Dressed up and ready to go
By JOHN MATRAS
Reprinted with the permission of the author at carbuzzard.com
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IF YOU GILD IT, THEY WILL COME. Dress up a pig, call it a chorus girl, and people will pay to see her dance. Now the 1970 Ford Maverick wasn?t a pig, but it was economical, plain and simple, and that?s how Ford marketed it. Yet within six months of its introduction, Ford released the Grabber version, made ?sportier? with paint and nostrils on its hood. Then for 1971 Mercury got a swankier Maverick and called it Comet.
The grille and taillight surround were the major differences between the Maverick and Comet, the latter?s fancier, of course.
It follows, then, that if the Maverick had the Grabber then the Comet must have an upmarket model as well. Ergo the Comet GT.
The GT, said Mercury, ?impart(ed) the appearance of performance,? with blacked-out grille and color-keyed hood scoop. In addition to that, ?the ?competition car? look? was enhanced by dual ?racing mirrors,? a tape stripe and wheel trim rings. Trim rings are, of course, the sine qua non of race cars. Bright metal window trim was also included, as were bucket seats. The GT package added $178.80 to the $2,387 price of a Comet with a V8 in 1971.
Ah, the V8. Putting V8s in compact cars was more gilding the ordinary, and the Chevy Nova, Dodge Demon and even the AMC Hornet could be loaded with eight cylinders. In the case of the Comet?and the Maverick?the V8 was Ford?s 302, with, unfortunately, just a two-barrel Autolite carburetor. Rated at 210 hp, still SAE gross and therefore inflated, and 296 lb-ft of torque, the Comet had vigorous acceleration, even if it was short of, say, a Demon 340. Contemporary tests had the Comet V8 turning the quarter-mile in the mid-16s. The Demon 340 did it 1.5 seconds quicker.
Options abounded on the Comet GT. Putting the three-speed shifter, whether manual or automatic, on the floor cost $13. A four speed was not available. White-stripe D70-14 bias-belted tires and six-inch-wide steel wheels, instead of standard 4.5-inch, added $110.10 and was well worth it. You were stuck, however, with drum brakes. And you could get a vinyl roof, even on the fastback two-door.
Even tarted up, however, the Maverick and Comet were disposable cars. Most were discarded at the end of their life with no more ceremony than a used tissue.
One that survived, a ?72, found its way to John and Lisa Orach of Palmerton, Pennsylvania. The Oraches? Comet V8 has the GT package and is original but for a redo of the Glow Mountain Gold paint, Ford?s version of the harvest gold of every 1972 refrigerator not avocado green. Even the vinyl top is the one the car was born with. An earlier owner swapped in a four-barrel carb, though John will replace the Autolite, both for originality and because the bigger carb adds no power by itself.
The GT lacked power. Using 1972 SAE net, it is rated at 138 hp. Acceleration is what you?d expect pulling almost 3000 pounds; at least the engine?s torque is solid and wide. The floor-shifted Select Shift automatic works unobtrusively, but the unboosted braking requires, as John advised, planning ahead and a strong leg. On long
downhills the drums heat up and get wobbly. The unassisted steering isn?t heavy, but it is loose on center and yields nothing but unrelenting understeer. The ride is surprisingly smooth for a live-axled sedan, however, and it is not hard to understand why Comets and Mavericks were popular.
The Comet lasted through 1976, the GT expiring a year earlier, the same year the Mercury Monarch made its debut. The Monarch, styled like a baby Marquis, had Comet underpinnings. Ah, gilded again.
(Photo by John Matras)