 such models were manufactured, and when new, the 3,321-pound Mercury had a base price of $2,961. This particular car came with virtually no accessories.

“It was the cheapest 1966 Cyclone offered,” he says.

When they went back to get the car, they were surprised to find several boxes of spare parts that the seller had prepared for them. Additionally, Mr. Robinson says, there was a more or less complete parts car that was part of the deal.

On the trip home to Reisterstown, the 200 horsepower delivered to the rear-drive wheels through the three-speed manual transmission moved the car along nicely on its 116-inch wheelbase. Mr. Robinson points out the unusual combination in the car of bucket seats with a center console but a gear shift lever on the steering column. Mounted at the forward end of the console is the tachometer.

When Mr. Robinson drove the Mercury out of the seller’s driveway, he noticed that the gas gauge needle was on empty. He assumed the tank was dry and stopped at the corner gas station. As it turned out, the tank was almost full and the gauge wasn’t working properly. The two-barrel downdraft carburetor functioned perfectly.

Through the two-spoke steering wheel, the 120 mph speedometer is visible. From the four vertically stacked headlights to the horizontal taillights, the Mercury stretches an inch shy of 17 feet bumper to bumper. The seats are white in contrast to the black carpet and dashboard. The convertible top is also black and has a plastic rear window. The boot to cover the lowered top is secured with 27 snaps.

The only power equipment on the car originally was the convertible top mechanism. “Power steering has been added,” Mr. Robinson says.

He also notes that in modern-day traffic he laments the lack of a right-side mirror.

The 14-inch B.F. Goodrich white letter tires are on wheels capped with chrome wheel covers that simulate chrome wheels.

Mr. Robinson says he has done what he can to improve the condition of the car but is reluctant to, as he says, “make it too nice so I can’t drive it.”

The Robinsons were told that the car was built without a radio and that one had been added but didn’t work. Mr. Robinson discovered the reason it didn’t work was that no speaker had been installed.

In the three years that they have owned the Mercury, the Robinsons have driven it about 6,000 miles.

“Whenever it’s a good day, we take it out,” Mrs. Robinson says.

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