No matter how you cut it, Kory Keshemberg's Maverick is spotless and understated.
Sometime during their car days, everybody should own at least one Maverick. It is a study in simplicity. Its lines come together with a rare grace. In the 3,600- to 3,800-lb musclecar scheme, it weighs 800 to 1,000 lbs less, and is very tolerant of inexpensive, bolt-on mechanical systems originally designed for larger Ford products, Mustangs in particular. I know. I had a new Maverick back in the day. It made great hot rod material for someone inextricably bound to doing it on the cheap.
It was a 1970 model, Anti-Establish Mint green, born with a 200ci six and three-on-the-tree. I was the editor of Car Craft then, the perfect place to be if you wanted to build a hot car. And I did. A year after it was introduced, though, the Maverick Grabber came on line, packing a 302 V-8 and a snazzier silhouette, but you couldn't order it with a four-speed.
Down in the guts of the Petersen building, I was told, a similar displacement dyno motor that Crane Cams had developed with its cylinder heads and cam gear was sulking in a cobwebbed corner, and ready to be liberated. Because Ford was already building these V-8-powered sleepers, we ordered every part that the eight-cylinder cars used for the swap, making it a real factory bolt-in bomb. I backed it with a Super T10 four-speed and a 9-inch axle that flew straight out of somebody's Mustang late one Midnight Auto evening.
On the side of history, remember Dyno Don's 'Cammer-powered Maverick or Fast Eddie Schartman's similar ride? Wayne Gapp and a guy named Jack Roush plopped a fiendish small-block four-door (The Tijuana Taxi) in Pro Stock and slaughtered all comers with it. So why didn't people swarm the Maverick as if the trunk was stuffed with $100s, like they did with an early Camaro or a '57 Chevy? No cach. No hook. No cool.
Thirty-five years later, the Maverick continues to display the same comfortable aura, the same simple lines, and the same exciting (and easily attainable) power-to-weight ratio that make it perfect hot rodding and engine-swap material-if you can still find one that hasn't burned up with rust and returned to the earth. Kory Keshemberg, a 28-year-old son of Appleton, Wisconsin, found his prize on the back of a car hauler. A guy was bringing in stuff from the low-humidity backwaters of Arizona and New Mexico. Kory was happy to take the thing right off the truck. Why? Does he suffer some sort of youthful dementia? Well, yes he does. It's the ingrained urge to follow his own path, one that does not follow lemming-like in the tracks of the usual suspects.
"I picked the Maverick because everyone has a Mustang, and I wanted something different," he says. "Besides, when I saw this no-rust cherry, I knew I'd have it. That slow oxidation process claimed most of the ones up here a long time ago."
Whether the shapely Ford appealed to his sense of economy or his aversion to a Mustang of his own, Kory was ready (too kind a word, better make that driven) to pursue his skinflint notions. He is solely responsible for its content and all the work required for it to be a complete entity and one with Kory's signature. His considerable background includes 12 years of engine building and drag race savvy, he tells us, but the Maverick blew a back tire and sailed off the road, trashing a rocker and a quarter. Kory's body-working skills evolved on the spot.
"I didn't have any experience fixing metal work," he proudly admits. "But my friend, and mentor, Tom, an older guy, took the time to teach me how to do it the right way." Kory proved a fast learner. He took the shell to bare metal, fit it with some small sheetmetal bandages, and filled in the side marker light holes. Tom dared him to wave the paint gun too. In the end, Kory dressed his dream with an Omni basecoat/clearcoat, and sprayed on the elegant yet tastefully subdued silver metallic.
The pattern emerges unfailingly. Kory's hard-core. A steam-fitter by trade (Local 400), Kory's an enthusiast who likes to do things with his hands, do his own work. "It didn't just happen," he says. "I learned and re-learned as I went along. The bodywork alone took about a year to complete." Looks like that Old World work ethic can't hide from him. Living on a car budget is good for the soul, the bankroll, and for the incomparable psychic reward it affords.
"This car is a driver, not a trailer queen, and I race it often," Kory says. "The best part of the whole deal was being able to do it for cheap. I like working that way because it made me appreciate the important things in life, like my wife Jenny, and my two kids, Kara (10) and Paxton (4). It took a lot of patience to build the car, from me, and from my family. I give them special thanks, and I say the same to my friends Tom, Adam, and Dave."
Beyond squandering on the engine, basic cars usually get basic preparation in all other areas, so you have to choose carefully. You know you've got the right platform when the stock suspension proves very accommodating and very adaptable. Kory's aim included a few simple changes. He bolted on some '77 Granada spindles and the disc brakes that came with them. He didn't touch anything else up front. He slid the 9-inch on the Maverick's leaf Wsprings and set to stiffening up the unibody. Competition Engineering supplied the subframe connectors and Slide-A-Link traction bars. To temper the severity of the tire hit, Kory completed his combination with three-way adjustable CE shock absorbers and Hoosier DOT slicks.
Looking good is feeling good. Budget constraints don't necessarily dictate a raggy interio
But the fugitive from the '70s is also a street car, right down to its Maverick-emblazoned floor mats. No air, no tunes, but certainly warm air for his body and the inside of the windshield. Call the interior scheme Spartan Chic. Adam Stuyvenberg (also of Appleton) dressed up the place in slick black vinyl. Kory decorated his pad with crucial Auto Meter gauges and strapped a big fat tachometer (with shift light) right in front of his nose. In all, it's an open, roomy sanctum completely uncluttered by the spidery fingers of the usual rollcage stringers.
The 400 small-block he had been using grenaded, but a friend was parting out his modified Mustang II, so our hero gladly received that relatively overlooked C-motor and went to work on it. Cleveland? Windsor? It didn't matter one bit. To Kory, a motor's a motor, and this one was an inexpensive score at that. Kory relied on his engine experience when he put the Cleveland together. Automotive Specialties (Neenah, Wisconsin) machined the rotating parts according to his specification, and Kory got down to doing what he really likes. Was it a problem that the original crankshaft was cast rather than forged? No. Considering the engine's final destination, did it make sense to upgrade the pistons and connecting rods to forged material? Yes.
Though known for the inefficiency of its large-by-huge and also big-ass intake and exhaust ports, the C heads easily maintain enough velocity to put an effortless 348 hp to the Maverick's wheels. That's punk you say? With the Maverick at an even 3,000 lbs with him in it, that punk motor is good enough to peel off a best of 11.70 at 117 mph. Along with his presence in the NMCA Open Comp class, Kory descends on the World Ford Challenge, True Street confrontations at Wisconsin International Raceway, and bracket skirmishes at Norwalk, Indy, and Joliet.
Regardless, when the weather's right, the car comes out on a weekly basis. "I need to let off some steam," Kory says. That's a given and a mandate.