By Charlotte Iggulden
Maverick definition: An unorthodox/independent person who acts free from constraints and organisational guidelines.
The Ford nameplate refers to an unbranded form of cattle. Maverick also applies to the free-roaming mustang and Ford’s pony car, a symbol of the pioneering spirit of the American west.
Ford’s compact car, Maverick (Americas, 1969-1977), was an instant success that would unexpectedly rival the Ford Mustang. Not to be confused with the 4×4 Maverick UK, the all-American Maverick car was affordable, economical, and shared the same long-hood, short deck, fastback profile popularized by Ford’s pony.
Unfortunately underestimated by many today, the Ford Maverick broke the rules of what a compact car could offer, providing great value for money at a time of stringent legislation and frugality.
After its introduction in mid-1969, 127,833 were sold. Unchanged in 1970, an impressive 451,000 sales were made (Hagerty), eclipsing the 1970 Mustang which sold 200,000.
With a new incarnation arriving in 2021/22, our short car review revisits this Ford classic car.
History and Background of Ford Maverick
Introduced on April 17, 1969, as a 1970 model, the Ford Maverick was initially conceived as a two-door sedan or saloon. Like the Mustang, it used the same platform as Robert McNamara’s lightweight, compact sports car, the Falcon, which had been unable to match the 1964 Mustang’s success.
Whilst the Maverick replaced the Falcon as the main competitor to the Dodge Dart and Chevrolet Nova, its main intention was not to be a performance or muscle car, but to reclaim sales stolen by imports like the VW Beetle, Datsun, Toyota, and Honda.
Positioned between the bigger Mustang and Ford Pinto (1971-1980), the Maverick car was a ‘simple,’ uncomplicated machine that was easier to maintain.
During its lifetime, the affordable and roomy compact car was available as a two-door sedan/fastback coupe (1969-1977), four-door sedan (1971-77), Grabber (1970-75) and Stallion (1976) in three economical sixes or low cost V8.
Despite its modest horsepower, the classic Ford Maverick was the ‘answer to low-cost transportation,’ with ‘great gas mileage,’ making it very appealing at a pivotal time for the automobile when the 1973 oil crisis caused fuel prices to skyrocket, and high-performance vehicles like the Mustang II were too expensive to run.
When paired with the race car/muscle-themed appearance package, Grabber or Stallion, the reliable Ford Maverick’s popularity with the youth market was unmatched. Other trims and packages include the 1972 Olympics themed ‘Sprint,’ Luxury Décor Option (LDO), and 1977 ‘Police Package.’
Over 2.1 million Mavericks sold over nine years of production, excluding sales of its clone, the 1971-77 Mercury Comet.
Aside from being manufactured and assembled in the US, the Maverick car was also produced in Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, and from 1970-79 in Brazil. 578,914 1970 Mavericks were produced, breaking the Mustang’s 1965 sales record to become Ford’s most successful car launch. Exceeding the 1970 Mustangs sales, the Maverick’s engine configuration was easy to tune, making it faster and cheaper than their flagship car. Its surprising success led to Ford increasing its prices, resulting in its demise in ‘77.
Ford Maverick Specs
The 1969 Ford Maverick was a 2-door sedan/coupe with 170cid inline six (I6), manual/Cruise-O-Matic transmission. The manual had a 94mph top speed, 19.5 second ¼ mile, 14.1second acceleration, 100hp, and 156 lb-ft torque.
For the first half of 1970, the 105hp 170cid was joined by a faster 200cid I6 automatic or manual: 99mph top speed, 18.3 second ¼ mile. 11.5 second acceleration, 120hp, 190 lb-ft torque.
Mid 1970, a more powerful 250cid I6 automatic was introduced for the Grabber, implying it was both a performance and trim option. Horsepower increased to 155hp, 240 lb-ft torque, with 105mph top speed, 17.9 second ¼ mile and 10.6 second acceleration.
After 1971, the Grabber is a trim option only, bearing the same performance specifications as the Maverick.
The 1971 Maverick had the same engine choices as 1970, alongside a new 302 V8 automatic shared with the Comet. Grabber 302cid offered the highest horsepower and best performance of all Maverick’s model years, with 119mph top speed, 7.8second acceleration, 15.9 second ¼ mile, 210hp, 296 lb-ft torque.
The 1971-77 four-door sedan had the same engine choices as the coupe, but performance was slightly slower.
1971 and ’72 engine choices were the same. Although the 1972 302cid was available as manual, the automatic was quickest: 112mph, 0-60 in 9.4seconds, 17.1 second ¼ mile, 143hp, 243 lb-ft torque.
The 1973 coupe had improved brakes, and 170cid dropped in favour of standard 200cid I6, optional 250cid, and 302cid V8. The Grabber 302cid manual was marginally faster than ‘72, same ¼ mile, 9 second acceleration, slightly less horsepower and 235 lb-ft torque.
1973 and ‘74 engines and transmission remained the same. The manual 302cid had similar performance, with 5 less torque.
There was no change to 1975-76 engines/transmissions, although the ’75 302cid was automatic only and slower, with lower horsepower and torque. The 1976 302cid manual was faster with similar specs to 1972, 138hp, 246 lb-ft torque. The Grabber was replaced by the Stallion appearance package for coupes only, in 250cid I6 and the same 302cid V8 manual performance as the base Maverick.
Engines and transmissions remained the same for 1977, with similar performance as 1976.
Model Variations and Comparisons
Initially a two-door sedan, a 4-door appeared in 1971 with vinyl roof option, making it look more expensive.
From introduction, paint colours echoed the Maverick’s individuality and were heavily punned: Anti-Establish Mint, Freudian Gilt, Hulla Blue, Original Cinnamon, and Thanks Vermillion, alongside familiar names like Wimbledon White, Candy Apply Red, Raven Black, Champagne Gold, Meadow Lark Yellow. Advertising compared the $1,995 Maverick car to the small VW Beetle, at $500 less. The Ford Pinto then became the Beetle’s competitor.
Early Mavericks had a two spoke steering wheel with horn rings found on other 1969 Fords; the rings were removed in late ‘69.
The 1970 Grabber package included: high-back bucket seats, tasteful interior, pop out windows, special graphics, upgraded steering wheel, and a very desirable rear deck spoiler and small bumper before the size increased in 1973 due to regulations.
1971 and 72 models had a special dual dome hood, which is highly sought after today as an aftermarket part.
The Ford Maverick was also cloned by Mercury as the revived Comet (1971-77). Many parts can be interchanged, although the hood, taillight, trim and grille differs.
The LDO was introduced in 1972 to compete against European sedans. It gave ‘unexpected luxury in a compact car,’ featuring bucket seats, wood grain panelling, vinyl roof, radial tires, accent paint stripe, and deluxe wheel covers. The four-door Maverick had more rear room and longer wheelbase. The Olympics themed ‘Sprint Package’ also debuted for the Pinto, Maverick and Mustang, in white and blue two-toned paint with red pinstripes, and matching interior.
The 1973 Maverick Grabber was all muscle, with fatter tyres, its optional grille now standard.
The 1974 Maverick car was unchanged, aside from a larger 5mph front and rear bumpers required by government, plus rear quarter panel end caps. Both Maverick and Comet were less attractive than earlier versions.
In 1975, fuel prices decreased but so did Mustang sales. Easy to tune, the Maverick was faster and cheaper. Afraid of its success, Ford increased Maverick prices, suggesting to consumers they could have a Mustang for $400 more.
It worked: Maverick sales declined, and the Mustang II rose.
In 1976, the Stallion package replaced the Grabber. Like Sprint, it was offered on the Pinto, and Mustang, including a special paint scheme and trim, but was nicknamed the ‘Maverick flopper.’ Standard Mavericks had new grilles and front disc brakes.
1977 was the Maverick’s final year, remaining unchanged aside from a ‘Police Package,’ which was not upgraded enough for police use and sold less than 400 units. Pop out windows were a distinctive feature on 2-door Mavericks and Comets.
The base ‘77 model and 4-door continued until the introduction of the Fox-platform 1978 Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr.
Ford Maverick in Popular Culture
The classic Ford Maverick car has appeared in many films and tv shows as a minor action or background vehicle.
A 458cid 1971 Maverick, nicknamed ‘Lil Legend, is seen on the TV show Street Outlaws, driven by Bobby Ducote who prides himself on owing the fastest small tire car anywhere.
A rugged 1971 Maverick powered by a 350hp 302cid V8 appears in Fast Five, driven by character Han Seoul-Oh in Rio de Janeiro. According to insidelinevideo, the filmmakers included the car as it is one of the most popular muscle cars in Brazilian culture and fun to drive.
New Ford Maverick vs Classic Ford Maverick
The Maverick nameplate is being revived in mid-2021 as a 2022 model, but not as a sporty looking coupe or sedan.
The modern Maverick has been designed as a compact 4×4, four-door pickup truck. A photo of the tailgate was leaked in July 2020, confirming its name, with several pictures of the prototype since.
The Maverick pickup is an exciting transition for Ford truck enthusiasts. It will share components and Ford’s C2 platform with the Bronco Sport crossover utility vehicle, although longer. It is reportedly based on the Ford Transit connect, smaller in size than the 2019 fourth generation Ranger. The 4×4 will be produced in Mexico and available for North and South America.
Classic Ford Maverick: Triumph of a Generation
Some muscle car fans might ridicule the Maverick for its low horsepower and lack of performance focus, aside from the ‘71 Grabber perhaps, saying it isn’t in the same league.
Although not intending to be a muscle car, the classic Ford Maverick had an edgy, nonconformist personality that reignited American muscle car enthusiasm in just four years, outshining its muscle counterpart. Without its existence, the Mustang would have failed on its own.
The Maverick car defied expectations of what a small, compact vehicle could offer. It looked like a race car whilst overcoming ‘70s adversity in a way its competitors could not. With the right combination of options, the Maverick delivered tremendous value.
A rare car, it is not often found for sale in the UK.
Popular with hot-rodders and race car drivers, perhaps it is time the classic Ford Maverick earned new-found respect.
Author: Charlotte Iggulden
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