THE MAVERICK ON ENGLISH ROADS
WHEN Ford of Britain enquired if I would like to try some of the Fords made other than at Dagenham and suggested a Maverick as the first one, I was interested, because I expected this to be a scaled-down American automobile but one possessed of sophisticated handling and braking and thus ripe for hot-rodders to get going on. It is a scaled-down American automobile, but in those other respects I was to be disappointed. When I first saw this Ford small car, a rarity in this country, it was bigger and more “Americanised” than I had bargained for.
Striking, yes, as a sort of bulbous, inflated Capri, finished in a nice colour which is catalogued as Anti-Establish Mint (don’t ask me to explain!).
Ford emphasise that the Maverick is 8 in. shorter in the wheelbase than a Falcon, only 8 1/2 in. longer than a VW 1500, that it gives 52 more h.p. than the VW 1500 even in its 170 cu. in. form, and they show it silhouetted against a Beetle; it’s easy to see which European import they fear most! In fact, the Maverick sacrifices interior space for styling, so that, with its true fastback roof, the rear compartment is claustrophobic and vision to the rear is curtailed. But as there is a bench front seat, it’s a five-passenger job. (The divided squab hinges forward at an angle to help rear seat access.) The styling draws much favourable comment but the owner knows that the interior is depressingly spartan, blanking plates and exposed nuts being a legacy of Lincoln’s conversion to r.h. drive. Stowage is confined to an under-facia shelf, what looks like a cubby being a blank pressing. The seats are upholstered in cloth and vinyl, the facia is dominated by two deeply buried dials, a 120 m.p.h. speedometer with trip with decimal distance recorder and its counterpart containing a fuel gauge and the bright lights for TEMP, OIL, BRAKES and ALT, the last having nothing to do with the car’s distinctly lively ride! The sun vizors dispense with a vanity mirror and are cut away to clear the mirror just where the dazzle penetrates. Two big plated turn-and-pull knobs operate lamps (foot-dip) and roof light; two-speed wipers and washers. There are useless small head bolsters on the bench seat’s squab. Forward vision is restricted by the long bonnet and sloping screen pillars. The steering wheel has a half-horn ring which is seldom there when you want it, but neatly to hand, or finger-tip, on the r.h. side of the steering nacelle, is a little button for the emergency warning system. The wide doors have useful arm-rests and good “keeps” and there are simple heater/ defroster controls, the latter very stiff to operate. The bonnet releases from the nose, revealing a blue-hued 200 cu. in. in-line six engine claimed to give 120 b.h.p. at 4,000 r.p.m., so that “when you enter a 70 m.p.h. turnpike you won’t feel like a retired bookkeeper in a pro football game”.
It is true that the Maverick gets a move on, accelerating well under kick-down, which delays the final change-up in the Cruise-O-Matic transmission until an indicated 68 m.p.h. is reached. The gears are selected with a r.h. lever (P, R. N, D, 2, 1), a slender l.h. stalk actuating the flashers. But on a cross-country journey the handling shortcomings of the Maverick are lamentably apparent. The brakes feel horrid and are too sudden, in the accepted American fashion, the suspension becomes terribly frenzied over had surfaces, the back axle gets out of step and can cause a sudden lurch, and body rattles intrude as the steering wheel trembles and vibrates to an extent unacceptable in a 1970 car. The engine is smooth, opening up with a flow of sibilant power in the American manner, but undamped road noise from the 6.45 x 14 Firestone de luxe Champion long-range 4-ply tubeless rayon tyres spoils this mechanical hush; sound damping is also lacking, so much so that fuel can be heard sloshing about in the tank when this is full. The non-power steering, geared five turns lock-to-lock, plus sponge, is pleasantly light, with powerful return action which, however, doesn’t entirely self-centre; the low-set wheel has a thick rim. The engine starts promptly on auto-choke but stalls until warm. The boot, with automatically locking lid, has a capacity of 10.4 cu. ft.—”nearly three times that of the leading import” (here we go again!)—but the spare wheel lies horizontally in it and various sharp projections are murder to delicate suitcases. The crudely bolted in fuel filler in the centre of the back panel is closed by an equally crude cap and the plain wheel nave-plates are labelled “Ford Motor Company”. The test car had Lucas headlamps and fog-lamps, but Ford rear Ousters.
The 8 ft. 7 in. wheelbase 2,847 lb. kerb weight Ford Maverick has a long list of inbuilt safety factors, but the manner in which it lurches about when the brakes are lightly applied on a bumpy road and is steered by its back wheels, belies the claim that it is safer than a small European car. The handling qualities are quite horrid and, coupled with the uninspired interior decor and high noise level of this American-type car, made me wonder whether the Maverick is not Ford’s worst mistake since the Edsel of 1957-59. However, across the ocean Ford sold as many Mavericks in the first 45 days as Edsels in six months, and 25% of Maverick buyers traded-in an imported car. So obviously American motorists still place styling (done for the Maverick by Mustang-creator Lee A. Iacocca) ahead of civilised and safe driving characteristics. It seems to me that we must wait for even smaller new American ears such as the forthcoming 7 ft. 10 in. wheelbase 2-litre o.h.c. Ford Pony, 8 ft. 1 in. wheelbase 2.3-litre lightalloy o.h.c. Chevrolet XP 887 and 8 ft. 2 in 3.3-litre six-cylinder American Motors’ Gremlin, before the speed-shops get excited at the prospect of new material to work on or Wolfsburg goes on the dole (if then). I find myself wondering whether the American cormpact market might not be better served by making Dagenham Cortinas, Capris and Zephyrs and Luton Visas and Victors in the States.
The Maverick engine has a c.r. of 8.7 to I and ran 266 miles on a tankful of 4-star fuel, the consumption being 19.9 m.p.g. No oil was used in 300 miles. The dipstick is hidden beneath a cluster of h.t. cables and hot heater tubing.
The Ford Maverick comes in various options of engine size and transmission but, as tested, the 3,380 c.c. version costs £2,030, inclusive of purchase tax, from Lincoln Cars Ltd., 88, Regent Street, London, W1, where they have opulent customer-baiting showrooms. Driving it was an interesting experience but, apart front the fact that I haven’t got a cowboy hat, the Maverick is not for me, nor, I suggest, for drivers who want to live to enjoy the satisfaction of fast driving.—W. B.