Steve McQueen sat in San Francisco and smoked the rear tires on his green fastback Mustang, and that was it. Since the day Bullitt presented the world with the coolest car chase they’d ever seen (and probably before), the fastback, short-deck Mustang has always been the most sought after of body styles on Ford’s pony car. Today they win shows, they turn heads, and they break banks. Getting even a decent, rusty shell of a first-gen fastback Mustang has become prohibitively expensive. So what if you want a cool fastback Ford but don’t spend your nights swimming around in your giant vault of gold coins? Maybe you can take a step down- to the Maverick.
“Ah, but Andy,” those of you who actually remember the Maverick will say, “the Maverick is not a true muscle car.”
No, it was never meant to be a muscle car. In fact, the Maverick was introduced by Ford in 1970 to replace the Galaxie, which was too similarly powerful to the Mustang to sell. So the Maverick was underpowered with a set of straight-6s choked through tiny, wheezing carburetors. And things only got worse as the decade wore on and the new emissions standards dug their talons into the American market.
“Wait, is that a Maverick? Wow.”
Ford never wanted the Maverick to be particularly powerful. It was only supposed to be an import-fighter. Most of those imports showed up as puttering people’s cars, stock commuters. But a few came as Japanese sports cars. And they looked like mini-Mustangs.
We love those old faux-American Celicas and Skylines, but to get one in decent shape these days will ruin your life plans. Maybe Dearborn made the mini Mustang first with the Maverick. It had very similar profile lines, but was smaller and lighter. And today, you can buy one for a grand if you know how to repair rust.
“Sure, sure,” you say, “but it won’t be fast.”
And you’re right again. The ’74 Maverick with a 302 took a staggering 10.5 seconds to get to 60. The Maverick’s V8 option never even crested about 210 hp. Ford couldn’t have it outselling the Mustang, even before the g-men came in with their torturous carburetors.
But back up a moment. 302? This is just a fuel/air management problem? A proper carburetor, or better yet, a fuel injection system with a high-flow intake, maybe a little exhaust work, and that 302 would be capable of so much more. The same platform was kicking out well over 300 hp in Mustangs of the era.
There are other options, too, if you’re in for a little more work. Ford has bigger, more powerful V8s aplenty. Present Maverick enthusiasts have also made peace with the neighbors, wedging in the ever-popular 350 small block Chevy. And what of more modern mills? Ford’s own EcoBoost V6 is twin turbocharged and makes 380 hp in the F-150. Snug that into a 2600 lb Maverick and see what it does for you while you’re getting 30 mpg.
“Okay, but will it even look cool?” you worry.
The pictures of Maverick/Comet Forums member rafe158’s uber-clean example tend to speak for themselves, but it likely won’t look cool to start. By the end of the Maverick’s run, the government had added less-injury to insult with big, chunky bumpers, absolutely destroying its once-tidy lines. It was also the era of pretending you were a chauffeur, or at least pretending you had a convertible and were too cool to ever lower it, so everyone seemed to love those absurd Landau roofs, and Ford obliged them.
Ditch the Landau, ditch the bumpers. Unless you’re going to rally it, lower it substantially. Add a rear spoiler (which was actually an option on some Mavericks) and a chin spoiler. Get some decent wheels and perhaps a set of rear windshield louvers and you’ll be unforgettable.
Because let’s face it, as awesome as fastback Mustangs are, you’ve seen a million of them. How much cooler instead to make something to make people stop and wonder and say, “Wait, is that a Maverick? Wow.” And then you can tell them how little you spent on it and how well it performs.
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.