Photos by Larry Edsall
The man in the sport coat was standing close enough to the car to protect it but far enough away so as not to be part of the photos I was taking.
“Do you know what it is?” he asked.
I admitted I had no idea.
“It’s a Ford,” he said.
There was obvious disbelief on my face, because this coupe had the sort of styling that came only from Europe in the first half of the 1950s.
The car turns out to be the 1954 Ford Comete Monte Carlo coupe, perhaps the most special of the 699 built because it was built for Henry Ford II.
So here’s how the story goes: Henry the Deuce’s grandfather established Ford of France in 1929. In 1949, Henry II commissioned Italian coach builder Stabilimenti Farina (not Pinin Farina but Pinin’s brother’s company) to design and build a luxurious sports coupe on a Mercury chassis. That Farina Mercury became the prototype for the French Comete (Comet) built by Ford of France with bodywork supplied by Facel Metallon (yes, as in the Facel Vega).
In 1954, the Comete was the most expensive car you could buy at a Ford dealership anywhere in the world.
Turns out the man in the sports coat is, indeed, the car’s owner. His name is H.D. “Buck” Mook II.
Buck is a graduate of California’s famed Art Center College of Design. While still in college, he designed unique cars for various television shows. He started work in Ford’s design department in 1967.
Soon after starting his job, he learned that one of his co-workers had a Comete in his garage. The car was for sale. Mook bought it and used it as his daily driver until he had to leave to report for duty in Vietnam.
Oh, it may be of interest to know that Mook paid only $800 for the car that once had been owned by a person who’s name was on the building where Mook worked.
Anyway, Mook comes back from Vietnam, returns to the Ford design studio but leaves the car in storage until his retirement in 2002. Oh, it isn’t as if he wasn’t busy with cars while the Ford Facel awaits its turn. In addition to designing a succession of new Ford products, Mook was dealing with his growing collection of classics. His garage was among those featured in the book Motor City Dream Garages and houses one of only three surviving 1903 Michigan cars, a 1907 Stoddard-Dayton, a couple of 1920s Marmons, a 1949 Cadillac, a Studebaker Avanti, ’65 Thunderbird and a late ‘70s Ferrari.
Finally, he can focus on the Ford Facel, but instead of a mere $800, he puts into the car’s restoration “the same amount of money I have in my house.” (Oh, and it’s a big house on a lake.)
Not only did many of the body panels need repair, but basically everything from the bumpers down had to be replaced, he said. The engine is a Ford Flathead V8 and the gearbox is from Ferrari. Mook added some unique design to the bumper and trim to further differentiate his car from the other 698.
The car was among those on display at the Concours d’Elegance of America’s recent preview day and will be on the show field Sunday, July 27, as part of the European Post-War class that will range from a 1951 Citroen Traction Avant to a 1976 Jaguar XJ12L. Oh, and the class also will include a 1958 Facel Vega FVS Series 4.