Curbside Classic: 1970 Ford Maverick – The Car To Send Your Kid Off To College In, 1969 Or 2015

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(first posted 6/17/2015)    The Maverick was the the perfect car to send a college student off with in 1969 or 1970. Instead of that Mach 1 Mustang junior was salivating over, he got a car that was terminally slow, with steering that was even slower, and that managed to handle about as nimbly as its big brother LTD. Never mind the brakes, as they were rarely taxed. Quite a feat, actually. But Ford had its pulse on Middle America, and knew there was a growing appetite for something smaller even with folks that wouldn’t touch a VW, Opel Kadett or Toyota Corolla. And Daddy wouldn’t have to worry so much.

And now, forty-five years later, it’s back, in the hands of a U of O student. This example most likely never went to off to school in 1970, given the great shape it’s still in. More likely an elderly aunt bought it and after she stopped driving, it sat for some decades in her garage. But here it is, and this time, it’s a whole lot cooler than the first time around. 

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It’s not surprising that this is a 1970, as no less than 579k were sold during its extended 1970 MY, which started on April 17, 1969. That date was exactly five years after the Mustang’s introduction, and the Maverick came close to matching the Mustang’s huge first year success. The difference was that while the Mustang had a nice long run before its sales gradually slid down back to earth, the Maverick’s sales dropped by a huge amount in 1971. But that was in large part due to the arrival of the Pinto. Which of course became the domestic car of choice for sending one’s kid off to college in 1971. I ended up spending a fair bit of time behind the wheel of a ’71 Pinto that came to the U of Iowa that way.

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This is an exceptionally well preserved Maverick; the seats look positively pristine in their original black fabric and vinyl. The owner told me that it has 90k miles on the odometer. He also told me about its history in the family, but the details are bit fuzzy. But his dad really did send him off to school in this Maverick.

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Needless to say, in order for Ford to advertise a base Maverick for $1995 in 1969 ($12,700 adjusted), a lot of short cuts had to be made, including the lack of a glove box, and lots of hard plastic.

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The Maverick used a lot of the 1960 Falcon’s underpinnings, but it had an even shorter wheelbase. That, combined with the sloping fastback roof, made the rear seat very popular with fraternities, as it made a perfect hazing chamber. Make four blindfolded pledges sit back there and take them for a ride on a winding road, and they were bound to be very sick, no matter what they had been forced to ingest.

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Of course just driving this Maverick was a perpetual rite of self-flagellation when the 105 (gross) hp 170 CI six was teamed up with the automatic.

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The only thing worse would have been the semi-automatic transmission, which was was basically a C4 automatic minus its valve body; meaning it had to be shifted manually. Fortunately, that option was ticked of by very few Daddies, unless they were really mean. Can you imagine explaining that to your frat brothers?

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The owner confirmed that it was mighty slow. But he’s got a nice daddy, as the two of them had plans to swap in a 302 V8 over the summer. Aw shucks; don’t do that. Do you know how incredibly few unmolested original Mavericks there are left in the world? And how I’ll miss that distinctive nasal exhaust of a feeble Falcon six leaning against a torque converter; like a kid making a farting sound with his mouth through a straw. And that exhaust is about straw-sized.

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Well, I guess it’s inevitable. And worse things have happened than having a 302 at one’s beck and call in a lightweight (2400 lbs) Maverick. I remember the time I dropped the hammer in the first V8 Maverick that showed up at Towson Ford; it was very happy to make quite long black lines of rubber with its skinny little 6.95 x 14 bias ply rubber. Yes, the V8 got an upgrade from the 13 inchers that the sixes came with. But they were mighty skinny. This one has been treated to some modern wheels and wider tires.

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I my come off a bit harsh, but finding this Maverick by the campus and meeting its enthusiastic owner made my day. Who would have imagined in 1970 that a Maverick would still be taking someone’s kid off to college in 2015? Not me.


If you want an even more caustic look at the Maverick, here’s my full-on CC: Maverick -The Simple(ton) Machine