FEATURED CAR: A Frog Is Born
Car - 1971 Ford Maverick
Paint - Grabber Green
Engine - 302 C.I. Small Block Ford
Transmission - 5 Speed TKO with Center Force Dual Friction Clutch
Rear - Ford 9 inch with 3.70 gears on Moser 31 spline axles
Tires - Mickey Thompson 28x12.5x15 slicks out back & 165/80/15 up front
Weight - 2840lbs
Best Pass To Date - 11.36 @ 122mph
Years Owned - 9 years
Can a Car Actually Choose Its Owner?
Off-beat, contrasting, peculiar, a far cry from, clashing, individual, inconsistent, and deviating – these are just a few of the words I considered while searching for the perfect adjective to best describe this issue’s Featured Car.
While the vast majority of gearheads pursue the classic Chevelle, Camaro, Mustang, or Nova, a 1971 Ford Maverick is definitely an off-beat choice to make for 25-year old Erik Slavinjak of Middletown, NY. The more I got into his story, the more I believe that he didn't choose this car, it chose him!
Erik and his dad Joe were perfectly happy with their plans of restoring the 1966 Ford Fairlane (yes another off-beat but cool choice) that was sitting in their driveway. Joe told Erik that he really wanted to do a father/son restoration while they were both young enough to undertake this monumental wish. The 66 Fairlane was going to be the catalyst for Joe's wish to garage bond with his son.
Fate decided to step in and change the plans they had for the Fairlane. Joe was hired to work on a home for a friend and noticed a rusted 1971 Maverick making home in the driveway. At the completion of his work, Joe asked the homeowner if the car was for sale, and a deal was made to offset the cost of the home repairs.
In 2007 the Maverick made its new home in Joe and Erik's driveway and sat untouched for two years. When the father/son team decided it was ready to begin their restoration goal, the decision to sell the Fairlane was made purely because the Maverick was in much better condition. The Ford-loving family was finally going to make a long time dream come true.
The Maverick, or better known as The Frog, was wheeled into Joe's garage in 2009 to begin its deconstruction. The engine and transmission were the first to be pulled out and looked over. The entire body was soon stripped to the bare shell. Joe began the bodywork on the shell first, then moved to the doors, trunk lid and the hood last. This is often the most under appreciated and overlooked part of any car project. In this case, it was a prime opportunity for Joe to share his bodywork skills with his son. Erik was already a seasoned GMC Factory mechanic, but embraced the opportunity to learn a new craft and bond with his dad at the same time.
When I asked Erik what the next thing that happened to the Maverick was, he laughed and said that he actually purchased and installed the wheels and tires. I told him I remembered one of my friends actually purchased his wheels and tires first too, so he could build his car around the massive tires he chose.
The Maverick got its first safety upgrade when Erik installed the 6-point roll bar in the interior. A set of RCI racing seats and, a Crow Enterprises 5-point harness completed the interior so it could safely see some track time. An array of Autometer gauges help Erik monitor The Frog and keep the vitals under control.
The front suspension was next to get rebuilt, and a set of Competition Engineering 90/10 shocks were installed. A set of Cal-Tracs were added to the rear suspension to help The Frog hook at the track. Speaking of The Frog, I think it’s important to share with you how the Maverick earned its nickname.
When Erik was cleaning out the trunk he found a small refrigerator magnet that was in the shape of a frog. He found it odd that someone would have a frog magnet and decided to keep it just for good luck. At another time, Erik was working on the car and took all of the wheels off to work on the suspension. When he went to put the wheels back on he was startled to find a frog sitting in one of the wheels watching him work. So if painting the Maverick Grabber Green and finding a frog magnet in the trunk is not enough, an actual frog watching Erik work on the car sealed the deal. From that day on The Frog was born!
I found it very impressive that Erik's dad applied the paint in the very garage that they rebuilt the car in. The paint looked great and is what actually lured me in for a closer look that night at the track. I would have never guessed it wasn't painted in a professional spray booth.
The engine was next to be replaced with a 302 cubic inch small block. A stock bottom end was used and a Trick Flow Stage 2 cam was installed. A Demon carb was placed on top of an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake. Due to a lack of funds, Erik used a pair of iron heads until he could afford to purchase a set of better aluminum heads. A MSD Pro Billet distributer gets its power from a MSD 6-AL2 and sends that mighty spark through a set of Moroso Ultra 40 spark plug wires. The engine is fed by a Jaz fuel cell, Edelbrock 1792 electric fuel pump, and a Holley bypass regulator.
In 2014 the T-5 and 8 inch rear grenaded on him and forced him to upgrade to its current Ford 9 inch that turns a set of Moser 31 spline axles with 3:70 gears. The transmission was upgraded to a 5 speed TKO built by Liberty Performance. The need for speed did not end here as Erik was finally able to afford new set of Procomp aluminum heads. He also upgraded the carb to a Holley 750 cfm double pumper and added a Nitrous Express Stage 6 single plate system as his power adder.
Erik has fun driving it on the street and taking the car to local meets and cruises. The Frog has even won a few trophies for Best Ford and Best Classic. Needless to say Erik’s dad is proud beyond words of how the Maverick turned out. He was there to cheer Erik on during the Frogs first trip to the dragstrip. The father/son team is not finished with the Frog yet, as they have plans to build a nitrous eating 347 stroker in the future. They also have plans to take the car more into the Pro-Street direction and add a data logger and perhaps some massive tires to the mix.
I commend the two of them for not only completing a beautiful car, but for keeping the long line of father/son teams alive and well. Hearing Erik talk about his dad and spending time together made me miss my dad even more. As I have written many times before, my Dad was a true mechanical genius, and I was so fortunate to have been his apprentice. As I work hard on putting my Pro-Street Camaro back together again, my Dad’s spirit and wisdom are with me every step of the way. I am certain that Erik feels the same way and together we say, "thanks dad for helping us get our cars to where they are today."
Keep an eye out for The Frog, you just might see it hopping to a cruise night or dragstrip near you.
Until next time - keep wrenching,