Two recent introductions by Cort serve to
underscore the breadth of this company’s 6-string offerings. The
hot-rod looking Motor Oil 1 from the new Fuel Series recalls some
of the iconic visuals of 1960s motoring with a striking graphic treatment
by guitar designer Stephen McSwain. At the other end of the
spectrum, the Earth 100 acoustic is an affordable, dreadnoughtstyle
guitar with the sound and feel of a more costly instrument.
Though designed to satisfy players with very different needs and tastes, both are great examples of Cort’s
commitment to building quality, eyecatching
guitars that offer a lot of performance
for the money.
Motor Oil 1
Picture a vintage motor oil can with checkered
flags and the like that has been flattened
out and applied over the top of a
guitar, and you’ve got the essence of the
Motor Oil 1. Reflecting a design ethos that
was commonplace in auto parts stores of
the 1960s, the cosmetic treatment certainly
reinforces the notion that cars and
guitars have a spiritual connection.
But the The Motor Oil 1 is hardly just
a wall hanger for a guitar nut’s garage.
The basswood body has a distressed black
satin finish, and it holds a pair of humbuckers
with metal covers and surrounds
that are chemically “aged”—a treatment
that is also applied to the Tune-o-matic
bridge, toggle-switch tip, jack plate, strap
buttons, and the Volume and Tone knobs,
which, by the way, are cleverly shaped to
look like lug nuts.
The auto theme continues with the
slender bolt-on maple neck, which revs
things up with hex-nut-shaped pearl fretboard
inlays, more car-inspired graphics
on the headstock, and a set of aged, diecast
tuners. The 22-fret neck feels great
thanks in part to its satiny finish, the intonation
is solid, and the action and setup
needed no help whatsoever.
Tested through a Dr. Z EZG-50 combo
and a Mesa/boogie Royal Atlantic head
and 4x12, the Motor Oil 1 delivered clean
tones that offered nice warmth and clarity
from the neck and dual-pickup settings,
and a crisp, punchy response from
the bridge ’bucker. In overdriven modes,
this guitar assumes a snottier attitude,
with tones that cut well while maintaining
a nice fatness and sustain. This is not
an overly bright guitar to begin with, but
some may still like how the highs relax a
bit when you roll down the Volume control.
Also, the Tone knob’s voicing provides
useful shades if you’re going for
mellower clean sounds or a Clapton-style
“Strange Brew” distortion tone.
All in all, the Motor Oil 1 is a hip looking
and good playing guitar that packs a lot fun for a fair price. No one could go
wrong slinging it in a hard-rock band, and
what could possibly look better hanging
on the wall next to your ’67 Camaro SS?
Well, perhaps two Fuel Series guitars, since
Cort also offers an identically priced companion
model called the Gasoline 1.
The very affordable Earth 100 is a dreadnought-
style acoustic that features classic
construction details such as a dovetail
neck joint and advanced scalloped X-bracing.
The back and sides are crafted from
laminated mahogany, and the top is solid
Sitka spruce. Contributing to the visual
flair are a nice looking abalone rosette
and a diamond-shaped headstock inlay
with an abalone center. The gloss-finished
body is trimmed in neatly applied
ivoroid binding, as is the fretboard, back
stripe, and the heel cap.
The Earth 100’s three-piece mahogany
neck has a smooth satin finish and is
topped with rosewood ’board that wears
20 lightly polished frets. The C-shaped
neck feels excellent, though some setup
work would be warranted to get the strings
a bit lower for easier playing. The Earth
intonates well—a result of attention to
detail on the notching of the bone nut and
the compensating of the bridge saddle—
and it tuned up easily and stayed in tune
quite well during our testing.
If you’re looking for a big-sounding
acoustic, you’ve come to the right place.
The Earth 100 has the booming voice of
a good dreadnought, with a richness that
can be attributed to, at least in part, the
mahogany construction. There’s plenty
of top-end clarity and crispness, and the
fact that the mids and lows sound a little
rounder and sweeter than might be the
case if this was a rosewood guitar, could
be just fine for a lot of players.
Whether you mostly play rhythm or
also need to do some single-line picking,
the Earth 100’s warm, punchy voice and
abundant volume will get the job done in
any acoustic setting. And if you need to
amplify, consider the Earth 100F ($335
street), which is the same guitar with
a Fishman Classic 4T Sonicore pickup/
CONTACT Cort Musical Instruments, (847) 498-6491; cortguitars.com
Fuel Series Motor Oil 1
PRICE $539 retail/$379 street
NUT Width 1 11/16"
NECK Canadian hard maple, bolt-on
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 24 3/4" scale
FRETS 22 medium jumbo
BRIDGE Tune-o-Matic style with through-body stringing
PICKUPS Cort ClassicRocker-II humbuckers
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, 3-way selector
FACTORY STRINGS D'Addario, 010-.046
WEIGHT 6.3 lbs
KUDOS Great look. Delivers kickass rock tones. Plays well.
PRICE $379 retail/$265 street
NUT Width 1 11/16"
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25.3" scale
FRETS 20 medium jumbo
TUNERS Die-cast w/black buttons
BODY Mahogany back and sides
TOP Solid Sitka spruce
BRIDGE Rosewood w/compensated bone saddle
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, USA EXP16 Light
WEIGHT 4.6 lbs
KUDOS Impressive price/performance ratio.
CONCERNS Sharp edges on the nut.