Car Craft’s mantra of Loud, Fast, Real embraces the real-world budget-oriented approach to car building for the average working individual. It is with that simple criteria that we look for cars to feature each month, however, there is that rare occasion when it comes knocking on our door. That’s exactly what happened with Scott Rodgers and his 1971 Ford Maverick. On a whim, he emailed us some photos of his car along with a back-story and specs. It was a home run in our books, checking all the right boxes.
Scott is—as you can probably guess—a die-hard Ford guy. His interest in the Blue Oval brand started at an early age. “I was fourteen at the time when I inherited a car from my dad,” he says. That inheritance was a 1966 Mustang that that had been originally purchased for his sister, and subsequently damaged beyond repair. Scott recalls: “For the next three years I tinkered with that car, and about five years in with all that tinkering I actually got it back on the road. That’s where my love affair with Fords, Mustangs, and old cars in general started.” After the Mustang, a 1971 Maverick Grabber entered the picture. “I drove it home with the intention of messing with it,” he explains. “I was still living at home at the time and I ended up making the big mistake of tearing that car apart in the back yard. I had this big grand plan of what I was going to do with it. At twenty-one, with no money, and it sitting dormant in the yard, my dad ended up having it towed away. That broke my heart when it happened. He knew I wasn’t going to have the money to do anything with it and it became an eye sore, so he decided that it had to go.” Beyond the loss of the car, it equally put a strain on their relationship for some time.
As he entered his twenties, his professional life kicked into high gear in the automotive repair sector as a collision tech. It also marked the starting point in a chain of Fox-body Mustangs that he would tinker with over the years. Much of his spare time was spent working out of a 12 by 20 garage at home doing bodywork on other folk’s rides, so his own projects were just ideas that never really gained any traction. That changed in 2014 with the encouragement of his wife Karinna, when he went looking for something to properly tinker with for himself. He didn’t have anything specific in mind, but he says, “In the fall of 2014 I saw a Grabber Green Maverick parked in a tiny car lot—you know the kind of lot—cars falling apart all over the place, but in the corner there it was. I went back and looked at it twice. When I went back a third time, it was gone.” In the Spring of 2015, news of a Maverick with a blown transmission for sale showed up on his radar screen, so he went to take a look. “It was the same car that slipped away months earlier. When I saw the car it instantly brought me back to the memories of the one I once owned.” The Maverick was conveniently up on jack stands, so it was easy to inspect and it proved to be in excellent condition. The deal that was cut for the car involved the installation of a working C4 transmission and the Fox-body Mustang that he was driving.
Once the Maverick was in his name, it didn’t go under the knife right away. He drove it for a solid year before any work was done to it. Having learned from the mistakes of his youth, the car came together on paper before anything was actually purchased and installed. “I had a plan for what I wanted to do with the car as far as fuel injection, blower, and just about everything else that was needed. I pretty much had it planned out from front to back before I ever touched it.” It was driven on and off for two years as it was being mechanically sorted, until it came time to do the body. For that, Scott parked it and blew it apart down to a bare shell, which he then spent months massaging back. The Grabber Green paint gave way to a 2016 Chrysler color called Hydro Blue. Under the hood he went with a 302 cubic-inch block that was stroked to 347 cubic inches. It was stuffed with an Eagle steel crank, Trick Flow aluminum heads, FiTech EFI, and a Vortech blower, all backed by a C4 transmission. The Maverick was wrapped up and put back on the road in March of 2018.
We eventually got together with Scott to get the Maverick shot for a feature in May of 2018. We managed to get the engine and interior done until the heavens opened up, which meant a later date was needed to wrap things up. That later date was put on the back burner when he called telling us that the engine had grenaded itself. The diagnosis was a block cracked into four pieces—the age-old culprit of too much boost on a stock 302 block. He went back to the tried-and-true method of mapping out a new engine on paper before buying parts. Bigger and better was the idea, so he spent the next eight months putting a new mill together to the point we could finally get together.
The end result is a testament to what can be accomplished at home, and proof that the average guy can still build a kickass ride with a modest budget.
Who: Scott Rodgers
What: 1971 Ford Maverick
Where: New Castle, DE
Scott originally started with a stock Ford 302 block that he stroked to 347 cubic inches. As a result of running more boost than was advisable, that combination eventually failed. It didn’t make any sense to reinstall the same components because it was clear that he was pushing things more than they were designed for. As with the previous approach, it all started with a clean sheet of paper before any parts were acquired. When the foundation for the new mill was purchased, the task of doing all the machine work was entrusted to Ed Thomas Performance in St. Georges, DE. Their starting point was a brand new Ford Performance Big Bore version of the BOSS 302 block stuffed with Ross 9.0:1 forged pistons and H-beam connecting rods rotating on an Eagle stroker forged crank that pushed displacement out to 347 cubic inches. On the top end, a set of Trick Flow aluminum 170 cylinder heads is provisioned with Manley valves, Lunati chromoly valve springs, Ford Racing 1.6 stud-mount rockers, and Trick Flow hardened push rods. Camshaft choice was a Comp Stage 5 billet hydraulic-roller unit. After the long block was ready, final assembly was performed by Scott at home.
Fuel delivery is handled by a Spyder EFI ported aluminum intake and an Edelbrock Renegade upper elbow mated to an Accufab 90mm throttle body. Sixty-pound Deka injectors were also installed, along with Spyder EFI fuel rails, and an Aeromotive boost regulator. The other side of the induction puzzle comes from a Vortech V1 T-Trim blower and a modified Fox-body intercooler.
Sparking the engine to life comes from a Ford TFI distributor, MSD 6AL ignition box, and an MSD TFI-style coil.
The C4 transmission that came with the car when it was purchased is still in place. Scott had the crew at Pro-Formance in Newark, DE do the rebuild, which consisted of a manual valve body and a custom Dynamic 10-inch 3,200-stall speed converter. A Gear Vendors under/overdrive unit was also installed.
The Maverick still retains the original Ford 8-inch rear housing that came with the car. With the addition of wider rubber, Scott narrowed it three inches and added Moser ends, Moser axles, and a PowerTrax 3.80:1 posi unit. The plan is for a full rear upgrade in the near future.
With the increase in horsepower, Scott decided that the body was in need of some stiffening, which was accomplished with a set of Chassis Engineering subframe connectors. On the suspension side, up front he installed adjustable Viking Warrior coilover shocks and springs, and heavy-duty upper control arms. At the rear, Viking adjustable shocks, relocated Calvert leaf springs, and CalTracs traction bars complete the upgrades. The stock Ford manual steering box was also retained.
Scott wanted discs at all four corners, so up front he swapped out the stock 1971 spindles with a set from a 1976 Maverick. At the rear, with the addition of the Moser ends, it allowed him to install brackets from a 1998 Explorer to do the drum-to-disc swap. These changes allowed him to install 11-inch Baer rotors and stock Maverick calipers up front, and 11-inch Bear rotors with 1998 Ford Explorer calipers at the rear.
At the front Scott opted for a set of 15×4 Billet Specialties Street Lite wheels wrapped in Classic All Season 185/80R15 skins. At the rear he installed 15×10 Billet Specialties Street Lite wheels shod with Mickey Thompson ET Street 275/60R15 rubber.
The body on the Maverick was in exceptionally good condition when Scott went to look at it. Since his job involved doing metal work for a living, a quick examination of the underside of the car told him all he needed to know. The car was never hit and it was still wearing all of its original sheet metal. When he finally took the body apart and stripped it down to bare metal, the only repairs that were needed were to the lower sections of the quarter panels. He also widened and lengthened the rear wheel wells out to the frame rails. While all the prep work took place at home, the space limitations of his garage didn’t allow him to also lay down the paint, so he ended up taking the car to his buddy Rich Smith at Carman Collision Center in New Castle, DE for the paintwork. As part of his carefully mapped out plan, the original Grabber Green color was ditched in favor of a 2016 Chrysler color called Hydro Blue. A set of 1971 Ford Maverick Grabber stripes from Graphic Express in Inverness, FL was installed at that time as well.
After the car returned from the paint shop, when it came time to reinstall the interior, it was given a full makeover. A new carpet, headliner, gaskets, and weather stripping were installed. A thinner rear seat and wider rear side panels from a 1975 Maverick were added to accommodate the enlarged rear wheel housings. Up front the stock seats were ditched in favor of a set of Procar Elite units wrapped in black vinyl. The original dash pad was past its prime so Scott was able to replace it with an NOS unit that he found in Brazil. Custom door panels were also ordered from there. Door handles and window cranks are from Ring Brothers, the steering wheel is from Billet Specialties, and the instrumentation from Auto Meter.
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