Marvin’s Sleeper: 1974 Mercury Comet

A lot of times we just ignore seventies cars.  Those of us that grew up with these cars weren’t really impressed with their performance or their looks.  As a teenager, I was quite a car snob.  I drove a Chrysler Cordoba, but all I cared about was Corvettes, Porsches, and other real cars.  A car like this 1974 Mercury Comet being sold on eBay out of Howell, New Jersey wouldn’t even register in my consciousness.  That was until the day Marvin the parking lot attendant showed my pal and I what a sleeper was in a Ford Maverick similar to this car.  While I am sure Marvin’s Maverick has gone off to the great wrecking yard in the sky, this Comet is about as close as you will get to it.  With a current bid of $2,550, the chance to give some snotty teenagers a display in raw power might come at a bargain price!

Things were kind of laid back in the early eighties.  At my high school, most of the juniors and seniors were allowed to drive to school.  Unlike today, nearly everyone had a car and brought it to school.  I was no different.  Over the three years that I was able to drive to school (I got to drive to school my sophomore year thanks to my mom annoying the dean to death.), I drove three vehicles: a 1980 Chrysler Cordoba, a 1974 Porsche 914, and a 1989 Ford Ranger.  Kids leaving whenever they liked was obviously a big problem, but the school board had a solution: Marvin.

Marvin was a white haired retired fellow that was supposed to stop any students from leaving the massive parking lot by blocking the single entrance with his faded green Maverick coupe.  Of course, your curb hopping skills could gain you access to the outside world if Marvin wasn’t watching.  Many times he wasn’t.  The problem was that Marvin was there the whole time the school was open, and sitting in a Maverick in the Florida sun all day was boring.  It made you thirsty as well.

So, Marvin eventually combined his work time with his beer drinking hobby.  Suddenly, the day went by a lot faster for the guy.  Marvin’s attitude towards stopping you softened as the day wore on and the Pabst Blue Ribbon flowed.  By noon, any excuse would get you out of the parking lot.  Of course, we were fine with that.  As for the administration, I never saw anyone in power ever go out to talk to Marvin.  Come to think about it, I never saw Marvin come into the school to use the restroom.  Given the amount of nepotism and cronyism present in the county school system at the time, my guess is that Marvin was “given” a job by a friend or relative and that was that.

One day, my friend David and I were hanging out in the parking lot after school talking about, what else, cars.  Most everybody had left.  Except for Marvin.  He saw us talking I guess, and decided to join the conversation.  When he fired up the Maverick, I remember that the low, rumbling sound of the engine immediately caught our attention.  We had never heard the thing running before, and its looks made having anything other than an anemic inline six a possibility that never crossed our minds.  He swung around and pulled up next to us on the driver’s side.

When he stopped, we looked inside and saw a big tach on the side of the steering column and a Hurst shifter that looked like it was pulled out of a drag car resting on the transmission hump.  I don’t remember what he said.  I do remember that he was rather drunk and slurring his words a bit.  What he did next was epic.  He told us to watch this, and then shoved the car in gear.  The engine started screaming, Marvin dropped the clutch, and proceeded to do a burnout that would do John Force proud.  He burned rubber for 100 yards, slid sideways out into the street and raced off to battle traffic.  Dave and I just stared at eachother with our mouths hanging wide open for a minute, then started to laugh uncontrollably.  It was awesome, and we never looked at Marvin or a junky car the same way again.

The seller of this 1974 Mercury Comet, a badge engineered version of the Ford Maverick, may be a cousin or son of Marvin’s.  On the outside, the brownish orange paint job and all the chrome trim don’t give you any clue as to what is under the hood.  Neither does the bench seat with a tan vinyl seat cover.  Only the custom wheels and dual exhaust give you any indication that this is not a normal car.  When you look inside, the big tach and floor shifter give you a hint that something is not right.  From there, you either learn about the true purpose of this car by looking under the hood at the 302 cubic inch engine covered with speed parts, or you get a lesson when it whips you in a stoplight showdown.  The seller tells us that it runs and drives well, and that there is a stack of new parts installed on the car.  I don’t doubt it.

I would imagine that this car has surprised many a Mustang or Camaro in New Jersey.  Thinking about Marvin, I wonder how many people he whipped in street races.  Maybe he never drove the car hard on the street.  For some people, the important thing is knowing you have what it takes if the time to use it ever comes.

Anyone ever have a guy like Marvin drift through your life?


  1. Mark

    A Continental kit in the front does not a muscle car make.

    Like 3
    • Jett

      I join the rest of the group in asking…huh?

      Like 2
      • Mark

        Aka the ridiculous front bumper…..cram all the engine in that it can handle….it’s still a 74 Comet.

  2. JerryDeeWrench

    I don’t see a third petal. Rats but other than that I love it. Good find. I would love to have it.

    Like 5
    • Steven Ligac

      In expanding the photo, I see only 2 pedals, the brake pedal being the large size used when the car is an automatic. The doggone shifter was misleading, to me, anyway…

      Like 4
      • stillrunners Stillrunners Member

        Youse guys ! Yep we had a parking lot guy too….when we rode our motorcycle wasn’t much of a deal…but we had to make a few diversions courtesy of our friends….and pick them up on the other side of the lot.

  3. Ken

    Ugly car ride in one with a v8 it went pretty fast

  4. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Yes, old guys with ordinary cars have been suckering testosterone driven young people for years. Case in point, my younger brother and I were out on the town one Saturday night in the summer jamming to Deep Purple at the last stoplight in town. This FOG (Freakin’ Old Guy)with his wife in the passenger seat stopped on my right side at the red light in a PINK Pinto coupe with a goofy looking black hood scoop!!! She looked over at him and said something while he watched the light change to green.
    As I was driving my Charger I thought nothing of it when I I romped on the loud pedal leaving the green light….and watched the rear end of that Pinto as it was pulling away, smoking the tires with every upshift as my brother almost peed himself laughing.
    Seems the old guy had engineered a turbocharged 302 to fit mostly under the hood; I only took solace in the discovery that I wasn’t his first victim that summer.

    Like 12
  5. Troy s

    Sleepers, q-ships was another term, are cool in their own way, understated underrated unrespected until they left some paint machine with all the wrong engine parts standing still, only then are they fun. The whole rest of the time cruising is spent without so much as a nod in respect. If you know what I mean.
    That was part of the attraction to cruising Friday and Saturday nights even for me and that was the early to mid eighties. It was just cool to have a machine people would grin at, maybe even give the finger. Hanging out in parking lots and then run down 2nd Street a few times. A true sleeper was just another car, nothing really until the light turned green.

    Like 4
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      You bet, Troy!
      Come to think of it, “back in the day” some of the folks we knew in Tennessee had ordinary looking cars that handled better than most & some serious horsepower..usta hear a clinking sound sometimes as they drove by on a Saturday night without any kind of lights on.

      Like 3
  6. Jett

    A friend in my late 80’s high school years had a built Grabber Blue Maverick, the year of which escapes me. He was one of the real gearheads in school, and I can remember his epic burnouts in the parking lot. I can only imagine how quick he was on the street or the track…

    Like 4
  7. Tim

    A memory related to the Mercury Comet. I worked at a liquor store in high school. A gal that was working there as well had a 4dr tutone green Comet worked there as well. The Comet was a 6 cyilnder slow poke, but her daughter was a stone fox. Those memories bring it all back.

    Like 5
  8. Scott

    Smoke…or be smoked that is the question lol

    Like 1
  9. Dave S.

    I had a friend who owned one of these with the 302 and it would move I raced him a number of times with my Torino GT, 351 Cleveland and he beat me every time in the 1/4 mile , he also beat a couple of our other friends who owned 340 Dusters.

    Like 6
  10. Mountainwoodie

    Now…if this had a 4 speed you might have a sleeper. As it is , probably reasonably quick in the five block stretch, unless you’re running against ummm…..a,.um.. 2019 Toyota Corolla?

    Great writeup anyway!

  11. Del

    Was this Bret Mavericks’ car on the original TV series ? How many horses 😁

    Like 1
  12. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

    Are we in the twilight zone? Strange comments to be sure. 302 Maverick, 302 Mustang same thing just different sheet metal.
    God bless America

    Like 2
  13. PatrickM

    Bidding at $5,500.00. Sure wish it was closer and I had the place to store it. Automatic or not, it is very much okay. The colors do not bother me at all. I like this thing!!

    Like 1

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