By Brian Earnest
When they take their hobby car out for a drive, there isn’t much of a chance David and Patricia Couling will run across any other black Mercury Meteors cruising around Mobile Ala.. In fact, there isn’t much chance they will spot a Meteor of any color or vintage.
They’d probably wave to the driver of Duesenberg or ’53 Corvette before they meet another Meteor going the other way.
“To the best of my knowledge, there are only three ’63 Meteors registered in the state of Alabama,” says Patricia. “And we’ve owned two of the three!”
As happens so often in the old car hobby, the couple’s unlikely purchase of one car led to an even more unlikely acquisition of a second car. The Coulings bought their first Mercury rarity in 2006 after a trip to Mississippi. “We drove to a show, and we saw the car and on our trip back we started talking about it,” Patricia recalled. “And we got about halfway home and we said, ‘When we get home, let’s call on it.’”
Before long, the couple was heading back to Mississippi to pick up a pale yellow ’63 Meteor two-door sedan that the couple fittingly nicknamed “Lucky.”
“The gentleman from whom we purchased Lucky acquired the car from St. Bernard Parish, La., and moved it to Pascagoula, Miss., Mississippi where he lived,” Patricia said. “Then he decided to move the car to his daughter's home in central Mississippi just days before Hurricane Katrina. Lucky is a fortunate survivor.
“His home was wiped out. As far as I know, he never went back and rebuilt, and he had to make some decisions on what to get rid of. He had just started in on the Meteors, so they went first.”
Not long after they landed Lucky, the couple was surfing online for parts and came across a black ’63 Meteor Custom series hardtop, and before they knew it they were on a plane headed for Apache Junction, Az. “We got it from a guy who bought it new — well, his father bought it new, ” David said. “And the father died, and the son didn’t want to fix it up, so we piled in it and drove it all the way home. I never knew Texas was so wide! We had quite the trip home. It was unbelievable.
“When I first bought it, I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to drive that car all the way across the country?’ And I figured it would wander like an old goose, you know? But it handled well, and we had no problems.”
Eventually, the couple sold the first car, “Lucky,” to a fellow Mobile car buff. “He wanted to do a full frame-off restoration on it, but I haven’t seen it,” David said. “I really don’t know what happened to it.”
Patricia favored the black coupe over the first car because it has an optional automatic transmission mated to its 260-cid, 164-hp V-8, which was also optional. The base mill in the ’63 Meteors was a 170-cid, 101-hp six-cylinder.
“With that 260 it, it’s a great rider,” Patricia said.
The Meteors are certainly among the more obscure Ford offerings of the 1960s, and go largely overlooked even by die-hard Ford enthusiasts. The Meteor line was built only from 1961-'63 and featured lower-end, full-sized vehicles akin to the Fairlane series.
Though there seemingly wasn’t much reason not to like them, the Meteors never gained much of a following, and disappeared for good after the ’63 model year. That year, the cars were offered in Meteor and Meteor Custom varieties, with the latter being identified by the chrome side window trim, full-length lower body moldings and more chrome on the roof quarter panels. The Custom series also had special interiors and carpeting.
Among the options available on the ’63 Meteors were: two-speed windshield wipers ($7.75), air conditioning ($231.70), padded instrument panel ($19.95), outside remote-control rearview mirror ($12), padded visors ($5.20), power steering ($61.70), tinted glass ($40.30), whitewall tires ($37), wheel covers ($16.60), windshield washer ($13.70), push-button radio ($58.50), font seat belts ($16.80) and two-tone paint ($22). Overdrive, four-speed manual and Merc-O-Matic automatic transmissions were optional. A 221-cid/145-hp V-8 (two-barrel) and a 260-cid/164-hp V-8 were available.
“Pretty much it was a Fairlane,” David said. “Mechanically, and upholstery-wise, it’s all Fairlane, and that’s the neat part about finding parts for it. Except for some chrome parts, which are all Mercury, the car is mechanically all Fairlane. So getting parts is not a problem.”
The four-door sedans were the most popular of the base Meteor series for ’63, with 9,183 copies rolling off the assembly lines. Only 3,935 of the two-door sedans, like the Coulings’ yellow Meteor, were built. The one-step-up Custom series had five different offerings, with the four-door sedan being the most popular with 14,498 produced. The two-door hardtops were next at 7,565.
“They are not very common in this area,” Patricia said. “Most of the [cars] I come across on the phone or Internet are in California, Washington state, and Montana, believe it not. And they seem to be very popular just across the border in Canada in the mining areas up there. For some reason there are a lot of them up there.”
David noted that there is also a Meteor cruising the mythical streets of Mayberry on “The Andy Griffith Show.” That’s about the only time he sees one. “It’s the episode where Barney Fife buys a car,” he says with a laugh. “There is a ’63 Meteor wagon in that episode!”
The Coulings’ Meteor has 54,000 miles on it and the couple doesn’t have any big restoration or repair plans for the car beyond perhaps a new paint job. David concedes that the black hardtop could eventually get a companion in the garage if the couple can ever track down a Meteor station wagon from 1963, “but we’ve seen one around here. Those are really rare.”
One thing is for certain, the rare black Mercury won’t be for sale anytime soon. “It’s mine and mine forever,” says David with a hearty laugh. “I’ve sold my first one, but I figure since this one made it all the home from Arizona, it’s going to stay in my garage!”
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