Curbside Classic: 1974 Ford Maverick Grabber – I Finally Grabbed The Bull By The Horns

Many of you familiar with my writing have probably read, on multiple occasions, how I’ve expressed a desire to buy a curbside classic of my own.  Sometimes, it has been sheer torture to read about those of you who enjoy taking your own prized cars and trucks out for a drive, doing both light maintenance and also big projects, and also telling the stories of how you came to own and become attached to your own rides.  I haven’t owned a car since 2003, having moved that year to Chicago, a city with a truly world-class public transportation system.  My neighborhood on the north side, Edgewater, while not the most congested on the planet, is still packed densely enough so that parking is either tricky (on the street) or expensive (for covered or designated spaces).

Finances also played a role in my heretofore car-less state.  With me having no spouse, partner or kids to be responsible for, one would think I’d be regularly doing the backstroke in a pile of cash on my living room floor but, alas, this is not the case.  I’ve tried to save a bunch for retirement at the behest of my older brother, so I live off a relatively small percentage of what I make.  And then there’s taxes.  Still, I had managed to squirrel away a bit of funds for the one big trip, project, or toy to keep myself entertained.  This is how this whole Maverick episode started.

I’ve read it recommended that for optimum sleep, all electronic devices (i.e. smartphones, tablets, etc.) should be turned off and stowed at least a half hour before lights out.  I have a few weaknesses, and my phone is one of them.  I’ve occasionally been that guy who was glued to his phone a good fifteen to thirty minutes after I was supposed to have been already sawing logs.  Just one more Facebook status update.  Just one more Flickr stats check.  Just one more Curbside Classic essay.  Just one more hit on the ol’ list of Craig.  Blessed / cursed Craigslist.

About two weeks ago, around the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day, I was scanning used and classic car listings on Craigslist, when I came across this ’74 Maverick Grabber.  Finished in an appealing red with black trim and interior, it was listed at a shockingly low price of $3,000 “OBO”.  Intrigued, I clicked on the listing to read more.  It belonged to a wealthy family in the affluent, northshore suburb of Winnetka.  They were relocating to the east coast and apparently were deciding which of their possessions to keep and which to leave behind.

As to why these wealthy people had a lowly Maverick in their garage next to their Porsche Cayenne and brand-new Lexus LS 500, the gentleman had owned and driven a Maverick Grabber just like this one when he was in undergraduate school.  While this Maverick isn’t that same car, he had formed a strong attachment to his own Maverick and had always pined for another one like it for sentimental reasons, as a symbol of his own rags-to-riches story.

He had found and purchased this one about ten years go from its original owner.  His wife was also on board with this, so this bright red Maverick soon found a new home in Winnetka, having been a southern car.  It’s got a three-speed automatic, so anyone in the household could drive it – but they rarely did, as this was the doctor’s baby.  It does have the 140-horse 302 V8 under the hood, so pickup isn’t terrible in this 2,800 pound, 45-year-old car.  When the doctor let me take it out for a test drive, we got onto North Sheridan Road when he said to me, “Just go ahead and punch it.  Go on.”  I’m super reluctant to put myself in a “you broke it, you bought it” position, which may be why my inherent, cautious nature plays into my relative success as an insurance underwriter.  Regardless, little “devil-Joe” on my left shoulder poked me with his pitchfork and I nailed the accelerator.

…And was immediately underwhelmed.  I mean, really.  I’ve always thought that the “Grabber” was something of a wasted opportunity for Ford, with performance that didn’t quite live up to this little Ford’s external promise.  Another thing I can’t understand is how a performance-leaning car like the Grabber didn’t even have full instrumentation available as an option.  The only real issues I have with my Maverick from a visual standpoint are the heavy, five-mile-per-hour bumpers that were present (both front and rear) for ’74, which do my new whip absolutely no aesthetic favors.

The Grabber had been around since the Maverick’s second, full model year (1971), when the semi-fastback coupe bore more than a passing resemblance to a mini-Mustang, especially in profile.  This Maverick was quick enough, though, and its pristine interior – with acres of black vinyl as far as the eye could see – positively gleamed.  This ’74 is one of about 23,500 Grabbers produced for the model year, along with 140,000 base coupes and 175,000 sedans.

Nonetheless, those of you who have also read my “CC Jukebox” features also know I have a taste for many things Seventies, so as the doctor and I arrived back at their soon-to-be-former McMansion (that has a listing price that is more money than I will probably ever see in my lifetime), I had been hearing Starbuck’s “Moonlight Feels Right”, Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good”, and “Jackie Blue” by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils on “repeat” in my head for about ten minutes.  In terms of playing things close to the vest, I have a terrible poker face, so my excitement about owning this car was probably apparent.  (It probably didn’t help that I had worn my favorite pair of vintage Haggar polyester slacks that day to take the test drive.)

These people seemed like they had enough money, though, so when I offered the doctor $2,500 in cash on the spot, he hesitated… before he extended his hand to shake mine with a grin and said, “Congratulations.  She’s yours.”  And so, now I own a Maverick!  One of the first things I did last weekend when I was done with my chores on Saturday morning was to take her (I haven’t named her yet, believe it or not) downtown to the John Kluczynski Federal Plaza, near the famous Alexander Calder “Flamingo” sculpture for an impromptu photo shoot.

Like any good model, she gave me angle, after angle, after angle as I clicked away with my Canon.  Our photo shoot was cut short when a traffic cop told me I needed to move it or face a pretty substantial ticket, but I’m glad to be able to share these pictures with you.  I look forward to bringing everyone in the CC community up to speed on the adventures of Joe Dennis and his new, trusty bovine.

Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois.
Thursday, January 28, 2010.