1971 Ford Maverick - Mike's Mean Maverick
Run 10s for less than 5 grand!
From the August, 2011 issue of Car Craft
By Steve Magnante
Photography by Steve Magnante
When set on building a 10-second street car, most of us don't even consider messing with a straight-six. Meet Mike Robinson; he's not most of us. One day the Easthampton, Massachusetts, native yanked a healthy (vital signs, that is) 300-inch six-banger from a rusty 110,000-mile '84 Ford F-150 pickup and decided to go drag racing. Mike knows that the Ford 300 (like most straight-sixes, regardless of make) uses a 120-degree crank design. That means the crank rotates a full 120 degrees between cylinder firing impulses. By contrast, most typical V8 engines send a piston down the hole every 90 degrees. On the negative side, that means the six's crank must rotate a full 120 degrees before there is another power stroke. But on the positive side, each power stroke has 30 degrees of extra time to put energy (i.e., torque) into the crankshaft. That's why straight-sixes generally deliver more low-end torque than comparably sized V8s—all other factors being equal.
Frankly, both engine types eventually get down the strip—and Mike's not committed to either configuration. Rather, he just wanted an inexpensive yet strong foundation to prove his main point: Slap a well tuned turbocharger on just about anything, and watch it haul ass for less than you'd imagine. To prep the well-used mill for boost, Mike yanked the oil pan and installed a high-volume oil pump and a fresh gasket. Then he flipped it over, pulled the valve cover, and replaced the stock single valvesprings with a set of Comp small-block Chevy triples. With the valve cover reinstalled, Mike hit it with a fresh coat of Ford Engine Gray and the long-block preparation was complete. No kidding, he was done. At this point, you'd be forgiven for assuming Mike was on a search for 18-second timeslips. But no, Mike's a go-fast kind of guy with a history of quick dragstrip machinery under his belt.
Knowing that every engine is essentially just an air pump (thank you Jeff Smith for planting that seed of wisdom in this writer's mind so many years ago), Mike knew he'd have to force the asthmatic Ford inline to breathe by artificial means. Out from under the workbench came a surplus turbocharger pirated from a 40,000-pound International DT466 diesel dump truck. The end result wasn't 18s, but rather high 10s! To be exact, Mike's 110,000-mile, 300-inch Ford can bang off 10.90s at 120 mph. Just give it a sticky launch pad and watch the magic. Don't believe it? Skip over to YouTube or StreetFire, type in "Turbo 4.9 Maverick," and watch Mike's low-buck disappearing act for yourself. It's real, and we witnessed it in person at New York's Lebanon Valley Dragway. Best of all, the car has been together for three years so this isn't a one-trick pony.
A key element is how Mike tossed the Maverick's stock, weak-kneed, 200-cube straight-six and based his combination on Ford's "big-block" six instead. You see, the smaller Ford sixes (144, 170, 200, 240, and 250) may only weigh 400 pounds, but they're all cursed with an integrally cast intake manifold. You read that right: The intake manifold is a crude log that's formed as part of the head. By contrast, the truck- and van-sourced, 300-cube straight-six may weigh a porky 512 pounds (same as a 302 V8), but it's blessed with superior intake ports and a conventional bolt-on intake manifold, so numerous aftermarket four-barrel replacements are available. Also, unlike some of the smaller Ford sixes, which only have four main bearings, the big 300 has seven mains for excellent support as the extra-long crank thrashes away.
We're not saying the Ford 300 inline-six is an undiscovered secret weapon or a particularly ideal performance candidate, but the thing that really bums us out about Mike's Mean Maverick is how this $5,000 lash-up poses a serious threat to this author's 10.85/125 Hemi Dart. It's true, slapping a turbo on just about anything can deliver surprising results. Just make sure the base motor can handle the strain!
Who: Mike Robinson
What: '71 Maverick
Where: Easthampton, MA
Engine: This is a nonrebuilt '84 Ford 300 cube-six with 110,000 miles. It has the factory original head gasket, head bolts, 8:1 cast pistons, forged rods, cast crank, and a hydraulic flat-tappet F-150 pickup truck cam (0.368 lift, 192 duration at 0.050). Not original are the fresh HV oil pump and stock F-150 oil pan massaged for Maverick chassis. The stock, cast-iron head is unported and still runs O.E. 1.78/1.52 valves. The stock, single valve*springs have been replaced by Comp small-block Chevy triple springs (dampers removed), which fit the stock Ford valve*guide bosses and keep turbo boost from blowing the valves closed. The stock, stamped-steel retainers and pushrods were reinstalled. Induction consists of a box-stock Offy cast-aluminum four-barrel intake manifold topped with a 600-cfm Holley double-pumper with mechanical secondaries and the power valve removed. A stock remanufactured Garrett TO4B from an International DT466 dump truck blows through the carburetor via custom-fabricated induction plumbing. Mike converted a pair of '88 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe intercoolers for water-to-air operation; a trunk-mounted 7-gallon ice-water tank and electric pump are used for coolant. Spark plugs are three steps colder than stock. Power is estimated at 380 to 400 hp at the tires (as calculated from the timeslip).
Fuel: Mike started out using VP 116-octane C-16 race gas but switched to VP Q-16 oxygenated gas and picked up 4 tenths. He says, "It sure stinks but is a key ingredient in keeping things alive. The oxygenated feature allowed me to become more aggressive with the timing and jump the boost from 5 to nearly 25 psi." In the carb, 95 and 99 primary/secondary jets work best. The trunk-mounted aluminum tank is internally divided to contain 15 gallons of gas and the ice water for the intercooler.
Transmission: Mike uses a vintage Fairbanks C6. A built C4 would reduce weight and consume less power, but Mike prefers the added durability of the C6. Both bolt directly to the back of any 300-cube Ford six. The converter is a 10-inch unit from Ultimate that stalls between 3,800 and 4,200 rpm. Here's Mike's launch technique: "I light the pre-staged bulb then slowly creep up on the second bulb using the throttle and foot brake. Then I activate the first stage of the MSD two-step rev limiter at 4,000 and mash the throttle to build boost. The four caliper rear disc brakes hold the car steady on the line, so when I release the brake pedal on the last amber bulb, the car launches hard. I up-shift into Second at 4,700 rpm then make the final to-drive up-shift at 4,900 and run through the traps at about 5,200 rpm."
Rearend: The aluminum driveshaft tube is from another project, shortened to suit the Maverick, with Spicer 1350 U-joints at both ends. The Ford 9-inch housing has 3 1/4-inch tubes of 1/4-inch D.O.M. material butted almost against the bearing caps for maximum strength. The Moser aluminum center has 3.25:1 gears, a spool, and 35-spline axles.
Exhaust: Thanks to the turbo's noise-damping characteristics, no muffler is required. A simple 4-inch downpipe runs from the turbo outlet beneath the nose of the car. This saves 50 pounds, and the exhaust note is perfectly acceptable—though at WOT it sounds like a UPS truck on acid.
Suspension: One turn has been cut from the stock six-cylinder front coil springs, and the Napa gas shocks allow rapid lift, but excessive body rise is controlled by a cable limiter set for 2 1/2 inches of separation. Alignment is set at 5 degrees positive caster with 1/4 degree negative camber and 1/8-inch toe-in. The rear leaf springs were moved inboard of the framerails to gain tire clearance. The springs use Maverick main leaves with dearched Ford pickup truck leaves stacked to achieve a stiffer front segment. No ladder bars or pinion snubber are used, but an adjustable Competition Engineering rear antiroll bar has been added to allow chassis preload tuning for level launches. Rear shocks are Rancho 9000 nine-way adjustables, set at "3-clicks in" by Mike's son Matt, who's in charge of suspension tuning.
Brakes: Wilwood vented front discs replace the stock four-lug Maverick drums. Wilwood rear disc brakes feature dual calipers for maximum on-the-line clamping while turbo builds boost. Mike seeks to "hold the car steady on the line without placing any preload into the tire sidewalls. It launches best this way."
Wheels/Tires: The Weld Pro Stars, 15x3.5 front and 15x10 rear, were powdercoated by Robinson's Race cars. The front tires are lightweight M&H P185/85D15, and out back is a set of unidirectional M/T ET Street P295/65R15 drag radials that have seen three drag seasons but are still biting. Mike plans to reverse the tires to squeeze out a few more runs before replacement.
Interior: Inside is stock with the rear bench seat removed and the front bench replaced with two Kirkey lightweight, aluminum buckets. Elsewhere are a B&M Pro Ratchet shifter, Auto Meter gauges, and a 10-point chrome-moly 'cage added by Robinson Race Cars for safety and to stiffen the body.
Body: Ford of Canada built this Maverick before it arrived at Mike's shop showing 47,000 original miles. It has the original paint, but the front fenders were replaced due to rust, and a fiberglass cowl hood was added. The rear quarter-panels were stretched and the OEM wheel houses massaged for tire clearance. Race weight is 3,058 after a pass with driver.
Performance: Best performances so far is 10.92 at 120.77 mph with a 1.50-second 60-foot time.
Special thanks to Mike Shea and Palmer Paving for letting us use the gravel quarry, Mike also wants to thank wife, Jennifer, daughter, Breanna, son, Matt, Chris Zukowski, Tim Young, Jesse Willis, and numerous friends who stepped up with used fuel system parts, gauges, and other donations.
&bull The fabled Dodge A100 Little Red Wagon wheelstander was campaigned by Bill "Maverick" Golden, who never owned a Ford Maverick, right Bill?
&bull Fans of the Beatles classic 1966 album Revolver should check out anything by the band Supergrass. You'll like it.
I ran across this car looking for supercharged 300 6 videos.
300 6 owners only dream of being able to out accelerate anything.
I also remember watching a hot rod tv show episode many years ago where a guy (on Speed now) took a tired 225 I-6 70's duster and added a big shot of nitrous oxide.