Featured: Driving a Comet Through the Desert, Flashing Lights, and Aliens

Driving a Comet Through the Desert, Flashing Lights, and Aliens

By Yoav Gilad
February 17, 2014

Photography by Josh Clason for Petrolicious

Mr. Michael Anderson gave the seller a half hour to get the car running while he went into the Peppermill Casino to try his luck, “If I have money left after some blackjack and the car is running, I’ll think about buying it.” The car in question, which at that moment was little more than a 3400 pound sculpture, is the one pictured here, a 1963 ½ Mercury Comet with a V8.

The seller and his wife jumped in her car and headed to the store to buy some jumper cables. Apparently, he’d left his lights on while waiting for Mike to show. They hurried back from the Wal-mart, jump-started the Mercury and drove it around the block a few times to charge the battery a bit. He was anxious to get rid of the car as he needed more room.

Mike had been watching the Mercury for a while in a small, classified news rag and its price had dropped from when it was first listed. Mike finally called and scheduled to come take a look in Reno, Nevada. It was only five hundred miles (~800km) and two flights away, after all. At first glance the car appeared as described but when Mike tried to fire it up, well, you know what happened.

After a little while and with some money left over, Mike came back out to find the Comet rumbling and the seller eagerly waiting. With the battery charged and everything appearing the way it should, they settled on a price. Mike “told [the seller] he was throwing in the cables,” they shook hands, and he began the long drive home.

About three or four hours into the drive, Mike began looking for a motel along the lonely road. The car was running well, but it was dark and late. He stopped at a couple of spots in small towns on the way, but everything was closed. It was the off-season and the middle of the night; Mike realized that there was no hope of finding a room. He decided to press on, tuning the AM radio dial to Art Bell, host of the paranormal and alien-themed radio show Coast to Coast AM.

On California route-395, in the high-desert valley just east of the Sierra Nevadas around midnight, Mike began seeing glimmers of light way out in the distance. But there was nothing around for miles. The irregular flashes hung just above the horizon for a moment then vanished as he urged the Comet through the still night.

Then the absurdity struck him: here he was driving a Comet through the black desert night, listening to a radio show about aliens with lights flaring in the distance. It wasn’t an alien mothership he was seeing though, it was a thunderstorm between San Diego and Los Angeles, maybe two hundred miles away. He chuckled to himself, rubbed his eyes, and kept pushing. He wouldn’t be abducted tonight.

That was almost five years ago and, yes, he did make it home safely that night at about four in the morning. Since then, he’s driven the car extensively, including a drive to a national Mercury Comet meet in Tennessee. But he felt like having some fresh crab cakes afterwards and so he headed for Virginia (what’s an extra few hundred miles anyway?) and the Atlantic Ocean.

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Benjamin Shahrabani
Benjamin Shahrabani

Love the photos!

Tom Hughes
Tom Hughes

“Love the photos!”… and the writing rocks too.

Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle

I know for a fact the Mercury Comet is one of those cars that is overlooked and forgotten by most car guys even myself included. However reading and seeing this article today made me realize this is one very nice looking car. The body has some really cool sculpted lines to it and just enough chrome to gleam against the very nice color of the car itself. Its amazing what a nice color and some favorable angles can do to show off a cars good points

Michael Anderson
Michael Anderson

It’s funny, I almost didn’t even look at this car, because my memories of the Comet were of the rebadged Mavericks. When I started to research the Comets, the mid ’60s cars just amazed me, that I had never really thought of those cars..