Someone At Popular Science In 1968 Had To Be Spying On Ford Because This Drawing Is Just Too Damn Good

Mav Top

In my quest to bring you all only the most cutting-edge, extremely current automotive stories, I was doing some research by flipping through a 1968 issue of Popular Science while taking my bowels for a spin. In the issue, I saw a line drawing of a car I immediately recognized as an early Ford Maverick, but it was called a 1970 Falcon. I found this all very interesting because in some ways, this is the pre-internet version of a leak, and I know how much we all love those.

Here, I’ll show you the whole page I’m talking about:

Popsci Mav

This little article is interesting for two main reasons: First, it gives a great peek into the environment that caused Ford to develop what became the Maverick at all, which had to do with increased competition from inexpensive imported cars, of which most were Volkswagen Beetles, but with new Japanese cars from Datsun and Toyota and Honda rapidly gaining popularity.

There’s also the fact that it was assumed that the Maverick would be badged as a Falcon, which at that time was Ford’s only real compact offering that could try to compete with all those Beetles and Datsuns. The Falcon was introduced first in 1960, and while it had some facelifts and was updated to the Fairlane platform, wasn’t expected to be able to meet new safety standards, and would have been known to be on its way out, which eventually came in 1970.

So, for PopSci to assume that this new car would take over from the current Falcon makes perfect sense, especially since it shared the inline-six engine with the Falcon.

What I think is even more interesting, though, is that drawing, because it is dead on to what the Maverick would look like. The Maverick was introduced about a year after this article, in 1969 as a 1970 model, and look how close it is to those drawings:

Maverick Press

Now, not every single detail is perfect (taillights slightly different shape, same for the shape of the rear fascia, bit of grille width, etc.) but it’s really, really close. These drawings had to come from spy photographs, and I think it’s interesting that those photographs weren’t just run, but instead an artist was commissioned to draw a version of the car.

I think today we would consider this a leak, no question. It’s a look at the design of a car a solid year before it was actually released. Spy photography is by no means new, of course, and it would be expected that publications would be buying photos from spy photographers. It happened all the time, and, really, so did drawings like this one, showing the car.

Today, we still see probable renderings of cars before they come out, so this practice still continues. I just really liked this very clear example of this delightfully clandestine art.

While researching this a bit, I found some interesting photos of early styling concepts for the Maverick that show some of the development of the car, and made me appreciate it’s look a bit more. Here’s the one that seems to be the most direct predecessor to the final production design:


But then look at this other one, which has a front end that appears to be directly inspired by Ford of Britain’s Escort, with its dogbone-shaped grille:


Those side vents and character line that wraps over the rear wheelarch also remind me of the Ford of Europe Capri, too.

And this one seems like part Pinto, part Vega:


I wonder if maybe this one is a Pinto design study, as it seems to have a smaller wheelbase than the others. Well, I’ll leave it in anyway, because it’s interesting.

I was also interested to see just how directly the Maverick was positioned against the Beetle and other imports, including the use of some, to our modern sensibilities, at least, strange, mildly xenophobic tropes like referencing “foreign intrigue,” as though buying a car made in another country somehow suggested you could be involved with, I don’t know, spy shit:

Mav Intrigue

Anyway, way to get the scoop, staff of 1968 Popular Science! That’s how you make your readers happy!

(images: Ford, PopSci, Maeric/Comet Forums)

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38 Responses

  1. The color naming in the 70s was great — another color for the Maverick was “Thanks Vermillion.”

    My girlfriend’s parents had one of the early 4-door models (in tan with IIRC a brown roof), and my dad had a ’74 Mercury Comet 2-door (Maverick clone) that had the comically big bumpers and the seatbelt chime.

    (My dad was a big man and hated the early seatbelts as he felt too constricted. The Comet had the continuous seatbelt un-belted chime, which he had disconnected. He did finally start using seatbelts all the time in the ’80s, probably enough chiding by us did it.)

  2. I dig the Escort/Capri version but the actual production Maverick is great, I’d love to snap one up one day if possible.

    I’m sure they saw those concepts and used them as reference but I like the version in my head of someone at Ford seeing that article and going ‘Shit, that’s better than what we’ve got.. let’s us that!’

  3. Jim Dunne and Jan P. Norbeye (sp.?) of PS are who I learned about cars from. A ’70 Mav with a set of slots wasn’t a half-bad-looking car, I did a few miles in one later in the decade. That drawing with a 3′ door on one side and a 2′ door on the other is bad, I hope they got it cheap. A point-is, of course, you can’t prove there was ever trespassing to get it.

    1. Ditto on Jim Dunne, I remember getting a subscription to PS when I was about 9, and the car stories there are one of the reasons that I love cars. Pretty soon I was subscribing to C/D, MT, and R&T.
      Remember that? Here’s money, send me paper every month. Seems like a totally different world.

  4. Had a puke green 1971 in high school. Man that was a great car. Dead simple, easy to work on, and even though it was underpowered it was still fun. I always thought it was a great looking car and was kind of sad they used the name on a truck…although it is kind of a good truck name.

      1. To bad you can’t buy one of the hybrid’s for the next few years unless you reserved a spot before they started making them. Ford completely misjudged the desire for a smaller truck with good fuel economy, expecting more people to opt for the larger gas powered version.

        If people want a truck with mediocre fuel economy, they have the F-150 and Ranger to choose from. If you want a truck to tow, payload capacity, or bed length, The F-150 and Ranger have it covered. The Maverick appeals to an entirely different group of people who may have never considered a truck before. It gets Prius level fuel economy, has an open bed for the dirty or large stuff you don’t want to put in your CUV, and fits in your garage. The fact it is inexpensive is a bonus.

        I would love to test drive one first, but if the hybrid was available, I may very well have gone down to Ford and bought one.

    1. Today’s car would be loaded with scores of federal safety requirements, electronic gadgetry, and a pile of emissions controls that would encompass everything from the fuel tank to the tail pipe. Surely all that adds some cost.

  5. I always thought that the two door Maverick was better looking than it needed to be. Very good proportions. Always a sucker for a two door fastback. I remember a commercial with several young ladies (flight attendants?) taking a Maverick apart using hand tools. This was to show how simply it was put together and how easy it would be to maintain.

    1. The Maverick – especially the early ones with smaller bumpers – is an incredibly handsome car, even in the worst shade of brown ever painted on a vehicle like my sister had. I don’t remember if it’s a good car but the design team did great work.

      1. You can’t criticize 1970s Maverick colors without mentioning “Original Cinnamon” and “Freudian Gilt” as just a couple examples of especially hideous choices, even though we’d all be thrilled have that kind of variety available today.

        One of my uncles had an Original Cinnamon Maverick Grabber, complete with the double bump hood and the black stripe package. It looked pretty sporty, a little outrageous, and little tired all at the same time. Even though it didn’t really deliver on the sporty looks when stock, it was a nice little car. But like most cars of the day, it wasn’t especially reliable and rusted out very quickly.

      2. “Worst shade of brown ever painted on a vehicle”?

        May I present to you… the Pontiac 6000.

        My first car at 16. Somehow the clear coat dissolved uniformly over the entire body leaving no luster in any spot. Primer brown I called it.

        Though by the time it was mine it had gone through a few older sisters ownership. They added glittery silver and gold rattle can stenciled moons and stars all over it.

        Was I the cool kid in the high school parking lot? I wished I had a brown Maverick.

  6. I find it interesting that the Ford is longer than the VW, but going by Ford’s pic, the passenger compartment is about the same size. And while the Ford’s trunk is bigger than the VW’s frunk (mostly perhaps because the front footroom eats into the frunk), the Ford’s engine compartment (hood) is huge compared to the VW’s better packaging. I’d say the VW is prettier, too, but I’m a weirdo.

  7. Maverick was a pretty good base for us 70’s hotrodders. Build the 302 and strengthen the suspension and it was a pretty fast car.
    Got dumped by a girl with a Grabber. My only ride in it was when my Spitfire ran out of gas and I called her to pick me up. Awkward ride in a cute yellow Maverick with black stripes.

  8. Just speculating here, but maybe the only photographs available had already been sold to a rival publication which had paid enough to get exclusive use. Popular Mechanics and Mechanix Illustrated would have been customers of the spy photogs, too, and the competition for content could be pretty stiff.

    1. Or the photos were taken by someone with a shitty instamatic lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, but were too blurry to publish, so PopSci bought them for five bucks and paid some art student another fiver to come up with a drawing.

  9. First car was a 73 “Grabber” (dorky name, I know) 302, Auto trans, red with black stripes and rockers. Was a year old with 17K miles. Not real fast, but not as slow as most of the stuff they were selling then. I drove it like stupid 18 y/o I was, but it was dead reliable. Was great until the Army took me to Tennessee. No AC was a killer in the summer heat. Made the mistake of stopping by the Chevy dealer on a scorching summer day and drove out in a new 75 Camaro with air and everything else but power windows. Really wanted a Z28 but they weren’t sold that year. Bad news was this was a terrible year for performance with the 4bbl 350 making only 165hp. I think the Maverick would have beat the Camaro in a drag race due to the weight advantage.

    Always thought it would have been cool to have been born ten years earlier. I missed the real muscle car era by about that much. By the time I got my driver’s license we were deep in a gas crunch worse than we are seeing now. Not only had gas almost doubled in price, you just plain couldn’t get it at times. I saw some great performance cars go for cheap but couldn’t afford the gas. Example: 71 Roadrunner, 383 4 spd, $1,500. I could go on and on but won’t. Not ashamed to admit that American Graffiti is my all time favorite movie.

  10. I actually like the look of the grill in the drawing better than the eventual production model. It gives it a little more of a euro look. However, I don’t really like the hint of tail fins in the rear. The artist must have been a big Harley Earl fan.

    I agree that the drawing has to be based on prototype photos. I bet it wasn’t spy photos, but Ford judiciously leaking some of those design study pics to generate interest ahead of releasing the new model.

    The next two sets are very interesting. The one on the left looks like an evolution of the third generation Falcon, basically shortening it a little and giving it new treatments front and rear. The one on the right definitely has a euro look to it and would have been a fun stablemate for the Capri on the Mercury side of the dealership.

    Finally, I agree the last set has to be a Pinto design study. I really like the notchback design instead of the hatchback we ended up with. I’ve always preferred the Pinto wagon over the sedan. I’ve also always thought the Vega was a sharp-looking car that definitely had a European vibe. It was just too bad the car was so poorly engineered.

  11. In the last set of model pics, the side view bugs the crap out of me. It’s like 2 design teams were kept from communicating with each other and assigned to designing the front or rear. Looks like the break is at the b-pillar. The front is Pinto/Vega-esque, and the rear is what happens when you dry your ‘68 Camaro on High for too long.

    I do love me some Maverick, tho. It’s fairly high on my (semi realistic) list of classics to own

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