US Federal Safety Standard FMVSS-215 went into effect on September 1, 1972 (a Friday, in case you were curious). This standard mandated that all vehicles be able to take an impact from a 5 mph crash barrier on the front (2.5 mph on the rear) without sustaining any damage to safety, lighting, or fuel system components. In 1974, this standard was further amended to raise the rear impact requirement to 5 mph. So began the era of 5 mph bumpers.
While a few cars ended up having graceful and well-integrated 5 mph bumpers (the Corvette, for example), most just got battering rams attached to the front and rear, as in the case with our featured Maverick.
In order to provide enough room to absorb the 5 mph impact while still protecting the rest of the car, the bumper had to be mounted well ahead of everything else. A filler panel of either plastic or metal was needed to finish off what would otherwise be an empty opening.
Compare this 1972 Maverick. The bumper is almost even with the leading edge of the hood. The grille has to slope down and away from the hood in order to reveal the top of the bumper.
By 1974, this sloping grille is no longer needed to expose the bumper, and in fact, only serves to accentuate the protuberance of the 5mph bumper. This is why, as the ‘70s went on, most cars ended up with either blunt or upward sloping front ends. The downward sloping grill (which also had the unfortunate effect of scooping pedestrians under the car during impact) is a look that is seldom seen anymore in modern cars.
To visualize this, compare the upward sloping grille of the 1977 Pinto (above left) to the downward sloping one of the 1976 Pinto (above right) to see how changing the direction of the grille slope dramatically improves the situation. In the ’77 Pinto, the protrusion and filler panel is still there, but much better integrated and hidden by the grille and lamp assemblies. Alas, the Maverick would not live past the 1977 model year, and would never get a refreshed front end like the Pinto did.
The sloping, v-shaped grille on these Mavericks always gave the turn signals the appearance of being crooked and cross-eyed when viewed up close. Again, the Pinto handled this better, with the turn signal reflector being set flush into the grill (see the 1976 Pinto picture above again). Interesting how the Pinto handled these little styling details better. Of course, it doesn’t help that the grille on this Maverick is not quite straight, with multiple zip ties assisting in retaining the grille in place.
The rear end doesn’t fare much better, but at least the massive bumper helps to draw attention away from the fact that the Maverick uses the same taillights as the Pinto.