48K Mile 1970s Time Machine: 1974 Ford Maverick

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Every day I am faced with reminders that I am getting old when I write up cars that were everyday transportation when I was a kid.  However, looking back I can see that some of these cars were wrong for the marketplace.  Take for example this 1974 Ford Maverick for sale on eBay in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  Everyone in my age bracket had an aunt or grandma that drove one of these Mavericks, yet they may not have been the car America needed.  Is this pristine, 48,644-mile example going to leap past the current bid of $3,150 to sell in the low five figures to a collector who will hoard it away?  Or is it going to be a low-cost time capsule for another person nostalgic for simpler times?

I was born in the early seventies, so my familiarity with cars stretches back to the mid-sixties models that my somewhat lower middle-class family drove when I was a little guy.  One of my first memories was imitating what I saw the gas pump jockey at the filling station due to my grandparent’s beautiful 1969 Buick.  Grandpa, for some reason, didn’t think it was a good idea to fill the gas tank with a running water hose.  From there it was Buicks, Cadillacs, and Oldsmobiles of various vintages in my immediate family.  Great-grandma had a 1972 LTD coupe, and her sister had a Maverick sort of like this one.  My mom’s best friend also had a Pinto wagon that didn’t impress me much.

What I know now is that the early seventies were a difficult time for domestic automakers.  Nearly everyone in America was drunk on cheap gasoline.  Supply issues were never even considered.  When Detroit built what they called small cars, they were scaled-down versions of their bread-and-butter full-size cars.  These cars were just Galaxies and Impalas that weren’t quite as long or wide.  The body panels still weighed a lot, the common parts were still drawn from the same bins at the factory, and they got a little better gas mileage than their bigger stablemates.  Like the dinosaurs gazing upon the comet, nobody in Detroit realized that they were in grave danger.

I remember a friend of my parents loaning them her new Toyota Corolla.  I guess that it was a late seventies model.  My primitive brain almost couldn’t process how light the car was and freaked out my mother by shutting the door with the regular amount of oomph for her Buick.  I nearly broke the glass.  It was then I realized what Colin Chapman knew instinctively: weight is wasteful.  Building a small car out of big car parts would never be the answer.  This is a lesson that took Detroit a long time to learn.  In the meantime, each one of the Big Three went through a financial crisis before they changed their ways.

So the point of all of this is that this 1974 Ford Maverick is a spectacularly original example of the kind of compact car Detroit was making in the early 1970s.  It was a car that the average American family purchased and drove during that time.  There is nothing wrong with the car as it relates to build quality and durability.  One could argue that a Maverick was as reliable as any car in 1974.  Its chassis dated back to the 1960 Falcon, and the rest of the drivetrain had also been in production for several years.  Ford knew how to make a car that would last.  That institutional knowledge is evident in the pictures you see here.  It is just that Ford didn’t seem to know how to make a fuel-efficient compact car.  They weren’t alone in this among the Big Three.

All that durability is of great benefit to whoever purchases this Maverick.  The seller tells us that it has been used to go to car shows for the past four years.  It runs and drives well for a car of its age.  The air conditioning still works after all of these years.  There is a problem with the transmission hesitating before it goes into gear that the seller believes might be solved with a fluid and filter change.

There are some cosmetic issues with the car.  Most prominent is that the paint is getting thin on the roof.  It almost looks like a section has been polished to bare metal in spots.  There are the usual dents and dings that come from being a grandma’s car and from decades of use and storage.  Nobody is perfect.  The interior, however, looks almost showroom new.  Just looking at the pictures makes you want to don your seventies duds, splash on some Aqua Velva, and drive it down to the local disco for the Friday night dance party.

A trip back in time to the seventies is what this car delivers.  Just like driving a Model A Ford is a trip back to the late 1920s and early 1930s.  On the surface, it is a four-door compact sedan that has managed to escape the ravages of time, wear, and use.  Looking deeper, we get a good glimpse of what car buyers were offered at their local Ford dealer in 1974.  We also get a better understanding of why the Big Three continued to lose market share as the world changed around them.

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  1. ThunderRob

    That is about 100% identical to the Maverick my Grandma had from 74′ to 90′,never let her down,best car she ever owned according to her.I got my license using her Maverick.Definitely the right car at the right time.

    Like 14
  2. Anonymous1

    A trip back in time describes it well. It’s a beautiful period piece of a car that didn’t interest me much back when they were beater-status, but suddenly looks interesting in a sea of black, silver, and white lookalikes today.

    Like 11
  3. Big C

    The ’70’s were a paradoxical time for Detroit. Americans had been used to big, powerful cars that could eat up our interstates, with comfort and safety. Asian cars were tiny little tin cans that would wad up like paper if they crossed paths with a Ford Fairlane. Thus, when our govt. got themselves in the jackpot with the OPEC countries? They started mandating our car companies to produce smaller, lighter cars, in a short amount of time. Add to that, the federally mandated saftey bumpers and pollution equipment? And you got cars like the Vega, the Pinto and this Maverick. It didn’t have to be this way. And it’s happening all over again, with the EV garbage that’s being forced on the consumer, via big brother. Will we ever learn?

    Like 14
  4. Melton Mooney

    I’m reminded of what Belloq said to Indy in Raiders: “It’s worthless. Ten dollars from a vendor in the street. But I take it, I bury it in the sand for a thousand years, it becomes priceless…”

    I don’t guess many Mavericks were ever buried in sand, although a lot of them wound up stored in caves for a time because of horrible sales forecasting by Ford.

    I love this little peridot. When the empire starts remotely disabling your car because you disagree with it, this baby will keep right on ticking.

    Like 15
    • Chris Cornetto

      Yup, I get made fun of for driving 40 to 50 year old cars, along with motorcycles. I tell folks unlike you I have off star. Leave the phone home and no one knows where I am…

      Like 7
      • Car Nut Tacoma

        I like 50+ yr old cars. It may not have all the gadgets and “safety features today’s cars have, but so what? As the driver, you’re the one responsible for what a car does.

        Like 0
    • bone

      Horrible sales ? Ford sold almost 580,000 of them the first year alone ! And they were only available as a 2 door that year . These cars were everywhere , and were one of Fords best selling model cars. Being a compact car, most were looked on as disposable and didnt get taken care of , that and rust sent many to the crusher , so its cool to see one of the survivors

      Like 8
      • Melton Mooney

        Horrible forecasting. Google mavericks in caves. An interesting case study in overproduction.

        Like 0
    • bone

      I’ve just read about the caves , apparently Ford stores vehicles for short term storage in them, and still does as there are pictures of Ford Transits lined up in them . The Mavericks that were stored there was more likely that they were building them so fast they couldn’t ship them out fast enough – 1974 was the second highest in sales for these cars , probably because of the gas crunch , really just about any six cylinder compact was going to sell well in that time period .

      Like 1
      • PRA4SNW

        The most recent version of Ford’s caves is Dirt Mountain. Located near the Michigan Assembly Plant, his is where they stored thousands of Broncos that were waiting for computer chips to be installed.

        It was called that because there was a big pile of dirt in the lot. People would drive over there and take photos of the vehicles and post them on the Bronco Forums so desperate owners could see if they could spot the Bronco they were waiting forever to receive.

        Like 1
  5. Skibaron

    This was my first car same color, interior is nicer than mine was. Bought it for $40. I put a timing chain in it and drove it for 4 years before I sold it for $1,200.

    Very reliable, never put a penny in it after the timing chain.

    Like 6
  6. John Titor

    I used to have one a long time ago…

    Like 6
    • Murphy

      Are you the infamous time travelor?

      Like 5
  7. CCFisher

    Ford absolutely did know how to build small, fuel-efficient cars. Ford of Europe had been doing it for decades.

    Like 3
    • DON

      And there was the Pinto , so that would have been the fuel efficient U.S. small car for Ford in the 70s

      Like 0
  8. HoA Howard AMember

    Throughout history, men, usually entertainers, had a field day picking on their mother-in-laws. I never fully understood that, as my ex-MIL, was the absolute gem of the earth, and she drove a 4 door Maverick like this. I realize the irony there, but tis’ true. She worked at Sears for like 50 years, honored for her service once, and drove that Maverick, across town, everyday. It had no heat, which was odd with 3 mechanics in the family,, but she never complained( unlike her son in law) bundled up, a site to see, big scarf, hat, cigarette hanging out of her mouth and never missed a day, in all weather, thanks in part to that Maverick. I think it was her last car.
    “Ma”,,,lived to be 96, and I miss her everyday.

    Like 0
  9. Car Nut Tacoma

    Lovely looking car. I’ve always loved the Ford Maverick and the Mercury Comet. I was born in 1973, so I remember cars like these, the Chevy Vega, the Ford Pinto and Mercury Bobcat, etc. I had a neighbour when I was a boy who owned a Ford Pinto. I had a neighbour who lived a few houses down who had a Maverick Grabber. It was green with a black stripe down the roof of the car that went from the aft section of the car to the front.

    Given the condition of this car, assuming everything on the car works right and it runs and drives under its own power, I’d be willing to pay the asking price. That’d leave enough money on hand for inspections, insurance, etc.

    Like 1
  10. chuck

    My God those bumpers are hideous 🤮

    Like 3
  11. Mike

    My parents bought one new – theirs was white with the straight six.
    It might have been just theirs – but it was truly awful.
    As a kid it was my job to close the garage door after my mother backed the car out. It would take several tries before it ran without stalling. Then it “seemed” to run ok until we got to the first STOP sign and it would die again.
    Four years later when my father went to trade it on a new Fairmont (which turned out to be junk too) it had rusted so badly the salesguy asked my father if it had been underwater.
    Nice to look at today – but brings back a LOT of memories.

    Like 0
    • Big C

      No warranty? Just needed a tune up. And the automakers started using cheap foreign steel ’round about ’74, too.

      Like 0
      • Mike

        I’m sure my parents tired to get it fixed. Probably without much luck.

        Like 0
  12. Mark Haigler

    One thing I like to remember about this era’s entry-level cars is that the owner with limited skills and experience could maintain and repair them. Now, even the most basic vehicle is beyond most people’s ability and tool assortment.

    Like 0
    • JoeNYWF64

      & the prices for parts for those old cars were & are still dirt cheap! For a ’60s 6 cyl Chevy, i see right now on Rockauto a fuel pump for < $12! & spark plug wires for <$9. & an alternator < $20! All you need is a handful of simple tools. & no scan tools. & you might be able to install them even if you have a disablility! My friend a year ago got a '60s closeout rebuilt distributor for $20! – no core nec.The 6 cyl now idles better than it has in the last 40 years!

      Like 0
  13. Mlm

    I see the tow hitch and can attribute that to the “hesitation” of the transmission going into gear… Besides that, it looks great! Love the green on green.

    Like 1
    • Michael v

      Malaise forever! Seriously though, the only Maverick I ever sat in the driver’s seat of was the most uncomfortable seat I ever sat in. They sold well early in their production run, but I should point out VW sold half a million beetles in the US, a record for them, in the same year this car came out in 1970, roughly the same amount of sales. I’m sure a beetle as nice as this car would sell for twice as much, despite the fact I’m sure there are a lot more of them around than Mavericks of the same vintage.
      These were just not that good a car. They were destined to be handed down as some teens first car to be driven into the ground through high school, then college. As soon as you got your college degree, you’d dump it as soon as you could afford a car loan.
      That’s the kind of car this was.

      Like 0
  14. JoeNYWF64

    Could you get tach & aux gages on these or cousin Merc Comet – maybe on the grabber model or comet gt?

    Like 0

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