Forgotten American Muscle: Ford Maverick

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For when a Mustang was over budget.

We know what you’re thinking, and it probably goes something like this: "The Ford Maverick? Seriously CarBuzz? Are you guys still drunk from stuffing yourselves full of Thanksgiving turkey yesterday?" Fair enough, but the Ford Maverick, when properly equipped, was pretty kick ass. But, as always, a bit of background info for you: The Mustang, as just about everyone knows, was a smash hit for Ford when it hit the market in the middle of 1964. You can thank Ford’s Lee Iacocca for making it happen.

The car checked all the right boxes (good looks, affordable, etc) and, when powered by a V8, was a serious performance machine. The Mustang literally kicked off the era of the pony car and thus the muscle car.

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But remember, the Mustang was based on the same platform as the larger Falcon, and Ford was now curious to see what else could be done with existing cars/platforms. Was there another unknown sales hit just waiting to be discovered? Enter the Maverick. Now, Ford never really intended for the Maverick to be a performance car, let alone a muscle car. The year was 1969 and Ford wanted to have something to compete against import cars, such as the Volkswagen Beetle and the many offerings coming out of Japan. The Maverick would also have an affordable base price.

Ford wasn’t the only one of the Big Three Detroit automakers to recognize the potential import economy car threat; there was also the Chevrolet Nova and Dodge Dart. But like Chevy and Dodge, Ford figured the Maverick also had some untapped potential. After all, customers at the time were anxious for performance, so why not offer something that’d be both relatively cheap and powerful. The Maverick hit the market in ’69 as a 1970 model. Base price: $1,995. Perhaps it’s best to think of it as an ancestor to today’s Focus. It featured a long hood and fastback styling, but it also had something in common with the Mustang: the Ford Falcon. The Maverick shared the Falcon’s engines and running gear.

But sales of the Falcon were pretty bad by this point and it was discontinued only eight months after the Maverick’s arrival. The base engine was nothing special, just a 2.8-liter inline-six with around 170 hp. There was an optional 3.3-liter inline-six that was a bit more powerful but still not anywhere close to muscle car-like. The Maverick sold pretty well, too, with over half a million units sold in the first model year alone. But Ford rightly figured the Maverick had some untapped potential. You see, the Ford Pinto arrived in 1971 and it quickly became Ford’s subcompact market entry. So what to do with the Maverick? Add more power. Because it was the early 70s. Because no one gave much of a crap about emissions (yet).

In the middle of 1970, Ford revealed the Maverick Grabber trim pack. Not only did it offer some much appreciate exterior touches like special graphics and a rear spoiler, but also Ford’s tried-and-true two-barrel 302 V8. What’s more, the Maverick was fairly lightweight and rear-wheel-drive, making it a perfect fit for that V8. That combo quickly caught on with buyers seeking some affordable muscle, and Ford kicked back and enjoyed yet another re-packaged success. In 1971, the Maverick Grabber became its own model within the Maverick extended family, which also included a sedan. A new feature added that year was a "Dual Dome" hood and even more body detailing, meant to replicate the looks of other more serious muscle cars.

For not much dough, one could get a V8 Maverick Grabber with all of the trimmings, and even a blackened grille, hubcaps, 14-inch wheels, chromed-out window frames and drip moldings, and a deluxe steering wheel. Total output was around 210 horsepower. That’s really not all that much today (or even back then), but it was good enough then to get the Maverick Grabber from 0-60 mph in just over 9 seconds and a quarter-mile time of under 17 seconds. Fantastic numbers? No. Respectable. Yes. The Maverick Grabber carried on for the ’71 and ’72 model years relatively unchanged, with the exceptions of new seat choices and other interior options, exterior trim colors, and a "Battering Ram" front bumper for ’73, but the hood scoops were ditched.

Despite decent sales and regular model year trim updates, Ford ultimately dropped the Maverick Grabber in 1975. The regular Maverick continued on until 1977. All told, around 140,000 Maverick Grabbers were sold. However, not all were V8-powered; the Grabber package was also applied to inline-six versions, but they only looked the part of a muscle car. The V8 Maverick Grabber was definitely not on par with the likes of the Mustang, Camaro, and many others, but it was affordable muscle. It even suffered the same fate as other muscle cars when its own 302 V8 was detuned to 143 hp due to the effects of the oil crisis and other related factors. Despite its relatively short life, the V8 Maverick was a solid value for those who wanted some affordable fun.

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