Many car models have a short production run; many of these are profitable cars but are only made for short period of time to fit the needs of a particular customer segment. Some of these types of cars merely replace another car with a different name made by the same automaker. It’s a move by an automaker to start with a fresh slate, to throw away what it perceives the public views as stale bread and replace it with a new model name that has no negative connotations or automotive history. One such car was the Ford Maverick a car that made a big splash for the 1970 model year and only lasted eight model years. The Maverick was a replacement for the Ford Falcon – a compact car that was a sales success when it was first released for the 1960 model year but by the late-1960s had diminished appeal with buyers – becoming stale bread. The Falcon’s last year would be 1970 when the “Falcon” name moved to the mid-sized 1970 ½ Fairlane. Ironically the “Falcon” name would become an icon in Australian where it has been used on an Australian built full-size Ford platform since 1960 and remains so to this day.
The 1970 Maverick was not the typical run-of-the-mill compact car of its era. For back in 1970 a compact car was a small efficient car – what would later be called an economy car. Most compact cars back then were boxy and unattractive, for instance one of the Maverick’s main competitors was the Chevrolet Nova, a compact car which had built a reputation as a reliable and inexpensive mode of transportation however its boxy styling left something to be desired. This is where the Maverick was something different, it was a stylish car. Ford had hit a home run with the 1964 ½ Mustang which was very sporty car built on the Ford Falcon platform. However the Mustang was marketed as a sporty car that the masses could afford. With the 1970 Maverick it was marketed the same way the Falcon was – as inexpensive reliable transportation. However Ford gave the Maverick plenty of sporty curves and fastback styling that ensured that plenty of buyers would chose the Maverick over the boxier competition. The long hood and short decklid styling made the Maverick so appealing. The front-end was also modern with twin headlights – it was a minimalist approach that worked – same could be said about the rear end design which had a basic taillight design. At the end of the decklid the sheet metal curved in such a fashion to give the impression of a small built-on spoiler – another very sporty touch.
The 1970 Maverick was a very successful car with an amazing 578,914 units produced for that model year which was a little more than double of the total production of Ford’s popular 1970 Mustang. The figures for the 1970 Maverick are especially impressive when you consider the Maverick only came in a two-door body style. The 4-door Maverick would not be available until the 1971 model year. There’s no doubt that the very affordable $1,995 base price of the Maverick was a contributing factor in its very impressive sales figures. Also helping to boost sales for the 1970 model year, the Maverick did have the advantage of a longer than normal model year since it was released a few months early in April of 1969.
As successful as the 1970 Maverick was, there was one area where Ford had missed the mark. It was something that any sporty car of this era had, something even most stogy compact cars had during this era that was missing – a V8 engine option. Yes that’s right, there was not a V8 option for the 1970 Maverick, not even a small-block V8 with a 2-bbl carburetor. It was not just the sporty lines on the Maverick that were screaming for some performance under the hood, the 103 inch wheelbase and 2501-lb curb weight were just begging for a high-performance V8 engine under the hood. Ford did not even need to put a big-block V8 under the hood to make the Maverick a real tire screamer. The 1970 M-code small-block 351 (CID) Cleveland V8 taken right out of the Mustang option list would have given the Maverick 300 horsepower. If Ford had been this insightful a 351 Cleveland powered V8 may have given the heavier 1970 Chevrolet Nova SS 396 (CID V8) a run for its money. Motor Trend on its test of the 1970 Maverick made mention that if Ford put a 351 V8 under the hood only 100 extra pounds to the Maverick’s curb weight would be added. Unfortunately this was never meant to be. Instead Maverick buyers had a standard 170 CID straight-six with 105 gross horsepower. For those who wanted a slight (and I mean really slight) increase of excitement under the hood there was an optional 200 CID straight-six that produced 120 horsepower. The good news was both engines had a low 8.7:1 compression ratio which meant the Maverick was already ready for the mandatory low octane unleaded fuel which arrived a few years later in 1972. Both engines also came equipped with a 1-bbl carburetor. However it was not as bad as it sounds, the 120 horsepower straight-six equipped Maverick could be considered peppy due to its light weight, it was capable of a 0-60 mph times in the high-10 second range and a 1/4 mile in just a tick under 18 seconds.
For the 1971 model year Ford corrected its mistake and offered on the Maverick option list a 200 horsepower small-block 302 CID V8 equipped with a 2-bbl carburetor. The 2-bbl 302 V8 would see a horsepower drop shortly thereafter but it would continue to be offered as a Maverick option for the rest of the Maverick’s lifespan.
Unfortunately transmission choices were also as bland as the engine choices with no 4-speed manual transmission being offered. A Ford C4 3-speed automatic transmission was available on both straight-six motors; it could be had with a shifter on the column or on the floor. A semi-auto 3-speed was available for only the base straight-six while the column-mounted fully synchronized manual transmission was available on both motors. The standard rear axle ratio was 2.83 with a 3.08 ratio being optional. If air conditioning was ordered the 3.08 was mandatory.
The Maverick’s handling for its time was not bad, in fact in comparison to cushy suspension equipped land barges of this era the Maverick could be considered nimble. Since it was a very light car the manual 4-wheel drum brakes were ample to stop the Maverick. Unfortunately it would be a few years before front disc brakes would be on the Maverick option list. 13 inch wheels/tires were standard with 14 inch wheels/tires being optional.
Ford may not have had a performance contender with the Maverick but it did have a Maverick that looked the part. It was called the Maverick Grabber – what it was grabbing or the significance of the name remains to be seen – however the “Grabber” trim package made the lowly Maverick look as mean as a 1969-1970 Boss 302 or 429 Mustang. The package consisted of blackout trim pieces (which included a blackout front grille and one very cool blackout rear taillight panel), a set of black stripes on the hood and the sides of the vehicle, a black interior, and a nifty rear spoiler. Dual sport mirrors, 14 inch wheels, and the 200 CID straight-six were all standard on the Grabber. The Grabber was a mid-model year option and was a very reasonable priced at only $194.
There were not many options on the Maverick as you would expect of a car marketed to those on a tight budget however the Maverick for a smaller car never had a cheap look or feel to it. The interior was modern for its day and seating was also comfortable. Even with the short 103 inch wheel base the rear seat was useable even by adults and for a 2-door car it was not that difficult to get back there. Unlike most economy cars today, bigger and taller people struggle to fit into them, not with the Maverick. It was a comfy and roomy small car – in fact sitting behind the wheel with its vast amounts of headroom and shoulder room will make you wish these smaller roomy cars still existed today.
In recent years the 1970-1977 Maverick and its Mercury twin the Comet have taken on a sort of cult like status among a select group of car fanatics. Some have even modified their Mavericks and Comets with front disc brakes, high-performance V8s, larger wheel/tire upgrades, and suspension upgrades while still keeping the basic essence of the car untouched. It makes perfect sense since the Maverick is so light, can easily be modified, and is fairly inexpensive to purchase. With all that being said if Ford had put some real muscle under the hood of this attractive car back-in-the-day, the Maverick may have even overshadowed the brawniest of the Mustangs of this era.
However Ford had its eye on the prize with the Maverick – the prize in this case was phenomenal sales figures. The Maverick was certainly ahead of its time, offering reliability and great gas mileage in an attractively styled car. The 1970 Maverick is the same today as it was during the year the first Woodstock concert occurred – a cheap reliable economy car for the masses. It’s still not hard to find a good conditioned inexpensive 1970 Maverick; in fact with the way it sips gas it’s not a bad idea to snatch one up with the current high gas prices. With Maverick replacement parts being inexpensive and with no onboard computer, anti-lock brakes, airbags, or any of the other complicated rubbish found on today’s new cars this is a car that the average Joe can maintain. Ford in one of its 1970 Maverick advertisements proclaimed – “it’s simpIe, simple to drive, simple to park, simple to service, simple to repair, simple to own, Ford Maverick the simple machine.” The only way that Ford could have said it better was if it would have said – “KISS” or “Keep It Simple, Stupid” – that sums up the Maverick philosophy perfectly.
Written contents in this article – © 2011 Pete Dunton – All Rights Reserved