1971 FORD Maverick GrabberView vehicle description
You’re looking at one of the most successful Ford models of all time, yet somehow the Maverick remains almost unknown on this side of the Atlantic.
Ford sold 579,000 of them in their first year, almost touching the Mustang’s record debut-year sales of 619,000, and more than doubling the total for Mustang sales in 1970. And it’s important to mention the Mustang because both cars share a common ancestor – the Ford Falcon.
The 1964 Mustang was based on the unit-body Ford Falcon introduced back in 1960, or more specifically on the Falcon Sprint of 1963. The Maverick was developed later in the 1960s as a sub-compact rival to some of the European and Japanese imports that were starting to give Detroit a headache, but also to fight the Chevrolet Nova and Dodge Dart from GM and Chrysler.
It was basically the same trick over again – take the well-proven Falcon platform, lop a bit out of the wheelbase (which is five inches shorter than the Mustang) and repurpose the old Falcon running gear and driveline options under some fresh new styling. This time, however, the car wasn’t inventing a new sector like the Mustang, but phasing out the Falcon as Ford’s entry-level, mass-market moneymaker from 1969.
That meant ‘Thriftpower’ six-cylinder engines and low prices – barely $2000 for the base model. Ford also offered a trim package called the Grabber for 1970, with little more than stripes and a blacked-out grille to start with. But then in 1971 a V8 engine joined the range and the Grabber became a separate model, albeit no threat to a Boss Mustang – which was just as Ford intended.
Despite this, the V8-powered Maverick always went well because it was one of the lightest American cars of its day at less than 1250kg. That, plus the many shared components with the Falcon and Mustang, makes them easy to upgrade or indeed to turn into competitive racing cars. Speaking of which…
This Maverick was converted for racing use before our vendor bought it six years ago, but he’s been able to fill us in on a little of the history. Apparently the car took part in a couple of events with the Classic Touring Car Racing Club but was then sold on minus its engine, gearbox and differential. The new owner, an engineer, got it going again with a 289 cu-in V8 in a hot but not ‘full race’ state of tune, plus a Ford Toploader gearbox and a standard differential.
He then took a job in Australia and was obliged to sell the car to our vendor, a keen racer and a man with plenty of other cars to distract him. Nonetheless, our vendor spent considerable sums on a new limited-slip differential, a gearbox rebuild, safety equipment, tyres, mechanical improvements to brakes, tidying of bodywork and paint, plus much else.
However, with his existing racing commitments the one thing he didn’t get round to was actually competing in the car. It’s been kept road legal and he’s done all of 100 miles or so in the years he’s owned it, but feels it needs someone to use it properly rather than allow it to continue as a garage queen.
It’s an interesting proposition: you could use it immediately as the most thrilling road-legal track-day car, even though it’s pretty fierce for extended road use. Better still, go racing.
It’s been dyno’d at 312bhp which means there’s room for further tuning of the V8 if you really wanted to race at the front, and the vendor feels it could do with a proper suspension set-up to tweak the handling for competition. But it’s lighter than a comparable Mustang or Camaro, and with good brakes (discs all round), a high-ratio steering box, an anti-dive suspension kit and a heavy-duty rear anti-roll bar, it could be made extremely competitive. And you’ll be the only one out there in a Maverick!
On the Outside
It presents very well in Ford Diamond White with the blue Daytona stripes. The bumpers are painted in a glossy silver metallic rather than chromed but the car retains much of its other brightwork in good condition. The bonnet is secured with wired-on pins and the pull-toggles for the extinguisher and battery cut-off emerging as they should from the scuttle on the offside.
All the panels are steel, so if you fancied further weight saving you could source GRP wings, doors, bonnet and boot from the USA, where Mavericks have been popular as the basis for drag cars. There are no dings, dents or signs of rust and the panel gaps are contours are probably sharper than they were from the factory.
The satin-black rear panel and spoiler look good together and suit the unusual black split-rim wheels, which are currently shod in Toyo Proxes R888 tyres in 225/50 15 – these are not recommended for extended road use, especially in wet weather, but provide grip levels on dry tracks not far off that of slicks.
The glass is undamaged (the screen was replaced in recent years) and all lamps and lenses are equally unharmed. It wears the original Maverick-type door mirrors on each side. No track use since the re-paint and recent expenditure means no battle scars, and while the overall impression is not of a concours car, it’s pretty damn good for a racer.
On the Inside
The interior is fully stripped for competition. The OMP race seat is in date to the end of this season but the harness will need renewing before you geT past a scrutineer – not a big expense. The old two-dial dash has been replaced with a more comprehensive set of instruments: coolant temperature, voltmeter, oil temperature, oil pressure and in the middle, the all-important rev counter. This one has a shift light built in.
Up above, a switch panel mounted on a roll-bar tube next to the large rear-view mirror controls ignition and starter, plus many other functions including the electric fan and windscreen wipers. The original pedals have been replaced with a proper adjustable floor-hinged pedalbox; brake and accelerator nicely adjacent for heel-and-toe downchanges. The steering column is braced by a rose-type joint attached to a strut emerging from under the dash, while the wheel is a deep-dish item with a grippy suede covering and yellow ‘straight ahead’ band. It is, of course, left-hand drive!
The cage is described to us as a ‘fully-welded roll cage to FIA specification’ and features door bracing bars, two overhead hoops across the car and triangulated rear fixings to welded-on mounts in the rear quarters, plus extra cross-bracing behind the driver’s seat. The extinguisher is fixed to the floor where the front passenger seat would have been and the toggle pulls to activate it and to cut out the battery are in easy reach of the driver’s right hand.
So is the majestic gearstick for the four-speed transmission, topped by something akin to a mahogany snooker ball. Behind and to the right of the driver’s seat is the battery, mounted to the floor and protected by a cover.
Lifting the boot (sorry, trunk lid!) reveals a large race-spec rubber fuel cell, a Holley electric pump and some very sturdy send-and-return braided fuel lines and anodised fittings. There is also a re-sited washer bottle with an in-built pump. The trunk lid is held in place with pin-locks.
It starts easily, with none of the stroppy behaviour you tend to associate with race cars. The wide exhausts and high state of tune make for a raucous noise, which gets the blood pumping. The vendor says it feel much nicer when it’s warmed through, so leaves the cooling fans off until it’s up to temperature, at which point they need to be activated to stop it getting hot and bothered. If you’re moving, though, the radiator does its job.
We haven’t road-tested the car but rest assured its road behaviour is much more suited to track driving…don’t expect to enjoy a comfy dawdle through town traffic to visit the supermarket!
The engine bay is functional and purposeful, with lots of race-car touches like the tiny spring used to keep the dipstick from working loose, the braided hoses to and from the oil cooler or the doubled-up throttle return springs. The large Holley four-barrel carb sits on a Weiand manifold and the sparks are controlled by an electronic ignition unit in the distributor. Three-inch collectors (that’s downpipes, to us Brits) meet three inch stainless pipe that head to a single silencer each side, which then goes to an exit that turns 180 degrees and leads forward for those rowdy side-pipes.
Peering under the car reveals reassuring, dry-looking surfaces protected with paint or underseal, almost all of which is intact, though we noticed a bit of it peeling away near the front spring hangers for the rear axle’s leaf springs. Otherwise, it looks sound and smart with no rot to worry about.
There are quite a few bills dating back as far as 2012, though the bulk of them are from the current ownership. There are detailed invoices from the vendor’s favoured specialist in Dorset, covering mechanical fettling and bodywork repairs to take care of minor rust problems, followed by a paint job.
There are also dyno readouts supporting the power and torque claims (both of them peaking on the good side of 300), a couple of older MoTs and instruction sheets for Comp Cams products, including their ‘High Energy & Hi Tech’ hydraulic lifters, which gives us a clue to the engine spec, though a detailed build sheet doesn’t feature in the file.
The V5C is in the vendor’s name and shows us that the car has been in the UK since 1989. The colour and engine size are recorded correctly. There are quite a few other receipts for minor mechanical and cosmetic bits and one or two much weightier ones from the Mustang Depot for the new differential.
The vendor admits to being a little careless at keeping every bill and has spent more than is recorded here, but it adds up to a picture of consistent expenditure as the car has been improved over the years.
What We Think
What do you compare with this unusual machine? It’ll cost someone around half the figure you’d spend on a competitive Mustang or Falcon Sprint race car, and that’s after you’ve invested a bit more in the engine and set-up. And yet it has the potential, with its low weight and more compact dimensions, to out-do either of them on track.
We think this intriguing, track-ready V8 will sell for between £25,000 and £30,000, at which price you’ll struggle to find any other historic racing car with a proper American V8.
The Maverick arrived in 1969 so pre-’66 Appendix K events are out, but we suggest you Google the kind of grids attracted by the Classic Touring Car Racing Club’s Boss Blue Oval Saloon series, Bernie’s Sports Racing and V8s, the Classic Sports Car Club’s Swinging Sixties or Future Classics, amongst others. Noise, tyre smoke, close racing and fabulous cars, and at Britain’s best circuits too. It’s a heady prospect!
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