The 1975 Mercury Comet was a transitional car. Designed in the freewheeling late-1960s, this later version had to contend with 1970s government regulations, which is plain to see from those massive mandated bumpers.
Clearly this Comet, which we spotted on a Trader Joe’s run here in San Francisco, was formed with one set of rules and then had to conform to another set. Besides emissions and safety regs, the bumpers had to be upgraded to withstand a five-mile-per-hour blow. The thin chromed ribbons on the 1971 Comet weren’t up to that task – they were more about accenting the Comet’s ample curves than sustaining an impact.
That’s precisely why insurance companies pushed for something more substantial; they wanted an actual bumper, one that would bring down the costs of minor collision.
And that’s what they got with these trestle-like impact beams. In front, the Comet had a V-shape bent into its center to conform to a similarly-shaped grille.
Things were much simpler in back, with a thick flat bar spanning the car beneath the tail lights.
The vinyl bumper rub strips and vertical bumper guards would be an extra $136 in today’s dollars. Nice that the effort was made to add a textured finish.
In a city where drivers regularly park by feel – the feel being repeated bumps, particularly to the car behind – the plastic aprons that form the ends of today’s cars do not have the starch of the Comet’s much-metal approach to the impact-absorbing dilemma.
Compare the Comet’s armory to the Volkswagen Beetle next to it; a bang between the two would be no contest.
That’s because the Comet was never meant to have actual bumpers. So all that forward-leaning front sheetmetal needed a wide berth beneath to provide real protection.
The result was something so wide that it could double as a seat at the tailgate parties, with a V in the middle for good measure.