For many hotrodders, starting a family means putting the brakes on the project car. Parenting doesn’t leave you with a lot of spare time for wrenching or driving. But what if your romance was kindled over dyno charts and spec sheets?
Rich and Kristen Carpino wanted a classic Ford that could be easily upgraded to compete in autocross, but it also had to have room for the kids, nice street manners, and, at Kristen’s request, fins. They engineered this 1962 Mercury Comet to perfectly satisfy all of their needs, and we think it will make you happy, too.
Kristen and Rich met at the University of Akron, where they were both engineering students. They both joined the university’s team for Formula SAE, which is a student design competition organized by the Society of Automotive Engineers International. Their shared interests in racing and classic cars brought them together, and even after getting married, launching careers, and having kids, they retained their automotive hobby.
A growing family presented new challenges for the Carpinos. “We also have a 1965 Mustang convertible that’s fun to drive,” Kristen Carpino says, “but rear-facing baby seats just don’t fit inside.”
The two engineers quickly settled on some design parameters for a new, family-friendly project. “It had to be from the Ford family,” Rich says. “It had to be big enough to carry our kids and all their stuff, and it had to be something we could quickly modify into an autocross competitor.”
Their expectations were pretty high, but the Carpinos soon found their car in Michigan: a 1962 Mercury Comet. It had spent most of its life in Hollywood, California, and had original Ford date code stamps on every panel. It had been repainted with GM Bright White in 2005, but it still had the original “slop gray” factory paint on the underside.
“I had parted out a 1996 Mustang Cobra a while ago, and I still had the 4.6L aluminum engine and transmission sitting in the corner of my garage,” Rich says. “Once I cleaned it up I used a Welder Series universal crossmember kit to install it. There’s a lot of planning and measuring to make it work, but we wanted something different.”
It turned out that the perfect upgrade for the early 1960s rear end was out of a late 1990s Explorer. “They’re offset to accommodate the transfer case,” says Rich. “You just cut down the long side and you have a nice, short rear end with 31-spline axles and disc brakes. I found a used one with a limited slip for a song.”
To make this corner-carving Comet into a proper summer family hauler, Rich spent some time making the interior clean and comfortable. It features front seats from a Fox Body Mustang, custom door panels embossed with the Comet script logo, a custom center console, and a Retrosound radio.
“By the time you’re reading this,” adds Rich, “I will have added the mini-tubs I’ve been thinking about, along with some complementary chassis and suspension upgrades. The focus of these upgrades is to make the car as competitive as possible in Goodguys Street Machine, which limits tire size to 285mm.”
It will be challenging to keep up with the Carpino family Comet at the track, but you can follow along on Instagram @custom_comet.
Rich and Kristen Carpino’s 1962 Comet 1969 Fast Specs
- Frame: Boxed and triangulated front frame rails, full-length subframe connectors, cross-braced rear frame rails, Welder Series crossmembers and motor mounts
- Front Suspension: Owner-built tubular control arms with Howe Racing extended ball joints, Mustang II spindles, double-adjustable coilover shocks, Mustang rack and pinion, custom solid sway bar, mounts, and links
- Rear Suspension: Owner-built parallel 4-link with panhard bar, double-adjustable coilover shocks, Welder Series adjustable splined rear sway bar
- Brakes: 4.6L Mustang Hydroboost brake booster, Wilwood dual-piston calipers and AFCO rotors front, Ford Explorer rear disc brakes, Power Stop carbon-ceramic pads all around, Classic Performance proportioning valve
- Wheels and Tires: Vision American Muscle 143 Torque Series wheels (18 x 8.5″), Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R tires (255/35R18)
Engine & Transmission
- Block: Ford 4.6L 32V Teksid
- Rotating Assembly: Factory forged crank, Speedmaster H-beam rods, Mahle forged pistons (11:1 compression), 1997 Cobra camshafts degreed with Trick Flow adjustable crank sprockets, intake manifold runner control delete, Steeda SFI balancer, Fidanza aluminum flywheel
- Air and Fuel: Smoothed Cobra intake, relocated idle air control, Spectra Premium Mustang EFI fuel tank with Walbro 255 in-tank pump, 60 lb./hr. injectors, Summit Racing® aluminum hard lines, Earl’s UltraPro Teflon®-lined AN hose
- Cooling: Summit Racing Triple-Pass radiator with dual fans, Derale engine oil cooler with dual fans, Summit Racing transmission cooler used for power steering
- Exhaust: Cobra manifolds, fabricated X-pipe, Jones Exhaust mufflers
- Transmission/Driveline: Rebuilt T-45 transmission with billet shift forks and carbon fiber synchros, aluminum driveshaft, LuK clutch, narrowed Ford Explorer 8.8 rear axle
- Body modifications: 1969 Camaro front spoiler, front and rear USCA-legal tow hooks
- Paint: GM bright white (repainted by previous owner in 2005); undercarriage and underhood stripped to bare metal and coated with Summit Racing Chassis Shield, topped with DupliColor Truck Bed Coating
- Dash: Ididit steering column, Stewart Warner digital tach and shift light, Retrosound radio
- Seats: Fox-body Mustang seats, Schroth Racing Profi II 5-point ASM harness
- Other modifications: H3R Performance HalGuard fire extinguisher, “Comet” embossed door panels and rear deck panel, custom center console