Curbside Classic: 1973 Ford Maverick Grabber – Canned Rebellion

I am the proud owner of a Ford Maverick, as I had recently written about in an essay I had posted on the First of this month.  It is resplendent in red with black stripes, similar to today’s featured car.  It is also only about eight inches long from stem-to-stern, and it sits on a shelf on the wall unit in my living room.  It had been particularly fun to schedule an April’s Fool’s Day post using pictures I had taken almost a decade ago… and then a funny thing happened.

Many of us – among both the contributing writers and readers, alike – have written about the phenomenon of what we have collectively labeled the “CC Effect”, whereby a real-life sighting of another example of a rare or noteworthy vehicle has occurred after an article about one has run here at Curbside Classic.  I had finished the final edit of my earlier Maverick piece and had ventured out on the same Saturday afternoon, when this example of basically the same car (albeit slightly worse for wear) materialized.

Seeing this citrus orange Maverick coupe seemed so serendipitous at the time that I contemplated scrapping my original article and spending part of my Sunday afternoon writing about this one.  My better judgement prevailed, however, and weekends always seem so short – especially the warmer the outside weather gets.  I decided there was enough ink in my pen to write about two Mavericks, so please indulge me.

The model name “Maverick” has always resonated positively with me.  I had associated it with daring and controversy long before Madonna’s Maverick Records imprint appeared at Warner Brothers when I was a young adult.  I think it was a miniature stroke of genius at Ford to choose a name for its new, youth-oriented compact that seemed to connote rebellion, a free-spirit, and counterculture – especially in light of everything I’ve read about the national unease that was setting in after the tumultuous mid-/late-1960s.

To be clear, I praise those mavericks who raised a ruckus in that decade who, either directly or indirectly, laid the foundations for many freedoms I enjoy today.  Just the year before my interracially-married parents had tied the knot, the ban on such a union had been legally repealed in the state in which they were married.  (This probably wouldn’t have stopped them, as they were both mavericks in love.)  Also, on the 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall Riots, it’s not wasted on me that my life today would be very different if it wasn’t also for the brave GLBTQ men and women who, decades ago, had refused to settle for second- (or third-) tier citizenship, often at great, personal cost.

Getting back to the car and its name, Merriam-Webster defines a maverick (n.) as: 1.) an unbranded range animal, especially a motherless calf; or 2.) an independent individual who does not go along with a group or party.  Ka-pow.  I love both of these definitions, as I have invested much in creating my own brand and have enjoyed being able to try on different hats.  I also tend to question a lot of things and dance to my own drummer’s beat.  Immediate points from me for Ford Marketing.

I’ve often felt that a car bearing this name should have seemed wild, untamed, iconoclastic, and like a bad boy / bad girl.  Perhaps this is why I could never quite connect the dots between the actual Ford Maverick and what it was called.  Something about even the sportiest model, the Grabber fastback coupe, seemed to fall short of the promise of its model name.  It always seemed like sort of a half-assed badass.

I was also never really crazy about the “Grabber” sub-moniker (what, exactly, was it grabbing?), and felt that “Maverick” sounded wicked enough without any modifiers.  Equipped with a 302-cubic inch V8 with around 140 hp (net), the 2,800-pound ’73 Grabber was no barn-burner, but with decent performance, capable of going from zero-to-sixty in around ten seconds when equipped with the three-speed automatic.

The early Maverick coupe surely did look fine, though, especially in profile, where a visual kinship with the ’70 Torino SportsRoof and ’71 Mustang SportsRoof fastbacks was evident.  The Maverick definitely looked like the rebel (before those big, chrome railroad-tie bumpers were applied, fore and aft).  In reality, though, the Maverick Grabber was more like your previously Ford Falcon-like, unassuming algebra teacher who had gotten a few tattoos and started wearing a black leather biker jacket to class.  Well, maybe that’s a little extreme, but you probably get the picture.  I do also lament that the Grabber’s nifty, subtle decklid lip spoiler setup disappeared after ’73.

“Transporta” – A composite image used in a recent art show in which I was a participant, recycled here for your viewing pleasure.


I feel like a car called a “Maverick” should have had so much attitude.  Instead of truly being “street”, the Grabber seemed to speak in butchered, inauthentic slang which convinced no one of its street cred.  Our featured car, however, has attitude for days.  I cannot positively identify its model year by any external visual cues outside of the small rear bumper, but the front grille looks like it was sourced from a ’76 or ’77 model.  I suppose I settled on “’73” perhaps to split the difference between first-year 1970 and the end of the line.

This bruiser looks like it has gotten into a few “fistfights”, but it has clearly won most of its battles as evidenced by its mere presence in 2019.  There’s something to be said for character scars earned as a result of resistance.  And resist is what a true maverick does, after all.

Pilsen, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, March 23, 2019.