When Trent Fruhwirth told me about his hot rod, I was stunned. “Wait a minute,” I said. “Back up. You’re going to install a turbocharged Mercedes Benz engine and a Nissan transmission in a 1976 Ford Maverick?”
“That’s my plan,” Trent replied. “I like unique things.”
Specifically, Trent’s taking a Mercedes OM606 engine, mating it to a Nissan CD009 six-speed transmission, and installing them into his Maverick. That’s got to be pretty high on the unique scale.
Let’s start with the engine. The OM606 is a 3.0 liter inline-six, double overhead camshaft diesel engine produced by Mercedes from 1993 to 2001.
“I watch a decent bit of YouTube,” Trent said, “and I found the OM606 is super popular in Europe. It’s really unique because it revs out to over 6000 rpm, and it still has a very good torque curve… well, it’s kind of an insane torque curve because the diesel gives it the low end but you can push these things to 600 – 700 horsepower. But I’m not going that far. The car’s a little too light for that. I’m looking at 400 to 500 hp.”
Trent found a 1998 Mercedes near where he lived that had a lot of electrical issues so he was able to get it fairly cheap. “I bought it,” he told me, “drove it home, and parked it in my driveway. I went out the next day to start it and the car alarm started going off. I couldn’t get the alarm shut off so I just unplugged the battery. Turns out that’s a big no-no with Mercedes. It just locked down the car. I couldn’t start it. No electronics. Nothing. It was dead in the water.”
So Trent just tore everything he needed out of the Mercedes and called a scrap dealer to come get the rest.
The Mercedes transmission had a lot of issues so Trent needs an alternative. He going with a Nissan CD009 six speed manual transmission from an early 2000s 350Z. It’s a strong transmission that Trent said you can get relatively inexpensively – about $2000 for a freshly rebuilt unit.
As if installing a Mercedes engine in a Maverick wasn’t difficult enough, I wondered how much work was going to be involved in mating that engine to a Nissan six-speed. Turns out… not too much. DieselPumpUK makes an adapter specifically for this combination.
Trent’s main concern for the transmission installation is the trans tunnel on the Maverick’s floor. He’s not sure it’s big enough for CD009. He’ll be doing some mock ups to see how it fits and to find the best location for the shift lever.
Now the question became what car was he going to put this powertrain in?
“I was looking at anything I could find for a relatively good price,” Trent said. “Running or not. I wanted something small and light.”
Trent loves classic hot rods so he started looking for a suitable vehicle. He’d never even heard of Mavericks until he started looking. He purchased his about a year ago on Facebook MarketPlace.
“The Maverick is one of the last few muscle cars that are inexpensive,” he told me. “There’s more Mavericks out there than you’d expect, but in varying degrees of put togetherness.” Trent actually found two more Mavericks relatively nearby. One was in pretty bad shape, but the other, a 1971 model, was OK and Trent purchased it as a parts car.
The Maverick he’s building seems like it’s going to be a pretty good candidate. It came from Ford with a straight six engine, and Trent found that the OM606 is only about an inch longer than the Ford. He thinks he might be able to use the original engine mounts if he builds adapters for them.
“I’m not sure yet,” he said. “There’s plenty of room front to back. Side to side not too much. I’ve got a lot of figuring out to do but I hope not a lot of fabricating.”
One of the Maverick’s previous owners was setting it up for drag racing. It’s got a Ford 9″ rear end, front disc brakes, and 5 lug hubs all around. There’s a fuel cell in the trunk. The suspension is still stock with coil springs up front and leafs in the rear.
Trent’s finding suspension parts are a little difficult to find for Mavericks. “There’s not a whole lot of parts out there for them,” he said. “When I lived in Ohio a neighbor had a Falcon and found out that some Falcon and Maverick parts were interchangeable with Mustangs.”
Trent’s got some chassis upgrades on his to-do list, including larger discs up front, and disc brakes for the rear as well. He’s also planning to trade out the current (noisy) Positraction third member for a much quieter Truetrac model.
He loves the bright blue color that’s on the Maverick right now and he plans to keep it. “I’ll get some spots touched up,” he said, “and then when all the mechanical work is done I’ll have a shop go over the body more completely.”
And as a former Maverick Grabber owner, I was glad to hear that Trent is trying to track down a Grabber hood. A company called Maverick Man Carbon Classic has the hood and a rear spoiler that Trent’s been eyeballing.
Being a ‘76 model, the Maverick came from Ford with the big 5 mph bumpers that were mandated at the time. The previous owner started to swap them out for smaller, early 70s bumpers, but somehow ended up putting a Mustang bumper on the front. Trent’s going to complete the small bumper swap at both ends of the car – using the correct Maverick bumpers.
Trent says the 46 year old interior of the Ford is “pristine”. All the original plastic components are in really good condition. It still has the factory seats front and back, and they’re in great shape, but Trent still needs to replace the front bench for buckets. One reason is that the shifter for the six-speed will be sticking through the floor. But Trent says the main reason he has to get rid of the bench seat is “I don’t really fit in it.”
I asked Trent how he plans to use the Maverick once it’s complete. “I really just want something I can get in and cruise around in and not worry about,” he said. “I don’t have the drag strip in mind. Yet.”
To have less to worry about, Trent’s planning on keeping the car very basic mechanically.
“I’m trying to make this car as free from electronics as possible,” he told me. “The engine is fully mechanical, including mechanically controlled boost, and the trans doesn’t require any electronics.”
When I suggested that his Mercedes Nissan Maverick is a project that’s probably never been done before, Trent said “I’m guessing so too.” He’s just getting started with the project, but even at this point, he’s got an idea of what his schedule will be for the build.
“With the motor out of the Mercedes I’m starting to make good progress,” he said, “I’m hoping to get it running in the next year or so. It’ll probably take three to five years to finish it totally. When I get to the point where I can drive it around, I’m going to be doing an around the country road trip. But I’ve got to get it there first.”
I’m really excited to report that Trent’s agreed to let GHR check in with him along the way, so you’ll be able to get updates right here. In addition, he’s planning to document the build on his YouTube channel TrentBuilds. Be sure to check it out.
Wait a minute. Back up. Trent’s going to install a turbocharged Mercedes Benz engine and a Nissan transmission in a 1976 Ford Maverick?
Yep. And it’s going to be awesome.
Photos courtesy of Trent Fruhwirth
Click here to see more photos of his Maverick
You can follow Trent’s Maverick build on Instagram and YouTube at his ‘trentbuilds’ accounts.