CC Capsule: 1988-94 Ford Maverick – Ford Goes On Patrol

“Maverick” must surely be one of the most reused car names in history. Interestingly, what was once the name for Ford’s second-smallest passenger car in the North American market ended up being used on three different SUVs.

The featured Maverick is the only one Australia received. It’s a rebadged Y60-series Nissan Patrol, Nissan’s tough off-roader and chief rival to the Toyota LandCruiser. Later, Europeans were able to buy the smaller Nissan Terrano/Mistral with Ford Maverick badging, before the name was dusted off again a couple of years later for the European-market Ford Escape crossover.

Well, it was a good name, so why not use it again and again? Maybe it’s the fact I grew up with Maverick SUVs that I find the name so much better-suited to rugged off-roaders.

Like many transparent rebadge jobs, the Aussie Ford Maverick was conceived during the implementation of the Button Plan. This was the popular name for a government plan to consolidate the number of vehicles produced in Australia and strengthen the competitiveness of those products so tariffs could be reduced for imports. The Maverick was an outlier as, unlike many of the rebadged vehicles offered as a result of the plan, both it and the Patrol weren’t manufactured in Australia.

Visual changes from the Patrol were limited to badging. It was clearly a Patrol but most Maverick buyers didn’t care: the Patrol had a good reputation for reliability and durability and Ford dealerships were more commonplace in rural areas and more willing to offer fleet deals.

The Maverick replaced the locally-assembled Bronco in Ford showrooms and was later joined by the Raider. Speaking of reused names, how is it that “Raider” became so popular with rebadged trucks? The Aussie Raider was an SUV adaptation of the Mazda B-Series pickup, which meant Ford was selling both rebadged Mazdas and Nissans at the same time.

Nissan graciously afforded Ford a whole range of Patrols to sell as Mavericks: wagons with two or four doors, as well as a two-door ute and a two-door cab chassis derivative. Mavericks were sold in base, XL and XLT trims, with a choice of two engines: a 4.2 SOHC inline six with 167 hp and 239 ft-lbs, mated to a 5-speed manual or optional 4-speed automatic, and a 4.2 SOHC inline six diesel with a 5-speed manual and 113 hp and 194 ft-lbs. All that was missing was a luxury model like the flagship Patrol Ti, which came with leather seats and woodgrain trim.

This series of Patrol was given the series code ‘GQ’ down under, but this off-roader is as far-removed as the identically-named men’s fashion magazine as possible. For starters, while an issue of GQ typically has an immaculately groomed man in a tailored suit on its cover, the GQ Patrol and Maverick were some of the butchest, most rugged-looking 4WDs on the market, replete with flared wheel arches and a no-nonsense fascia. A LandCruiser looks like a handsome male model in comparison, while the Patrol/Maverick is a grizzled bushman with sunburned skin and a drover hat.

These trucks weren’t all hat and no cattle, either. Built on a separate chassis, the Patrol and Maverick used a three-link, coil sprung live axle suspension up front and a five-link, coil sprung set up out back. The ute models initially used leaf springs at the rear, as well as rear drum brakes; wagon variants were often equipped with disc brakes front and rear. Power was delivered to the wheels through a two-speed transfer box.

Eminently capable off-road, the Patrol and Maverick weren’t as good on it. Of course, that didn’t stop a lot of suburban families from choosing these (or the Holden Jackaroo, Toyota LandCruiser and Mitsubishi Pajero) as their family rides. All of these trucks could be equipped with seven seats, making them suitable for the school run. For adventuresome families, trucks like the Maverick and Patrol made sense: they could be driven along the beach on Fraser Island, they could tow the family boat, and they could take the kids to footy or cricket practice. And for people out in the bush that needed an off-roader for work, the Patrol and Maverick were excellent choices—outback Australia is powered by Japanese 4WDs.

While the “SUV” term has belatedly become popular here in Australia, it feels almost sacrilegious to apply it to these trucks. They’re 4WDs, off-roaders, 4x4s, tough bloody mudders. The Maverick was retired in 1994 and, after a few years, the Explorer was introduced to fill the big box-shaped hole in the Ford lineup. Nowhere near as capable off-road, nor as well-built, the Explorer never really engendered the same respect as the Maverick.

Of all the rebadged vehicles that appeared in Australia in the 1980s and 1990s, the Maverick was one of the most memorable. It filled a void in Ford’s lineup. The Blue Oval was on the winning end of this model-sharing arrangement.

Related Reading:

Curbside Classic: 1988 Toyota Land Cruiser – Keeping The Faith

Nissan Patrol Pickup – History In The Dealership

CC Capsule: 1989 Mitsubishi Montero V6 – Rare Raider

Curbside Classic: 1992 Isuzu Trooper – Really Really Big Horn