“I didn’t expect it to turn out like this,” Corey Burkett told me. “We started tinkering with it one day, and turned it into this four years later.”
What Corey and his dad Charles turned their 1971 Maverick Grabber into is an incredibly clean, well engineered, and very uncommon hot rod.
But it didn’t start out that way.
Corey purchased the car, which was his Mom’s originally, in 2014, after it had sat in the woods for 22 years. I asked Corey what kind of shape the car was in when he got it.
“It was…” he said, and then he paused. “It was not good. The quarter panels were trash. The floor pans were trash. Everything under the hood was rusted. If it was a frame car it’d have been a frame off restoration. So we built a redneck rotisserie, picked it up off the ground, and started grinding and welding.”
It took a lot of grinding and welding, some sheet metal, and parts from two donor Mavericks to get everything back in good condition.
And if you’re wondering, like I was, how he managed to locate two Maverick donor cars, Corey told me that one of his Dad’s best friends was a “huge Maverick fan”. In fact, he tried for several years to buy Corey’s Maverick. When the friend finally decided to sell his cars, he sold them to the Burketts. “He wouldn’t sell them to anyone else,” Corey said. Maverick fans are a tight bunch.
Once they got all that completed, Corey and Charles approached the rest of the build with the idea of keeping it somewhat original, but with modern updates “so it’s efficient and easy to drive,” Cory said.
The original 302 small block from Ford is still under the hood. The short block is stock, but the V8 has been updated with electronic ignition and an Edelbrock intake system.
In keeping with the “original” part of the build, an Edelbrock 4-barrel carburetor sits on top of an Edelbrock manifold. But with regard to the “modern updates”, Corey plans on replacing the carb with a Holley Sniper EFI unit in the near future.
He updated the cooling system with an aluminum radiator and electric fans. Corey reports that the engine temp will stay right at 180 degrees all day, even sitting in traffic.
Corey told me that finding the right headers for the 302 was “a pain in the butt.” He tried three sets of headers, and none of them would clear the steering box. Then he and Charles were at a car show one day and saw a Comet (Mercury’s version of the Maverick) with headers that fit perfectly. In talking with the owner they found out those headers are only listed as being for the Comet – even though it’s identical to a Maverick. The Comet headers “fit like a glove” Corey was happy to report, and tie into a straight-through dual exhaust – with an exhaust cut out for those times Corey wants to go loud.
A hydraulic clutch is another update Corey installed, and it’s mated to a Ford 4-speed, which replaced the factory 3-speed. A rear end from a Crown Victoria transfers the power to the rear wheels.
The unibody car maintains the stock front coil and rear leaf spring suspensions, but Corey’s lowered both ends to sit the Maverick down low over the Foose Design wheels – 17-inch up front and 18-inch in the back.
I’ve always thought the Maverick was a very clean looking car (full disclosure: my second car was a Maverick Grabber) but Corey and Charles took it to another level with the detailing they completed. The Burketts built spring-loaded hood hinges to replace the factory prop rod. They took all the trim off the body and filled the holes – “about 100 on each side” Corey said. Hard to find factory Maverick sport mirrors came off one of the donor cars.
Then they created a rear spoiler out of PVC and fiberglass, giving the Maverick a bit of a Shelby look in the rear, which is accentuated by the gas cap. They fitted the Maverick with a rear valance from a 1968 Mustang GT and a front valance from a 1969 Camaro. Corey rolled the rear wheel arches. The overall effect is very sleek and very clean.
Corey and his dad did everything on the Maverick, including the interior. Turns out Charles was an automotive upholsterer in the 80s and 90s. His skills were put to use to revitalize the door panels and front and rear seats with matching inserts. They used cardboard to mock up the custom center console which they then built out of fiberglass.
Auto Meter gauges look great, and help Corey keep tabs on what’s going on with the engine. He is still having a problem with getting the fuel tank sending unit to talk properly to the fuel gauge, but in the meantime Corey’s approach is to “just keep gas in it.”
For years, Corey and his dad worked on the Grabber every Sunday. “It wasn’t an easy task,” he told me. But now they’re ready to get out and drive it.
“It runs like a top,” Corey said. “I’m ready to enjoy it.”
Photos by GHR and courtesy of Corey Burkett.