Here in the United States the Ford Maverick is remembered, if it's remembered at all, as the car that replaced Ford's original compact, the Falcon, back in 1970 and stayed in production through 1977. But in Brazil, where it was built between 1973 and 1979 it became something of a muscle car icon. The Maverick is to Brazil what the Mustang has been to the United States.
"I pushed to get a Maverick into Fast Five," explains Fast Five's Picture Car Coordinator Dennis McCarthy. "A lot of the film's action takes place in Rio de Janeiro and they're nuts for the Maverick down in Brazil. So it only made sense that one of the guys in the film would be driving one. It didn't get as much screen time as I hoped it would, but the character Han (Sung Kang) does have a Maverick."
But it's not pretty.
Despite its fastback body and pointed prow, the Maverick is very much an old Falcon under the skin. That's not completely terrible; after all, every Mustang Ford built through '73 was Falcon-based, too, but it's hardly the most robust automotive structure. And it's simple in the extreme with a lightweight A-arm front suspension in front and a solid axle on leaf springs in back.
The Falcon front structure also results in a notoriously narrow engine bay. "I usually like to put GM crate motors in all the cars," says McCarthy. "But it was too much of a hassle in the Maverick. So this one has, if I remember, a 5.0-liter Ford V8 out of an '83 Mustang and the T5 five-speed manual transmission that came with it. We added a Ford 9-inch rear end and added rear disc brakes." The Maverick wears the same 18-by-9-inch Coy's C-67 Gun Metal wheels that were used on the 1972 Torino featured in 2009's Fast & Furious. The tires are P255/45R18 Continental Sport Contacts.
Except for the addition of a fiberglass "Grabber" hood, the sheet metal on this car is as original as the day it left Ford's Wayne, Michigan, assembly plant in 1970.
Screw the Windshield
In Fast Five the generally decrepit condition of the Maverick is played for laughs. But let's be clear, the decrepitude here runs deep. From the hole chunked out of the transmission tunnel for the shifter to poke through, to the shelving paper atop the dashboard, the interior is a disaster zone. In fact, compared to other parts of the interior, the stock vinyl-covered front bench seat is a paragon of comfort.
That isn't, however, what's most striking about this car. It's whatever that's coming into the car through where the windshield should be that's most likely to strike you.
Removed for filming, there's never since been any reason to replace this car's front glass. And the Maverick had been sitting outside during one of Southern California's wettest winters ever. So it's a bit, well, ripe inside this Maverick.
The Beater of Beaters
Start the 5.0-liter in the Maverick and the whole car starts shaking. And rattling. And clanking. But it's kind of amusing to watch the hood shift around on the posts for the hood pins.
Unfortunately, the first time we took the Maverick out there weren't any actual hood pins on the car. So the first blast up the straightaway at Willow resulted in a flight test for the hood. It has some nice lift ability, but kind of lacks directional control. Fortunately, no other car ran over the hood, so it was replaced and secured with a couple of pins swiped off the '70 Charger.
The 1983 Mustang 5.0-liter engine was only rated at 175 horsepower way back 28 years ago, but it's a sweet and eager runner with quick response from its four-barrel carburetor. No speed records are in danger of falling with this car, but it actually moves pretty well.
However, the steering is indistinct, uncommunicative and sloppy. The brakes have the same feel you'd get slamming your foot into a plate of rigatoni with marinara sauce. And the bench seat seems designed to have no adhesion with the driver's butt whatsoever.
Plus, of course, there's no windshield.
Proof of Concept
All that said, there's a neat hot rod buried in this car somewhere. It's easy to imagine picking up a Maverick for about a grand, then getting a 5.0-liter Mustang for not much more, and mixing and matching the parts to produce a unique and interesting daily driver.
But this Maverick, one of two built for the film, isn't likely to get such a resurrection.
NBC Universal loaned Edmunds.com this vehicle for evaluation.