Curbside Classico do Brasil: Ford Maverick GT

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(first posted 2/26/2013)    Foreign travel has a way of making you see your own local surroundings differently, with a bit more insight and clarity.  Seeing familiar American cars in a South American setting several years ago certainly had that effect, and it happened to start with a car recently subjected to mixed reviews here – the Ford Maverick.

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Designed for the domestic U.S. market as a cheap compact, and marketed at first with plain finishes and only low-powered inline six engines, the Maverick was a thoroughly unexciting car in its home market.  Ford attempted to add some flair with the Grabber trim package in the middle of the first model year and a 302 V-8 in the second, but the Maverick remained a car with little impact on anyone’s imagination (little positive impact, at least).  In Brazil, on the other hand, the Maverick became a memorable muscle car, and a survivor parked on the street creates a great visual impact.

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The Maverick to remember is the Maverick GT, a variant made specifically for the Brazilian market.  Produced for the duration of the Maverick’s Brazilian production run from 1973 to 1979, the GT was the fastest car sold in Brazil at the time.  With a 302 V-8 and a 4-speed manual transmission as its powertrain, and its styling accented by black paint on the hood bulge and tail and with wide black stripes on the sides, the Maverick GT was faster and sportier looking than anything else on the road.  0 to 60 in 11.5 seconds was unspectacular by U.S. pre-smog control standards, but in Brazil, it was as good as you could get.

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The Maverick GT is proof of the adage that the first step toward success is simply to show up.  The Maverick GT succeeded by showing up with a V-8 when almost no other car in the Brazilian market did.  Then and now, the vast majority of the cars sold in Brazil have been small four cylinder economy cars, the result of a generally lower standard of living and substantially higher fuel prices.  During the 1970’s the only other V-8 powered cars made in Brazil were two other U.S.-designed models, the Ford Galaxie and the Dodge Dart, both of them large by local standards and positioned at the top of the market.

Smaller and sportier than either the Galaxie or the Dart, and announcing its V-8 to the drivers of other cars in very visible letters in its side stripes, the Maverick GT was a U.S.-style muscle car in miniaturized form.  It and a Dart-based Dodge Charger were the only V-8 performance cars on the market in Brazil.  (For more history of the Maverick in Brazil and its place in Brazilian automotive history, see here:

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This particular car has had a substantial wheel and tire upgrade.  Originally equipped with 14×6 wheels and D70 Wide Ovals, this car still wears steel wheels with Ford Motor Company dog dish hubcaps, but with the front wheels widened, the rear wheels widened even more, and much larger tires.  It has a subtle rake that improves its stance.

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When they are this wide, steel wheels with hubcaps look tough and no-nonsense.

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The interior looks fairly well equipped, with a sport steering wheel, buckets, and a console.  While U.S.-made Mavericks had a package shelf instead of a glove compartment, underscoring the car’s cheap entry-level status, Brazilian Mavericks were marketed as a relatively high end car and therefore had a real glove compartment added.  The owner of this car appears to have accessorized it with a matching sweater.

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With beefy tires, the right stance, and black accents to highlight its lines, this two-door Maverick looks like it would fit in well with its more celebrated 1960s Mustang fastback cousins.  The same engine and drivetrain modifications used in Mustangs would wake up the 302 and allow the Maverick to run with them stride for stride.

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No doubt many Brazilian drivers used to trash talk that this view was the only one that anyone would ever have of their Maverick GT – a boast probably never made by a U.S. Maverick driver.  This car should remind us that many car designs generally considered to be quite dull had potential never exploited by their manufacturers.  Modern restomods of non-muscle cars demonstrate the same here in the U.S.  This car also should remind us that in the U.S., we are fortunate to be spoiled with more automotive choices than almost anyone else, resulting in some potentially interesting models never receiving much attention.