Unbranded Steers (Part One)

Think you know the Ford Maverick? Think again.

Image: onlineredlineguide.com

The Ford Motor Company has historically been expert at extracting maximum utility from its engineering, often repackaging old (and sometimes outdated) mechanical components into shiny new bodywork and cheekily presenting the result as ‘all-new’. The vehicles engineered in this manner might have been far from the cutting edge of automotive innovation, but owners were generally satisfied to trade novelty and sophistication for reliability and cheap running costs, and the company’s bottom-line benefited accordingly.

Ford has also been adept at recycling its model names, often for vehicles far removed from the original. The current Puma crossover bears little relationship to its Fiesta-based coupé predecessor, at least in market positioning terms, while the recycling of the iconic Mustang name as a sub-brand for a mid-sized EV crossover has caused no little disquiet amongst fans of the original.

Another name borrowed from the animal kingdom that has served many and varied uses within the Ford empire is Maverick(1), although the majority of models to bear this name were not Fords at all, but rebadged products from other manufacturers. Today we throw open the farmyard gates to see what ambles out into the field.

Ford Maverick, 1970 to 1979:

The original Maverick was a compact two and four-door saloon produced by Ford in the Americas between 1970 and 1979. It was one prong of a two-pronged defence against the invasion of European and Japanese small cars into the US market, the other prong being the 1971 sub-compact Pinto model. It was pretty late in arriving too, with Ford’s share of the US compact and sub-compact market having fallen from 36% in 1962 to just 9% in 1968, mainly thanks to the Volkswagen Type 1 (Beetle) and Type 3, which outsold the Ford Falcon compact model by a factor of almost 10:1 in the latter year (563,522 vs 59,593 sales respectively). Volkswagen alone accounted for 57% of the total 985,767 sales of imported cars in the US in 1968, with Toyota and Datsun together accounting for a further 11%.

Image: vintag.es

The Maverick was a wholly conventional front-engined RWD car sitting on a wheelbase of 103” (2,616mm) for the two-door and 110” (2,794mm) for the four-door. Both versions featured the then fashionable ‘coke-bottle’ styling with pronounced haunches over the rear wheels. The two-door featured a fastback coupé-style side profile. The four-door, launched a year later, was a three-box saloon with more than a passing resemblance to the European Cortina Mk3. In typical Ford fashion, the Maverick was based on a carry-over platform from its predecessor, the Falcon, which was already a decade old at the time of the Maverick’s launch.

Engine options comprised straight-six units in 170, 200 and 250 cubic-inch (2.8, 3.3 and 4.1-litre) capacities and a 302 cubic-inch (4.9-litre) V8. The standard transmission was a three-speed column-shift manual, with the option of a three-speed automatic. These drove a live rear axle mounted on semi-elliptical springs. Brakes were 9-inch (229mm) drums all round and steering was a recirculating ball type mechanism with 5.66 turns (really!) from lock to lock for a turning circle of 35.6 feet (10.85m). Neither servo-assisted brakes nor power steering was available, even as extra-cost options.

Baby, its green in here. Image: foureyedpride.com

Somewhat disingenuously, Ford pitched the Maverick as a direct competitor to the Volkswagen Beetle, even though its entry-level price was around 12% more expensive than the German car (US$1,995 vs US$1,775). Running costs were also notably higher, with a claimed average fuel consumption of 22.5mpg (US), equivalent to  27.0mpg (Imperial) or 10.46 L/100km.

For all its apparent drawbacks as a town car (heavy steering, large turning circle, inadequate brakes and heavy fuel consumption) in comparison with its German rivals, the Maverick was not without merit. It was a much more pleasant companion on open roads with its relaxed low-revving engines. It also had the benefit of its ‘made in America’ status, which remained an important consideration for a large percentage of potential US buyers.

Image: ford.com

A key pitch to would-be buyers was the Maverick’s simplicity and claimed low running costs. One press advertisement read as follows: ‘MAVERICK, the simple machine. Maverick is simple to buy. You can do most repair jobs yourself. Maverick gives you great gas mileage. Maverick is designed to need one-sixth as many lube jobs and half as many oil changes as the leading import. And an independent survey says that Maverick has the lowest frequency-of-repair record of any American car.’

In its first week on sale, the Maverick achieved an impressive 22,602 orders. However, for around a third of these early sales, the trade-in was an existing Ford model, and only a quarter were sold in exchange for a foreign car. Further research revealed that Mavericks were more usually bought by lower income customers as their sole vehicle(2), while imports were more likely to be favoured as second cars for more affluent buyers. In any event, first-year production of the Maverick totalled almost 580k units.

The Maverick was a pleasant enough looking car in both versions and was spared the annual change-for-change’s-sake facelifts that had previously been commonplace in the US auto industry in a quest to boost sales. There were, of course, numerous trim and equipment changes, but the only significant exterior alteration was the adoption of federally mandated 5mph bumpers in 1974, which did nothing for the Maverick’s previously pert and pretty appearance. In an attempt to woo younger customers that were otherwise likely buyers of imports, Ford offered the Maverick with a bright colour palette and in a number of (faux) sporting variants, including the Grabber and the Stallion(3).

The Maverick was also offered as the badge-engineered Mercury Comet from 1971. Total US production over eight years reached almost 2.1 million units before ceasing in mid-1977, although the Maverick continued to be manufactured in Brazil for a further two years.

Ford Maverick, 1988 to 1994:

Image: ford.com

The Maverick name was resurrected in 1988 for a rebadged version of the Y60-generation Nissan Patrol SUV sold in Australia. Apart from some variations in colour and trim, it was pretty much identical to its Japanese sibling. This Maverick resulted from a plan by the Australian government to rationalise and improve the efficiency of its domestic motor industry, which had been heavily protected by import tariffs of up to 60% in the mid-1980s. The so-called ‘Button Plan’(4) proved unpopular with just about everybody, including buyers who preferred to buy the original over the badge-engineered alternative. Sales ceased in 1994.

The Maverick story continues in Part Two shortly.

(1) It is sometimes wrongly assumed that a maverick is a type of horse, like Mustang, Pinto and Bronco, all of which were or are used by Ford as model names. A maverick is simply an unbranded animal and the term is usually used with reference to cattle.

(2) The Maverick’s greater suitability for highway use than the VW Beetle might also have influenced its choice as a sole family car.

(3) Adding further bovine / equine confusion into the mix. 

(4) Named after Australian Senator John Button, then the Federal Minister for Commerce, Trade and Industry.

 Sources: Car Magazine, June 1969, and Hemmings.com


Author: Daniel O'Callaghan

Shut-line obsessive...Hates rudeness, loves biscuits.

29 thoughts on “Unbranded Steers (Part One)”

  1. The thinking behind the Nissan Patrol/Ford Maverick in Australia also gave us the Nissan Pulsar/Holden Astra, Nissan Pintara/Ford Corsair, Toyota Corolla/Holden Nova, Toyota Camry/Holden Apollo, Holden Commodore/ Toyota Lexcen.
    The best vehicle to come from these forced marriages probably was the Maverick, a Nissan Patrol with sales through the extensive Ford dealer network. The worst was the Nissan ‘The Ute’, an XF Ford Falcon ute with no changes at all except Nissan badges glued OVER the Ford ovals.

  2. Never mind the Falcon underpinnings, for some of us of a certain age Maverick will always mean James Garner in suit and stetson, playing poker on a wild west riverboat.

  3. This is a strange thing, to glue the same nameplates on very different types of car. Hypothesis one is that the public transfer good feeling from one model to the next (“I liked the first Puma so I will buy this thing with the same name”). Hypothesis two is that the the public doesn´t much care about what the nameplate was glued to and so a good name can be re-used harmlessly. I assume market research rules out the idea that calling X and Y the same thing is confusing. I suppose it´s not if the two things are very different. Re-using the same name for similar but not quite identical things is the worst, I suppose. However, using the Mustang name risks making it more important than the Ford brand. Underlying this is a sense that the public is much less informed and interested than 25 years ago. And if Ford wanted to call a 3-door, one-litre bargain-hatch “Capri” it would not upset anyone under 45 years of age.

    1. These two Mavericks were sold in two different markets in two different eras. I doubt an (average) Australian Ford Patrol customer would have thought of a seventies’ US compact. The Pumas are a lot closer together in time and overlap completely geographically, but I suppose the name is a victim of the general SUV/crossoverisation of the market. The Renault Megan E is now a crossover and given enough time, the Focus or the Golf might very well be, too.

      Am I alone in thinking the Button Plan warrants more words on this site?

      But more importantly: as has been covered here as well, it’s not particularly easy to come up with a good car name that is usable globally (Mitsubishi Pajero, or for us dutchies, Fiat Croma – also a cooking butter brand). Therefore I would imagine, companies guard their database of proven product names jealously and use them when expedient, rather than having to come up with a new one. The less prestigious ones would then get used for a rush job like the Australian Maverick/Patrol.

    2. Indeed, Tom. As the original Maverick was never seen down here – we rebodied and updated the slightly larger Falcon instead – it just seemed a cool name to be used. And at least this Maverick was a good, tough vehicle. Many years later I saw an immaculate US Maverick on historic plates.
      Much could be written about the Button plan. It has often been referred to in passing, but I have yet to read an article on it. A family in my town own a ‘Button pair’ – an XV10 Camry wagon and the clone Holden Apollo in sedan form. I’ve never asked them why.

    3. Slightly cheeky of me, but I wonder if they know they’re the same car… hard to miss you’d think, but still.

    4. I’ve often thought I must ask them, Tom. But, as you say, slightly cheeky. Maybe if I admire the matched pair (they’re both white) and pretend I think they’re the same car? 🙂

  4. What with the Maverick’s Falcon underpinnings and Maverick derived Mustang II proposal, it was inexcusable for Ford to instead opt to use the Pinto as the basis for the Mustang II. That is not to say a version of the latter under a different name couldn’t play a complimentary role to a Maverick-based Mustang II as opposed to being an outright replacement.

    At the same time of the view both the Maverick and Pinto should have made use of Ford of Europe’s Granada and Cortina III/Taunus TC underpinnings (the Cortina basis allowing for a Pinto 4-door), the latter two were already available in some form outside of Europe even though Ford of Australia at minimum only used the Granada II as a template for an enlarged bodyshell on the Falcon XD.

    Speaking of which did some of the management at Ford of Australia express interest in building the Granada locally or were of they of the view there was no room between the Cortina Sixes and Falcon? It is strange as the Granada V8 by Basil Green Motors demonstrated it was possible to fit a V8, while it should have been more straightforward fitting the Straight Six into the Granada than it was into the locally made Cortina.

    1. What with the Maverick’s Falcon underpinnings and Maverick derived Mustang II proposal, it was inexcusable for Ford to instead opt to use the Pinto as the basis for the Mustang II.

      Can’t say I agree. The chain of events that led to the eventual II is on record, but the condensed version basically goes like this; Knudson had the upcoming Mustang that was to follow the 71-73 model on track to be even larger. After his firing, now-in -charge Iacocca wasn’t having it, and redirected the program to shrinking the upcoming car into something more approximate to the original. The starting point was a project codenamed “Ohio”, the developing model based on the soon to be released Maverick. Also approved at the same time was a smaller still car, based off the developing Pinto platform, code named “Arizona”. Once full size mock-ups were completed for both projects, customer clinics in Southern California were held that showed high approval towards the smaller “Arizona” trials, whereas the “Ohio”trials kind of bombed… That was half the reasoning a Maverick based Mustang was nixed. The other half, as quoted by Eugene Bordinat regarding Advanced Design chief Don DeLaRossa’s “Ohio” clay models: “(he) put his studio to work on a clay model showing how big the Mustang would have to be to accommodate that I-6 engine. He got me to call Lee over for a look at it. Don became, shall we say, very forthright and told Lee if we really wanted to make a smaller car, we had better start with a smaller engine. Lee agreed with us and that was the end of the I-6.”

      Taste is subjective I know, but images of the “Ohio” proposals out there are not exactly flattering. Weird or bland, and certainly not an improvement whatsoever upon the actual Maverick in terms of style, so what would the point be, then?

    2. Hi Tom. It looks good to me as well, certainly more convincing the frumpy production Mustang II. That said, I’m also weirdly taken with the Maverick coupé. The artfully photographed lime green example above certainly doesn’t look like an economy car.

    3. Daniel, the Maverick 2 door looks quite appealing, certainly. I was amused to find out that one of the concepts in the history leading to the first Mustang was called Allegro, also based on Falcon underpinnings:

    4. Good morning Tom. Wow, that’s very different from the production Mustang. At the risk of appearing sexist, and making a sweeping generalisation, I think it’s rather ‘feminine’ in appearance and wouldn’t have appealed at all to the typical Mustang buyer. Ford certainly called it right on that occasion.

    5. Also had the Ohio proposal in mind and agree it (together with the regular Maverick Coupe) look much better than the styling clinics in Southern California made it out to be. Cannot help think there were other factors at play and like with the unique harsher emissions regulation in California, was something at odds with the rest of the US.

    6. Also interesting comparing Ohio and the regular Maverick Coupe with the Granada Coupe.

    7. Hi Daniel, as I understand it (from quickly reading things yesterday), the Allegro wasn’t necessarily a direct forebear, but part of a number of proposals that led to the Mustang. I agree that it looks a bit – whatever the post-woke terminology to describe “feminine” is. The proportions don’t quite work for me, either: reminiscent of the many Italian-US hybrid cars from that era, but just not quite “right”. What is it with that Allegro name?

      I haven’t read the whole thing, but this seems a pretty thorough write-up of the Mustang’s history:


      Part 6 features Mustang II with it’s Maverick and Pinto-based proposals.

      Bob: there were probably other considerations at play. As I understand from the above link, the success of the Capri (sold as Mercury in the US) and other foreign imports made Ford decide that the Maverick-based car would still be too big for where the market was going, leaving them with the Pinto-based proposal. It didn’t pay off well and – as the site points out, both Ford;s own Capri and the then-current Toyota Celica did a better job of applying the Mustang’s visual cues to a smaller platform.

      The Granada looks a lot more “sober” to me than the American models. And to think that it’s positively baroque compared to its successor…

  5. Reusing model names isn’t a new phenomenon; the Escort van of the ‘50s gave its name to the Anglia’s saloon car replacement in the late ‘60’s.

  6. I think we have forgotten the 1990s 4×4 built by Nissan Iberia as the Nissan Terrano, and a Ford badged version called Maverick.

    1. Hi Mark. That is covered in Part Two of this series, published next Monday.

  7. Seeing this article reminded me of something I’d loved and lost. Nothing too heart-rending, just a Maverick brochure with cut out and paste together models of the cars. A quick search of the internet makes me think it was actually a Pinto brochure.

    I definitely also had a Maverick brochure which headlined the car as “The Simple Machine”. Quite why I had either of these, 5500km directly east from Detroit is hardest of all to explain – possibly the local Ford distributor handled US Forces orders.

    1. Robertas, I have one of those ‘models’ of a Mark 2 Escort, an insert in an Australian magazine back then; I think it was Modern Motor. Printed on reasonably heavy matte card, it built up to about a 1/20 scale Escort, a yellow 2 door with black side graphics.

  8. Returning to the Maverick, its rear suspension includes another example of shock absorbers staggered on opposite sides of the axle to mitigate rotational forces to reduce axle tramp, as with the Capri and Pinto:

    The front suspension is interesting -not MacPherson struts nor the sort of double-wishbone and subframe arrangement that had appeared on the Cortina mk.3 and Granada at that time, but a concentric coil spring and shock absorber acting on the upper wishbone, like the Renault 12 and Triumph 1300. The arrangement seems to have been used elsewhere in the US Ford range.

    It’s clearer in this cutaway of the Brazilian Maverick:

    The Brazilian engine story is interesting too – the 75-on Mavericks got a version of the T88 engine, built in a new factory in Taubaté, and imported 250ci and 302ci V8s. Earlier São Bernardo do Campo Mavericks were powered by a 3.0 litre Willys-legacy F-head six which was neither powerful, fuel-efficient, nor dependable.

    1. That front suspension design appears on all the Falcon-derived cars. An educated guess would be that they wanted three mounting points in order to distribute loads on the unitized structure more evenly than a would a pure wishbone (short long arm) design. The unforeseen downside was that the coil/shock towers intruded into the engine compartment, complicating the installation of large block V8 engines.

      I think it is also a point of interest that this design resembles a hybrid of short long arm and MacPherson strut, which perhaps not coincidentally was invented at Ford.

      You can learn more about how the Maverick compares with the other North American Falcon platform based cars here:


      Note the links at the bottom of the article to further articles documenting the Australian variants of the 1960 Falcon platform which continued to evolve without ever being completely redesigned through 2016.

    2. Gooddog, that all fits. And yet I have the feeling that Ford wanted to leave the option of MacPherson struts open, by directing the front suspension load into a reinforced inner wheel arch. Perhaps the sums didn’t work out, yet Ford of Britain used MacPherson struts from the 1951 Consul onwards, without any evidence of problems.

      To return to Triumph, the ‘strut towers’ of the 2000, 1300/1500/Toledo/Dolomite, and TR7/8 look near identical, but the smaller saloons, whether FWD or RWD, always had double wishbones with the springs acting on the top wishbone. I reckon that Harry Webster bottled out of mixing FWD and MacPherson struts either because component manufacturers wanted no part of it, or because there was no tried and tested application at the time when the 1300 design was committed to tooling – the Peugeot 2o4 and Honda N360 arrived too late.

    3. Embarrassingly for Ford in Australia, the MacPherson strut front end of the Consul and Zephyr proved to be stronger in service than the original Falcon front end design. When Ford America brought out the Falcon-based V8 Fairlane, many of its front end parts were standardised on our Falcon, and retrofitted to earlier models when owners complained. At a cost no doubt; no recalls in those days…..
      By the time we’d finished progressively fiddling with the Falcon it looked like a four door Mustang with different designs of front and (independent) rear suspensions, and I’ve heard the only parts in common with the 1960 original were the bore centres of the six!

  9. Here’s a link from an official Ford site describing the design history of the 1970-1977 Maverick:


    Sometimes one will read that Tom Tjaarda had a hand in designing this car, but I think it is clear that this is not the case. There is a credit at http://www.tom-tjaarda.net/cars.htm for a Ford Maverick, but the date (1974) and the following mentions and pictures of two unrealized Chrysler K-car based proposals indicates that it was likely one of Ghia’s proposals for the “Fox” project (1978 Fairmont, etc.).

  10. My grandma drove an ivory white 1976, Venezuelan-built 4-door Maverick, of which I have warm memories and which I even drove for a little while back when I first got my driver’s license, at 18-19 years old and she had already passed away. It was a bare-bones basic Maverick version, with simple bench seats in vinyl and with no headrests, basic AM radio, non-assisted brakes (disks/drums), and the trusty, indestructible 250CID (4.1 litre) straight six, coupled with a 3-speed automatic transmission.

    Grandma’s Maverick came originally with manual steering, which was later replaced with a power steering system from the less bare-bones version. For some reason they never got rid of the enormous play around centre, which meant that driving straight, you could turn the steering wheel quite a bit one way or the other without effect. Performance from that straight six was mild, to put it kindly, and was always accompanied by an ever present drone; no exotic straight six sound there.

    The Maverick might have been a VW bug alternative in its early fastback two-door version, but as a four-door, it was more of a Dodge Dart, Chevy Nova, Rambler American, and AMC Hornet competitor.

    For me the original Maverick will always be asociated with family, childhood, and warm nostalgia.

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