Friday, September 12, 2014

Fords idea of a VW Beetle killer

Out in the Bushwick area I almost passed by this little storm cloud hunched beneath a sidewalk tree. Some cars are brash, and some are intimidating, while others seem to be crouched in shame like a dog so small that it seems nervous all the time on its shaky legs. I present to you the Ford Maverick:
When this car was introduced in 1970 it was meant to do battle with the foreign compacts of the day, especially the Beetle. Fortunately for Ford the ensuing gas crisis found them with a fully developed small car to sell (automakers with less foresight like Chrysler were left on the ropes reeling thorugh the decade with only huge yachts on offer). Little changed between '70 and '77 except for the large bumpers and emissions equipment.
 Now as far as style goes I've always like the Maverick. In its day you could've ordered a 2-door special edition called the Grabber with a pseudo-muscle car graphics package and a V8 motor. Or you could order the picture of dowdiness; a 4-door sedan with the ancient straight-6 cylinder engine and a vinyl roof. Even the hubcaps on this little family car are as plain as day (the same plain caps were used on the huge LTD and Galaxie of the era too).
The Maverick somehow manages to look like a big car in the 4-door version. The dimensions are a little odd as the entire front half of the car looks longer than the back; the front door is much larger than the rear, and the trunk is nothing compared to the hood. To have a solid foot of space between the front of the front door and the front wheel well while being so cramped in the rear that the back door is shaped to accommodate the rear wheel well makes the 4-door seem like an afterthought. If you compare this to the 4-door Darts and Valiants of the day you'll see how odd this car is.
Here and there we can see the original paint peeking through the black Krylon like light coming through windows that were once painted black. There was a color by the name of Light Aqua which could be it. Those big safety-mandated bumpers represent the lowest form of legal compliance; instead of redesigning the car to withstand a 5mph crash they just grew the bumpers to enormous size. The gas cap looks convenient in its placement, but if you were to open the trunk you'd see the filler hose going down at an angle, cutting into your storage space.
Ford made its name as a value brand for the people, and this car continues that ethos. Plain as day, economical, and thrifty to build. For example, those taillights could be found on the Pinto just like they are here, and on the Econoline van standing upright. Reusing hubcaps and taillights for different models doesn't sound like much but it resulted in massive savings for the company.
We can see from the chrome band that starts at the bottom of the rear window and snakes up over the doors that this car once had a vinyl roof. It may still to tell you the truth (I can't tell from the pics and forgot to check), but if it does it received the same flat black spray can treatment as the rest of the car.
Well here she is one last time, using the tree to hide again like someone overly dressed-up doing the Sunday morning walk of shame.
I do enjoy these cars as they continue to age well over the years. The proportions are almost identical to the larger full-size sedans Ford was building at the time, just on a smaller scale. If you found one in decent shape such as this example you could have a fun cruiser/beater on your hands with a wealth of available parts and zero complicated electronics to deal with. Still, this one needs some confidence!

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