(first posted 7/9/2013) I remember when the Mercury Marquis started to become popular. A friend of my father bought a new one in 1969. As my father admired it, his friend said, proudly, “It’s a baby Lincoln”, and he wasn’t far off. The ’69 Marquis was a step up from the Mercurys of old that everyone recognized as gussied-up Fords. Coming on the heels of the ultra-successful Cougar, it indicated that Mercury finally seemed to be finding its way out of the long, dark wilderness. Sure, Mercurys shared basic Ford platforms, but their Ford roots were skillfully hidden under well-styled sheetmetal and luxurious interiors. And then came the Comet. Two steps forward, then one step back. Or was it three?
The original Mercury Comet (CC here) was not initially conceived as a Mercury, but actually made a pretty decent one. On a longer wheelbase than the Falcon, and with very different sheetmetal and more deluxe interiors, it was certainly a step up from the new compact found down the street at the Ford dealer. By 1966, the Comet had morphed into a mid-size car, leaving Lincoln-Mercury dealers without anything in the compact segment. With FoMoCo working so hard to move Mercury upmarket, this was probably not such a bad thing; after all, very few Buick, Olds and Cadillac salesmen had to peddle Novas–at least before the ’70s.
So the 1966-70 Falcon came and went without a version ever crossing the threshold of a L-M showroom, where both Cougars and Continentals flourished. But the blissful oasis of style and class found at L-M stores would soon be crashed by the arrival of Ford-clones like the 1971 Comet.
The 1970 Maverick (CC here) was Ford’s answer to, well, I’m still not sure. It was too big to be a VW fighter, and was hopelessly outclassed on the higher end by Chevy’s more substantial Nova and Plymouth’s superior Valiant. But as an inexpensive and simple American car, it was pretty successful. The 1971 addition of a Maverick four-door to the Ford lineup also brought a thinly disguised Mercury version called–what else–Comet.
Total badge-engineering? That would come a few years later, with the Monarch and the Zephyr. At least the Comet got its own Mercury-ish hood (complete with power bulge) and taillights from the Montego.
OK, there was also that attempt to replicate the aura of the classic ’60s Continentals with chrome-tipped fender ridges and rocker panels (optional at extra cost). Unfortunately, the look did not really translate.
Inside and underneath, the Comet was indistinguishable from the Maverick: same running gear, same chintzy interiors. Shown above are the optional interiors, mind you. Really? We can’t even get a glove box in this little Lincoln? Really, it’s sad to think of all the hard work to create the aura of “The Sign of the Cat” being flushed down the toilet with this slightly-less-cheap Ford.
This particular example alone almost makes my point. Though it is certainly a Mercury, it was Found On the Road Dead. Did it just run out of gas? From the looks of what’s inside, perhaps it simply ran out of oil. I can just hear its owner muttering, “Why the hell didn’t Grandma buy a Dart?” In addition to life-giving fluids, this one could also use some cleaning up. Dare I suggest Comet cleanser? I wonder if anyone named Halley ever went out and bought one of these? They certainly should have. I’ll stop with the stupid Comet jokes. But admit it – doesn’t this version of the Comet deserve them all?
I will go on record as saying that this generation of Comet is my favorite Maverick. I liked the nose and tail treatment of this car better than the Ford version (at least on the 4-door models), and this early model was fairly attractive before the fitment of the chrome-plated snowplow blades that passed for bumpers in 1973-74. And while this car is certainly not as exciting (if I may use that word) as the 1972 Comet GT found by Paul Niedermeyer (CC here), this basic black Comet sedan has at least a shred of Lincolnesque elegance about it. At least I’m trying to talk myself into seeing it. Not working for you? Me neither.
I think the best we can do is to identify this car as Mercury’s final tipping point–that place in history where Ford Motor Company threw up its hands and gave up on the brand. It’s a good thing the Continental Mark IV was generating lots of cash for L-M dealers, because this car started the slow leak of what little amount of prestige Mercury had been able to generate by then. Sure, there was a certain expedience that the Comet (and the even more-cynical Bobcat) provided in the way of volume following the Arab oil embargo, but smaller Mercurys would never again be mistaken as anything other than Fords sold through an alternate dealer network.
I guess we could think of this Comet as one of the last Mercurys able to give its owner even the tiniest illusion that they did something worthwhile by buying a Ford at their Lincoln-Mercury dealer. But a baby Lincoln it ain’t.
Is it me? I can’t see the photos.
The photos are working for me today. Not worth the wait. 🙂
The Maverick was wildly successful with about 579,000 sold in its admittedly long 1970 model year. Actually out selling the first Mustang over the same amount of time. About twice what the Nova did and almost totaling the Valiant/Duster/Dart/Demon combined. The only reason that the Valiant et all did better in the mid 70’s was that the Pinto and Vega stole a lot of the sales of the Maverick and Nova. This was despite that fact that it was only offered as a 6cyl 2dr while the others had 4dr body styles and optional V8 engines. So on the heels of that it is no surprise that they quickly threw a Mercury version together and not spending too much time on it so it could make it to market quickly.
I think the Maverick was a pretty straightforward (and generally successful) attempt to “Mustang-ize” the Falcon, although Ford stopped short by deciding not to offer a lot of options, perhaps recognizing — correctly — that doing so would have taken a big bite out of Mustang sales, just as the Duster did the E-body Barracuda and Challenger.
Also, while the Nova offered more options and probably better resale value, the Maverick and Comet were an order of magnitude better-looking. The ’68-’72 Novas just look awkward and clumsy from every angle.
re: “Mustang-izing” the Falcon — I’ve always seen the Maverick as having initially been more of an low-end import fighter than a replacement for the Falcon, with the latter having come along later. But it would make a certain amount of sense to replace the Falcon with something that had a bit of the Mustang’s pizzazz, but stayed well downmarket of the Mustang so as not to eat into its sales. If that was the case, in hindsight I think Ford may have actually aimed a bit too low. When the Maverick was under development, Ford may not have been anticipating the surge in domestic compact sales that took place after 1968, which made the compact maket very different in 1971 from what it had been in 1967. This just makes me even more curious about the Maverick’s genesis, and how it tied in (or didn’t tie in) to the development of the Pinto. Did Ford always intend for the Maverick to ultimately replace the Falcon? If not, what were their plans for the slot in their lineup occupied by the Falcon?
re: looks — Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think most people have historically not seen the 1968-72 Nova as unattractive. Nova sales jumped as soon as it was introduced, and I think it was actually a trendsetter in compact styling over the next few years, with the Duster clearly having been influenced by it, and probably the Maverick as well.
The Falcon was initially intended as a low end import fighter as was the Maverick. Yes the Maverick was always intended to be the replacement for the Falcon. My understanding was that the Maverick was designed first and some of the initial Pinto proposals were to base it on the Maverick. In the end they just used the taillights, gauge cluster and a few other tidbits from the Maverick and gave the Pinto a unique platform.
In terms of being an import-fighter, I think that was probably mostly a merchandizing decision more than a design choice, if you see the distinction I’m making. Ford’s merchandizing approach for the Maverick was analogous to AMC’s final ultra-strippo Rambler American, which was de-contented to allow it to compete with the imports on price, if not gas mileage, etc. Ford could have decided pretty late in the game to go that route, since it was mostly a question of features, options and market position. (Given the ease with which the small V-8 could be added even to the earliest Maverick, it’s clear that Ford had had that in mind from the start.)
One intriguing consideration is that for a while, Ford apparently considered marketing a version of the (RWD) Mk 1 Escort in the U.S. for the 1970 model year. Some of the clays — which were designed in the U.K., not Dearborn — look quite a bit like a Maverick that shrank in the wash. Ford was still thinking about a U.S. Escort up until about the time the European car was entering production. I don’t know if there’s a connection to the Maverick or Pinto programs, but it’s interesting.
I’d say there was a little of both, a marketing decision and a design choice to keep the cost as low as possible. Of course the V8 could be stuck in since it did use the basic Falcon platform so not offering it initially was likely a marketing choice. Once the Pinto took over the role of the most economical Ford they could move the Maverick up market a bit and offer the V8.
What I’ve read there was some thought of cutting down the Maverick to underpin the Pinto but that didn’t last too long. They did of course rob a few parts from the Maverick parts bin, many likely due to the short 20 months they were given to get the Pinto to market.
The Maverick was undoubtedly successful. But it was as Ford advertised it: The Simple Machine. My argument is with the Comet. I thought they did a tolerable job with the styling differences, but inside – they really couldn’t do a glovebox, a higher grade instrument cluster and nicer trim and upholstery? Call it the Mercury of small cars, or a baby Cougar, or something. The car was nice as far as it went but they didn’t go far enough.
I agree that they didn’t go far enough. However I think Ford was surprised by the initial success of the Maverick and I bet the Mercury dealers were crying why can’t we have one too. Hence the rushed to production, badge engineered, Comet rather than spending any real time making it nicer or differentiating it cosmetically very significantly.
“The only reason that the Valiant et all did better in the mid 70′s was that the Pinto and Vega stole a lot of the sales of the Maverick and Nova.”
That’s an interesting suggestion, which I had never really thought about before. It would provide some explanation for how Chrysler was seemingly able to stay so competitive in the compact segment even as their presence crumbled virtually everywhere else.
Without any figures in front of me, I don’t think the Nova’s sales were adversely impacted by the introduction of the Vega. The Maverick’s sales did drop dramatically after the Pinto was introduced, but that’s not really a fair comparison, because the extended 1970 model year Maverick was aimed right at the market the Pinto took over in 1971, and Ford had largely ignored the compact market in the mid-to-late ’60s. Combined sales of Pintos and Mavericks in 1971-73 were probably higher than combined sales of Mavericks and Falcons had been in 1969-70. For GM and Ford, I think the new subcompacts largely represented entirely new sales, not sales that were diverted from elsewhere.
Based on the above, I don’t agree that the Nova and Maverick were losing a lot of sales to the Vega and Pinto, and that sales of the Mopar A-bodies were being artificially propped up by the lack of a domestic subcompact on the same showroom floor. I think that for the most part, people saw subcompacts and compacts as two different markets, and were seeking out whichever of the two they wanted. The subcompacts weren’t significantly damaging sales of compacts, probably due to a combination of the subcompacts tapping into a new market to some degree (young people who might have previously bought a used car, families expanding from one car to two), and to the wave of interest in smaller cars driving compact sales enough to make up for any sales lost to subcompacts.
This probably did help the Mopar A-bodies to some degree; I wouldn’t discount it completely. I’m sure that there were some Chrysler loyalists who didn’t even consider a subcompact simply because Chrysler didn’t make one. And Chrysler dealers obviously had an incentive to convince customers that they really wanted a compact, not a subcompact. But by and large, I think people saw subcompacts and compacts as two different things; that at the end of the day, the presence of subcompacts didn’t result in a net loss in compact sales; and that the lack of a subcompact didn’t drive Mopar A-body sales up that much relative to the Nova and Maverick.
I also think compacts, particularly Mopar’s, were the beneficiaries of mid/full-size bloat even before the gas crunch; they inherited the mantle of “nearest thing you can get to ’49 Ford-’57 Chevy proportions in a new ’72/3 car” from the midsizes which had been expressly conceived as such a decade before.
Okay. The comments in the essay…cannot be argued with. This WAS a step down for Mercury; the interior WAS chintzy. This WAS a nadir of badge-engineering.
All that said…this model appeals to me. The Maverick shell is one rare car where the four-door works better, much better, than the two-door coupe. And the Comet is the one Mercury cum Ford…which is actually an improvement.
Grille and taillight treatments work better, essentially.
So…the Comet is a good Mercury; which makes it a teensy-weensy-better Ford. Was the Maverick a good compact? Properly noted that the Valiant was a better-engineered model…if a bit dated in the body design. The Nova of that era was a more attractive all-around vehicle.
What was the Maverick?
Remember how Ford started. The basic automobile. Any color you want…as long as it was black. And long after GM launched its Art And Color department to high-style their car-for-every-purse-and-purpose…an increasingly senile Henry Ford finally dumped the Model T; long after most prospective customers had.
And for most of Ford’s history, that was how it sold cars. Basic…no frills; the fundamentals.
And, as anyone alive in that era remembers, that’s how the Maverick was sold. The Simple Machine. Car, reduced to its fundamentals. Now a true spartan like Old Henry would have LAUGHED at gaudy Lido Iacocca selling cars that way…but, like the Maverick, like the Ford Bloatexie 500, he was all Ford had. And to a segment of the market confounded by the sudden complexities of new cars…emissions systems, what’s a PCV?, key in a funny spot coming out of the STEERING COLUMN!!…the allegedly-new Maverick tried to harken, if not really present, a return to a simpler time.
And there were enough receptive people, as the success of The Waltons later demonstrated, to carry it through – to pull it off.
I’m embarrassed to admit that my first car was a ’74 Comet sedan. It was a horrible car.
I do like the smaller bumpers on this car, though. Mine being a ’74, it had those gigantic bumpers.
I still think the pre ’74 2 doors handsome even more so than the sedans. I also like the Maverick Grabber.
I don’t have any firsthand experience with this car, but I like it. Some sort of emotional appeal. Probably because of the minimalist interior layout.
I don’t recall seeing too many ’71 or ’72’s in my youth, but the ’74-’76’s seemed almost commonplace with the brougham-y dress up option (Maverick too). The latters, at least in the Bay Area, usually were that metallic brown with tan vinyl top and seats. We serviced a teacher’s one of these in junior year auto shop; a fairly new ’76. It was a dog!! (heavily smogged Cal spec 200 straight six).
Yeah, the 1973 smog gear…with EGR and other mods…hit Ford products hard.
Very hard. I’d driven a 1970 Maverick with the 200 six and lived with a 1974 with the 250. Horrible, horrible downgrade…
My Grandmother had a brown one. It’s only options were am radio, automatic, power steering and white wall tires. A truly horrid car!
The cheaply trimmed ones were pretty grim. This is a car whose personality is entirely dependent upon the option list. In this case, circa 1972, check every one, from an admittedly short list. Make sure you get the 302, power steering, (sorry no brake option of any kind until ’74), AC, tinted glass, the LDO package, with a treasure trove of nice little items and a couple of big ones, including radial tires, reclining Euro-Ford buckets, extra sound insulation, etc, and you end up with the Comet my parents had. It was quite a comfy highway cruiser, and had a bit of scoot thanks to the V8. I never felt it was a bad car, I couldn’t imagine having one in any other form than this. Reliability was par for the times, with most of the problems centered around it’s cooling system.
Blown bypass hoses, stuck thermostat which left us stranded, stuck water valve for the AC-Heat left us with no heat in winter until replaced. Also, the drum brakes had a short life and a reline also required at new master cylinder at about 15,000 miles. They get an F in the brake department, especially when Mustang discs were sitting in the parts bin. The tires stick in my mind. While most had 6:45-14 pizza cutters, ours was shod with beefy ER70-14 BF Goodrich steel radials with a similar tread pattern to the Goodrich TA radials of the time.
I wonder what got into the water supply in metro Detroit in the late ’60s/early ’70s–how else can you explain the sudden obsession (at least with GM and Ford) to introduce horribly badge engineered versions of their cheap cars into their more upscale brands?
Like the Comet, the Pontiac Ventura II could have been so much better. One can argue that the nose was more distinctive than the Nova’s, and, uh, maybe the tail lights. Certainly not the spartan “cheap” Chevy grade interior. Simply not a Pontiac and in no way did it express that brand’s somewhat sporting intentions at the time. Things got worse at Olds and Buick, with the Omega and Apollo following the same bad formula. Who did the dealers think they were going to sell these cars to? Young people shopping economy cars–HA! Who did they think wanted a cheap, small (ish) Pontiac, Olds or Buick? Not their core customer base of somewhat more affluent buyers… those folks would have wanted something with different styling and better trim that justified the extra cost. It could be argued that by the time the Apollo morphed into the Skylark, Buick kinda sorta got away with a “nicer” compact image. But Ventura/Phoenix and Omega basically floundered.
But imagine what could have been. Clearly there was a move toward smart, smaller cars, especially on the coasts. Upscale, well-priced, sufficiently differentiated compact offerings could have really taken hold, at least image wise (and probably profitably too), and helped evolve the brands. Sometimes I daydream about the Australian models available at that time and wonder what their basic platforms were (seems like the GM ones were sized right on the U.S. X Body) and why they couldn’t have at least used that styling on their American cars. Check out the Holden Monaro of the early ’70s, with its Pontiac LeMans style fender flares and nice roofline–a better Ventura, perhaps? The Holden Kingswood would have made a nice Buick. They had wagon variants too, which seemed like an obvious gap in the market. I also think Chrysler’s Australian Valiant would have worked well here. Not sure how well Ford’s Falcon would have translated–it had such similar styling cues to the Maverick and Torino that it wouldn’t have looked all that different than the actual Comet that was sold here.
But Mercury could have, should have, made a great Comet. During the late ’60s they had done such a nice job making really nice cars that effectively split the difference between Lincolns and Fords. My father had 2 FoMoCo products from the 1960s–a ’64 1/2 Mustang and a ’68 Cougar XR7. I don’t remember the Mustang at all, but vaguely remember the Cougar (as a little boy I was mesmerized by the sequential tail lights). My Pop loved and fondly remembered both cars, but interestingly my mother was really smitten with the Cougar. It looked different/fancier than the Ford both inside and out, and felt like a more expensive, yet still sporty car. Bullseye! Why couldn’t they translate that same magic to the compact class? It would have been a real game changer and likely a money maker too. Yet another Detroit miss. Must have been that damn drinking water, right?
It wasn’t the water – it was the EPA. Smog regulations were taking up time and money to do what no one had ever tried to do before – control emissions of gasoline engines.
How bad it hit the company depended on its size. GM was held back from its usual trajectory. Ford was reduced to slathering chrome and transplanting nameplates. Chrysler was reduced to buying castoff dies from Ford; and AMC…the Hornet platform was their last all-new in-house effort, 1970.
The independents, of course, were hit worse. Kaiser Jeep sold itself, I’m convinced, because of the looming regulations. Studebaker nailed the doors shut, again, suspiciously close to the passing of the Act in 1966. And the idea of starting a car company, especially using an engine of one’s own design…became effectively impossible.
Some of the marketing intention was:
Take the average loyal Buick or Oldsmobile owner. Son or daughter in college. Wants something smaller, more youthful than an 88 or LeSabre. Don’t lose that sale to the Chevrolet dealer, buy your kid that car at the same dealer you’ve been patronizing since bloody well forever.
Call it Buick and Oldsmobile’s first attempt at trying to not become “your father’s Oldsmobile/Buick”.
⬆️ This. Back in ’71, my dad decided giving the younger me a 442 was the equivalent of handing a chimpanzee a loaded gun. The short list on our shopping tour included the Comet. Why? Because mom had a ’70 Marquis, and it was a great car- overall one of the best our family ever owned. The Malibu was on the list (my suggestion), as was the Volvo. Unbelievably, they all ran out at roughly the same money- about $3000-3500 equipped the way we wanted.
Shocker- we wound up with the Volvo. The Marquis may have been a great car, but the Comet was in no way related. FWIW, the main issue with the Nova was by the time you added options to make it equivalent to a Malibu, they were damned near the same money.
I agree the Australian 1972 XA Falcon is both too similar in styling and probably too close in package to the Maverick or Torino to have worked in the US market (before the Torino was restyled at least!). It was also out of sync with the product cycle, debuting approx 18 months after the Maverick.
The Australian Falcon could be compared to the 1971-73 Mustang, an approximately 2 inches wider version of the Falcon platform, although the gain in overall width would be greater due to the more curvacious sheetmetal.
I wonder instead if the Mark 3 Cortina (or very similar Taunus) would have worked instead, being a touch smaller but still traditional Ford. If there was resistance to the use of V6 engines the inline 6 was shoehorned in by Ford Australia, albeit to the detriment of weight distribution and handling. I suppose it might have then been too close in size to the Pinto but this could relatively easily been addressed in a transition to US production (engineer a couple of inches into the wheelbase for the new set of stamping dies required), which then raises the question of why not adopt/adapt the Escort instead of doing the Pinto anyway…
Finally I’m curious which Monaro (& Kingswood) you are referring to – perhaps the 1968-71 HK/HT/HG generation which had the radiused wheel arch stamping instead of the 1971-74 HQ which had ‘eyebrow’ style feature lines above the wheel arches? Without comparing dimensions to verify visual impressions, the HQ Kingswood appears to be a lower and wider when compared to the same Camaro-based front subframe construction Nova. The 2-door coupe Monaro is lower still (there was actually a Monaro sedan sold too). The styling theme of the HQ Holden has always been compared to Pontiacs – I’m not familiar enough with this era of cars to say.
I was thinking of the Holden HQ series that launched for 1971.
Its interior felt very Pontiac-ish too.
As for dimensions (courtesy of Wikipedia):
Wheelbase: 111″ (stretched to 114″ for wagons)
’68-’72 X-Body (Nova)
Here’s the HQ Monaro Sedan I was thinking could have been a perfect Pontiac:
Just needs the trademark Pontiac “nose” to be complete.
Ok, thanks for the clarification – however the Kingswood (as you are no doubt aware) is exactly the same car, the Monaro was a trim level as a 4-door. The later models (74-on) had a squarer front end that might be Buick-like. A more Pontiac-style nose (in that it was a split grille) can be found on the long-wheelbase Statesman: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Statesman_%281971-1974_HQ_series%29_02.jpg
The Monaro coupe for comparison: http://www.shannons.com.au/library/images/auctions/Y1J066AXIDA0R8FT/large/1974-holden-hq-monaro-gts-coupe.jpg
It’s striking how much the front of that Statesman looks like a ’71 LeMans. Also like the hardtop coupe, which to me would have “fit” the more upscale BOP brands versus the Nova pillared coupe. Here’s the Kingswood I was thinking of for the Buick: same body as the Pontiac, but different grill and trim, in keeping with the GM “sharing” ethos. Although I must admit on 2nd viewing it really does look Chevy-like, with hints of ’70-’72 Monte Carlo (and even similarity to the ’78-’79 Monte Carlo to come later–amazing how GM design worked and reworked certain looks). Agree that the ’74 version looks even more Buick-like (and Chevy Impala-like) with its quad headlights.
I don’t know about the Cortina, but as I mentioned above, Ford did give serious thought to offering a U.S. version of the Mk 1 Escort.
Interesting car! I gotta admit that I have a thing for thinly-disguised upscale cars based on more humble origins. The Lincoln Versailles, Cadillac Cimarron, and the various Chrysler-branded K-cars all fall in this boat.
The Maverick & Comet have the most depressing dashboard I’ve ever seen. Standard cluster: speedometer and fuel gauge. Options include: none.
I think the Comet taillamp treatment is pretty sharp on the pre-’74 jobs though.
Remember…the World of Lido. The Mav/Com/Pinto weren’t for dressing up; that was what a TORINO was for! You want a gauge pack, you went with a Gran Torino Sport!
There was (obviously) PLENTY of room to cut a glove box in that curved metal dash (one of the last metal ones). Lido didn’t WANT it! Advertising of the 1970-71 made a big deal of the “parcel tray” underneath.
Which had no back; and was therefore useless.
In 1974 it DID get a glove box, a little one, where the “parcel tray” was. But that wasn’t the point. The point was to have a price-point starter car; and for the vultures…er, sales staff, to “identify” your “needs” (borrowing potential) and steer you to a better-equipped (and of course bigger) car.
The Lido Sales School, was why Datsun and Toyota just took off in American markets.
Looks like unless you ordered aircon there was nothing other than an ashtray (?) between the gauges and the other side of the car, just a giant slab of nothing – wouldn’t be much fun for the passenger.
Not much different than any other car.
The radio was low in the dash, in the “parcel shelf” over the transmission hump. Gave him something to play with.
IIRC, the cowl was…not low, but a bit lower than some other cars of the era.
It ‘is’ a depressing dashboard, and here’s why. When Ford moved the Maverick’s HVAC controls to the left of the steering wheel (a la ’67-’68 Mustang), moved the radio to below the dash, and eliminated the glove compartment, well, it just left a whole lot of empty space to the right of the gauge cluster (which wasn’t anything other than a speedo, gas gauge, and idiot lights). Having just a curved piece of metal without an kind of angles really made it bare.
Contrast this with the Duster’s dash. The radio was in the lower center of the dash, with the HVAC controls above (left of the speedo were real gauges instead of the Maverick’s idiot lights). Then a glove compartment door. Hell, I can see car buyers going for the Duster instead of the Maverick just because of the better looking dash.
I meant that most cars had the HVAC controls in the centre of the dashboard, I think I also saw some photos with the radio outboard of the steering wheel too. Having no glovebox when you have a full dashboard is frankly quite strange, after all they had them in the 1930’s. Where would they put the owner’s handbook for starters?
Factory (it might have been dealer) radio installation was over the hump. I can’t imagine how it could be left of the steering wheel – the thing had an umbrella-handle parking brake there, and it took up all the space left of the steering wheel.
I suppose a shop could have done it differently. As I said, we had a 1974; same steel curved dashboard but a plastic cover where the shelf had been and a small glovebox.
Where would the owner’s manual be? In a file cabinet in the dealer’s office. Hand it to the owner along with the other papers; and he can put them wherever he wants.
Ok it must not have been a radio I thought I saw in a fairly small photo, there was no sign of a radio over the trans hump though (of course not standard).
All I can say is it sucks about that rear end damage, looks like someone went to the effort of getting the car repainted and that happened! Takes a sharp eye to notice the similarity to the Lincoln, I never noticed that.
I don’t think anyone went into a Mercury dealership to buy a Comet hoping to get a little taste of Lincoln. Probably something more like wanting something more than a Ford but not Lincoln. In those days, Mercurys were often sold with more options taken than the equivalent Fords, despite the sometimes modest price difference. We had that at GM, while the base prices might have been fairly close, certain makes and models were sold with more or less options on average. It wasn’t until the 1980s when more items became standard as well as the development of packages that badge engineered cars became more blurred.
Wow, am I the only one that can see a whole lotta Mark III Cortina there!?!?
Yes, the overall look of the roofline/turret, waistline, front & rear windshield treatment and even lower rear quarter panel are reminiscent of the Cortina, plus of course the “Knudsen nose” as the beak is referred to on the Taunus TC description on wikipedia.
+1 there’s a resemblance to the Cortina,the 68 Falcon & Mk2 Cortina even more so.
JP, this is a great write-up. These and the Maverick brethren used to be so commonplace.
My grandmother bought a Maverick in 1971. It had no options as it had the 170 cubic inch six-banger, three speed on the column, no air, power nothing, and in grabber blue. This was her “I’ll be damned if life gets me down” car. Suddenly widowed in late 1966, personal finance was a struggle, but she has told me she was determined to pay cash for a brand spanking new car within five years. This was it; she even had the dealer order exactly what she wanted.
She drove it until 1980 or 1981; the last two years she drove it was after she had hit a tree head-on and the repair parts consisted of a new radiator, with body work courtesy of a come-along, a chain, a poplar tree, and a Ford tractor. Definitely low budget but she didn’t see the point in spending any money on an aging car at that point. She said she had two more years to go before buying a new one and saw no need to redirect her car money to the Maverick.
It was sold for $200, maybe less. It didn’t have very many miles on it but had been run through the wringer. The guy who bought it drove it for several more years.
I see a Maverick / Comet and I see a short, bull-headed, and determined woman in her fifties who has no time or tolerance for bull shit. That’s my grandmother. She’s still no non-sense as she just bought herself a gas powered weed-eater – at age 91.
To me, this is the sort of person who bought a Maverick.
My version of a Maverick owner is the president of the local vintage British motorcycle club. Still has his 70. Cheap bastard from hell, will fight you to death over a nickle. Only luxury in life is building old rolling basket case British motorcycles and restoring them to new. Which he’s excellent at.
1st car I bought in November 83 for $625 was a 71 2dr Maverick with the 170/3-speed and (I now know thanks to Kevin Marti) very few options. Still own it. In fact mine wasn’t even ordered with a radio. But I sure fell for ’em. I’ve owned 27 and currently have 7. And a building full of parts to keep them going for decades.
From perusing Craigslist around here, probably because of the ever increasing prices for actual “muscle car” type vehicles in any condition, the two door Mavericks and Comets are being viewed as potential hot rod material and are reasonably sought after…I suppose if you are not old enough to remember them as low suds compacts, the short deck/long hood styling and rear drive and ability to take a V8 makes you consider it if you don’t want to pay 6K for a basket case Chevelle or Lemans….
If I recall correctly (Aaron Severson, help me out here), the Edsel was once considered for the role that eventually was filled by the Comet. About that Lincoln in the photo–it’s just amazing how much aesthetic damage was done by the post-1963 flat side glass.
From past discussion here, the 1960 Comet was originally planned to be an Edsel, not a Mercury. The way FoMoCo had positioned its brands after Edsel was introduced, Edsel was the next step up from Ford, so I guess it made sense that Edsel would get a companion to the Falcon before Mercury did. Due to the decision to discontinue Edsel, the Comet became a Mercury instead. As a legacy of this change made late in its development, for its first few years the Comet did not carry any badging identifying it as a Mercury.
The Comet was indeed to intended as an Edsel (known internally as the Edsel B). However, it was intended to become the sole Edsel — the big car was going to be dropped either way. By that point, Edsel had already been rolled into Lincoln-Mercury (which had been recombined after a brief stab at independence), so by 1961, the lineup would have been Edsel compact, big Mercury, Lincoln Continental. In late 1959, however, Ford decided to kill the Edsel nameplate completely, so there was a last-minute scramble to find a different name for the compact. It wasn’t technically a Mercury until 1962, although the Comet was pretty much the only thing keeping Lincoln-Mercury afloat.
Fortunately they came to realize just how tarnished the Edsel brand was in time to realize the new car needed a new name and a fresh start or the luxury-compact program would be throwing good money after bad.
Must’ve been a tough sell to HFII though, considering that both the father he much admired and his then-middle-school-age son were both named Edsel and the name had become synonymous with failure thanks to his, Henry II’s, having put it on an ill-timed car.
From what I’ve read, by late 1959, everyone at Ford wanted to forget that the Edsel had ever existed. I seriously doubt that anyone was lobbying very hard to badge the Comet as an Edsel.
“Mercury’s final tipping point–that place in history where Ford Motor Company threw up its hands and gave up on the brand.” Hey, don’t forget that ’86 Sable!
We compared Taurus and Sable and picked Sable. Not just for its great looks (Sable had its own sheet metal then) it had a better interior and better ride. 1st-gen Sable was a real Mercury.
The ’96 Catfish Sable, that was the end of Mercury.
Looks and interior are valid (although subjective). I may be wrong, but I rather suspect the Sable’s suspension tuning was no different than the Taurus, which was heads and shoulders above the competition. I don’t know what or how they could have made a noticeable improvement.
Ride could be subjective too. We didn’t do a double-blindfold test. With those sleek looks Sable just had to ride better.
I’m not quite sure I buy jpc’s general argument. Of course, comparing the Comet to a ’61-65 Conti is a bit unfair. You should have compared it to a ’71 Lincoln. That might weaken your point. Or maybe the ’71 Lincoln is a grown-up Comet. Either way……
Wow. Memories. Only new car Dad ever bought. Kinda. Paid $2,226 for a demo ’71 Comet sedan with 6K miles on 2/14/72., from Village L-M in Hamburg, NY. Only four-door on the lot. Equipped with 200-6, auto, standard black interior, in bright green, with the optional rocker panel mouldings and full wheel covers. No A/C (this is New York, ya know). That package tray screamed “cheap”, even to this 9 year old. That car was a POS he claimed, but it took us to Toronto and Pennsylvania numerous times, as well as on two Florida vacations, was rebuilt after two very serious drunken crashes, and moved him to Florida to be near us kids after the divorce. The oil light came on at 25K and never went out; he sold it to a used car lot in Florida for $50 in 1976, 110K miles and it still ran. It did throw a rod bearing once, but he repaired it after driving us home (50 miles) from the beach. That car looked like swiss cheese from all the rust by ’74. The first accident nearly totaled the car; we waited a couple months for a hood and rocker panel mouldings to arrive. The only hood the shop could find was a GT hood. Dad didn’t like the hood scoop, but needed the car back. It looked silly on a 4 door. As I looked back, I never understood why the body shop didn’t remove the scoop and patch the holes. Not great, but not a totally bad car.
I’d take a Mopar A-body over GM or Fords senior compact in this time period.
I’ve never taken a shine to the Maverick/Comet, and like the GM X-body slightly more.
Now a 65-69 Comet is another story…
“OK, there was also that attempt to replicate the aura of the classic ’60s Continentals…”
Ha ha ha! This line is what crashed the entire site yesterday. 🙂
There was an old cartoon character named “Droopy Dog.” They should have made decals of him and plastered them all over this car. It would be like the Road Runner, except depressing instead of fun.
“The 1970 Maverick was Ford’s answer to, well, I’m still not sure. It was too big to be a VW fighter…”
From what I understand, the Maverick was in fact originally conceived as a low-end import fighter. This is why at first it was only available in the smaller 2-door body style with the 170 and 200 CID sixes, and came in such stripped-down form, with a $1995 base price. Despite its great first-year success, Ford recognized that the Maverick wasn’t really a direct equivalent to the imports it was competeing with, and that a smaller 4-cylinder car would be needed for the long haul. Hence the subsequent introduction of the Pinto.
One could argue that the Maverick really didn’t compete effectively with the imports at all, but that its success was attributable to a general rising interest in small cars among American consumers. This was benefitting not only the imports, but domestic compacts like the Nova and Mopar A-bodies; even Ford’s own aging afterthought Falcon had seen its first sales increase in years in 1969. Perhaps the 1970 Maverick didn’t draw business away from the imports as much as it just rode the wave.
I am curious about the relationship between the Maverick and the Pinto. Was the Maverick developed first, but at some point Ford decided it needed a smaller 4-cylinder car (perhaps after catching wind that GM’s Vega was coming), and the Pinto was then put on the fast track? Or was the Pinto under development first, but the Maverick was quickly cobbled together because Ford felt they needed to do something in this market space sooner than the Pinto would be ready?
“…and was hopelessly outclassed on the higher end by Chevy’s more substantial Nova and Plymouth’s superior Valiant.”
Once the Pinto hit showrooms for the 1971 model year, the Maverick was repurposed as a replacement for the Falcon, going directly up against the Nova and Mopar A-bodies. A 4-door on a longer wheelbase, larger engines (the 250 and 302), and a Mercury version appeared. In its new role, the Maverick would be a decent but mediocre seller, never remotely approaching the business it had done in 1970. I think the fact that its 2-door version was smaller than its competitors was a liability, especially as 2-doors dominated compact sales in this era. The Maverick also did not lend itself as well as its competitors to the broughamification that was affecting the high end of the compact market in this era.
I think the Maverick sold well because in those days, there were a lot of customers who would drive Fords and nothing but, and the Maverick was the current flavor being offered. Plus, it was certainly a good looking car. From experience, I never thought the Maverick felt as substantial as either the Nova or the Valiant/Dart/Duster. Or, for that matter, the 66-early 70 Falcon.
My guess at your other question, is that the Maverick program had to have started around 1966-67 at the latest. I think that over the next year or so, the target moved on what would be a good small car, and I’m sure Ford knew about plans for the Vega. Thus the Pinto below it and the Maverick sedan that was a more direct Falcon competitor. Clearly, the Pinto had to be in development before the Maverick even came out in mid 1969.
Reports are that the Pinto project was approved in Jan 1969 so yes slightly before the Maverick hit showrooms.
The Pinto was Lido’s pet project. he railroaded it through when he became president of Ford.
He was President of Ford from 1965. That’s a long time lag.
He was first, concerned with his own power and advancement; and to that end, wiping the pavement with Bunkie. Then…he was focused on the “youth market.”
I think the Pinto was the plan of his burning desire to cut into VW sales. He didn’t understand Volkswagen; and in that regard, he and Hank da Deuce were identical. It may have been the basis for their nine-year love affair.
But he launched it…a little car, as cheap as a VW, and so kewel the kids couldn’t resist.
He didn’t understand the kids of the time…hell, I don’t think anyone did.
No Bunkie was the president of FoMoCo when Hank II approved it, Lido was executive VP at the time. Bunkie didn’t last too much longer after that though as Hank and Lido saw more eye to eye and Lido soon replaced Bunkie. Even though he was promoted to president Lido did continue to watch over the Pinto project.
Lido did have a burning desire to meet the foreign competition, mainly VW head on. Bunkie thought that the Maverick put them ahead of the game and would hold off imports just fine.
Fact is the Pinto was yet another big success for Ford and Lido as the sold them as fast as they could make them. Despite the press preferring the Vega more people ponied up their cash for the Pinto.
Lido was president of the Ford Division.
Bunkie was president of the whole operation…Ford, Mercury, Lincoln, Philco…anything else. It’s the job Lido coveted; and that’s why Bunkie was run over.
With Ford at the time, the Chairman was the CEO; and that was Hank the Deuce.
By the time the Pinto project was approved Lido had moved up to the VP of FoMoCo (the corporation), but he did start pushing for a 4cyl ~85″ wheel base car while he was still president of the Ford division. The President or Hank II had to approve something as substantial as a brand new car in a segment they hadn’t participated in before, hence the reason Lido couldn’t approve it while he was the president of the Ford division.
Eric did you mean 95″, as that is about the same as the VW – 85″ is just a bit longer than a Mini!
My parents bought a 74 Maverick 4-door – white with blue interior.
My job as a kid was closing the garage door after my mother backed it out of the garage.
My memory is standing out of the way while my mother started the car, let it warm up a bit, put it in reverse, only to have it stall – then repeat – 3 or 4 times until she actually could get it out of the garage.
It also had those terrible seatbelt interlocks that wouldn’t let you start the car unless the seatbelt was fastened.
My father traded it in a few years later on a Fairmont and the salesman asked him if the car had been underwater – that’s how bad it had rusted.
My dad bought a ’74 Mercury Comet white with black interior. It too stalled when cold. Also, the interlock would get out of sync. Since mom & dad didn’t want to get dirty, my job was to pop the hood and press the interlock release button to get the car started. Dad didn’t keep it too long. Got his first foreign car (Toyota Corolla) as a replacement to the Comet.
Those were the Days of Rust indeed, especially for Ford. It was not at all uncommon to see four year old Torinos with large all the way thru rust holes in the doors, at least in the Midwest where I grew up.
In Spring 1969, Ford pushed the $1995 base price as main selling point. I was 7-8 y/o and still learning about money/numbers, and assumed the price was $19.95. Said to my older brother, “Wow we can buy it with a $20 bill!” He quickly pointed out the real cost!
“What was in Detroit water …. to introduce horribly badge engineered versions of their cheap cars into their more upscale brands?”
There was a mild recession in late ’69, also labor costs were rising, and Toyota/Datsun were selling well. Cost were getting cut, with this new thing called ‘inflation’, too.
Not just EPA regs, as some think, that hurt bottom lines, and led to bean counters taking over Motown. Many other changing factors at the end of ‘good old muscle car era’.
The Maverick and the Pinto are two very different cars. The only reason people associate one with the other is because they share the same tail lights.
Won’t somebody please adopt me from the pound? With its slightly downward looking baby Bunkie beak snout and its drooping tail, these things always looked like a sad puppy dog to me. The opposite of the proud land yachts at the opposite end of the contemporary L-M model lineup.
I’m “lucky” to have owned both a small I6, 3 speed MT stripper Maverick coupe – it did have an AM radio (which I added a Radio Shack FM converter to) and a well optioned V8 Comet coupe – complete with working AC (which I never used – had to keep my street cred somehow!). The Comet was a much nicer car to drive than the Mav even if it did use a lot more gas – and wore out rear tires faster, for some reason 😉
I sold the Comet to hot rodder who promptly stripped off the half vinyl top, cushy seats, AC, etc and built it into a decent drag car – Mavericks/Comets were fairly lightweight for V8 powered cars.
The full side view makes it almost look foreign. Weird.
I never found the Mav/Comet 4 doors really attractive (same for the pre 1975 X bodies). To me, it seems they were designed as 2 doors first and the 4 door was just an afterthought. I suppose that was actually the case back then though.
I had a hockey coach that gave the nickname “Maverick” to a player (not me, fortunately). When asked, “Why ‘Maverick’?”, the coach replied: “‘Cause just like the shitty car Ford used to make, he’s a total wreck.”
It would have been nice if they had offered a North American wagon version similar to the Maverick wagon offered in Brazil.
Not bad looking wagons. They would have been real Hornet-killers!
Wow! Those are pretty cool. That would have gone straight up against the Hornet Sportabout had they done it in the U.S.
Lucky for AMC.
The first Maverick coupes were a stop gap until Pinto was ready to take on imported sub compacts.
But then, the stretched sedans were an afterthought, since in the late 60’s, it was thought that only full size cars should be available as 4 doors. Smaller than that were considered “coupes for young adults”. Even mid size 4 doors looked like something thrown together at last minute.
Would have been a good idea to have a reskinned Falcon sedan for 1970-74 [not the stripped Torino], as a bridge to the Granada. And keep Maverick as coupe only.
What stands out to me most about the Maverick and Comet was their utter lack of interior room. I remember the first time I got behind the wheel of my friend’s mom’s Maverick, discovering to my shock that there was less headroom in her car than in my own ’70 Datsun 510—something I never dreamed would be the case in a car that was so much larger than my own. And I’m 6′ 4″, so these differences really matter—in the Maverick, the top of my head was literally pushed up into the headliner as I tried to drive it. Just terrible. Of course, I later discovered that was the case with many American cars in this size category at the time: Darts, Dusters, Novas, etc.
Never mind quality, reliability, and fuel mileage: I wonder how many people made the move to imports during this dark time just for the space improvements alone?