Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
April 4, 2019

When lots of people are drawn to a car, its popularity can be a double-edged sword. In the world of performance, it often means more parts are available, but it can also mean more expense. The Maverick always lived up to its iconoclastic name, and its outsider vibe meant these cars were always more affordable than the mainstream machines. They also happed to be pretty light and accept many of the same drivetrain combinations as their more desirable cousins.

That vibe definitely appealed to Tess Wood, who is about as hardcore a drag racer as you will meet. Her 1973 Maverick isn’t just any old Malaise-era machine, however. It is a one-time daily driver that transformed into a blown, 9-second drag car under her direction.

“It’s different,” Tess enthused. “It’s pretty rare to see a Maverick at the track, and if you do see one, it definitely doesn’t look like mine.”

Sprayed in Satin Black by her own hand with 30 cans of Krylon, this Maverick carries a menacing visage augmented by a prominent carbon fiber bubble hood from Unlimited Products. That company’s front and rear fiberglass bumpers also help to shave a little more weight from the car’s already svelte frame. It wasn’t always such a dedicated racer, however.

“I got the car a little over five years ago as a driver. It was my second Maverick. I would drive it to work everyday, as it was my only car at the time. It was a nitrous car in the beginning, but I quickly got bored with that and decided to put a blower on it,” Tess recounted. “I was on a pretty strict budget and found a Vortech S-Trim on Craigslist. I got it mounted and had Mike Stafford at Stafford Fabrication do the charge pipes. The first time I drove it down the street after getting the blower on there, the torque converter grenaded.”

We have all been through those project car ups and downs, but often those struggles lead to even further improvements. Tess quickly fixed up her ride and hit the track, while slowly improving its combination along the way.

“After fixing it, I took it to the track for the first time and was able to get it into the 10.80s. I’ve been building everything around the motor, starting with the rearend, 8.8-inch out of a Fox with 9-inch ends, 35-spline axles, and full spool, built by Dave at Murrays Performance Garage,” she said. “Dave also put a roll bar, harnesses, Kirkey seat and subframe connectors on it. I took it to the track after that and had nothing but problems. The blower hat blew off and ripped the stud out of the carb in the burnout and I couldn’t run the car after that.”

Undaunted, Tess soldiered on. She is driven to run the quickest elapsed time with a stock Ford short-block in a Maverick. That quest keeps motivating her through the inevitable ebb and flow of running a stock-engine combo at this level.

“I sent the carb to Kevin at CSU, he got me a new body as mine wasn’t repairable. I took it to the track again and had a problem with it running rough above 4,000 rpm. I changed the coil, plug wires, fuel pump, valve springs, and a lot of the wiring on the car. It ended up being a bad distributor,” Tess said. “After fixing the problem I took it back to the track and went 9.79. It ran decent but was running out of fuel as it only had a stock style mechanical fuel pump on it. I changed the fuel system, put a Magnafuel Sq-750 fuel pump on it and all Vibrant Performance fittings and lines.”

With the fueling sorted, Tess also took the opportunity to maximize the rest of the combination. From the blower setup to the driveline, she tweaked several aspects of her Maverick, and the results got her oh so close to the record she seeks.

“I had Kelly Henry at KWH Fab redo my charge pipe, and had Protrans go through my transmission and put a transbrake in it. Vortech upgraded my blower to an Si-Trim, Freddy Bueno and Tony Politano installed an anti-roll bar and changed the location/angle of my rear shocks,” Tess said. “I changed the front brakes from drums to Wilwood disc brakes. Then I got a carbon fiber bubble hood from Unlimited Products. I changed the gears from 3.73s to 4.10s. I’m only going eighth-mile now but my fastest time so far is a 5.89 and the record I’m trying to beat is a 5.64. The car is currently at the shop getting a new cage and front half installed before I take it to the track again to try to beat the record.” We should also note that her best short-time is consistently deep into the 1.20s with her best being 1.24.

Tess will continue her pursuit of that elusive record while competing in the Limited Small Tire class at the Team Boddie Presents races. One thing is for sure, however, if she keeps up this pace, she will never get bored with her car. “I’ve been making a lot of changes on my car lately to try to get it as light and efficient as possible, so every time I take it to the track it’s like getting into a new car,” she added.

The factory Maverick bodylines are accented with lightweight pieces from Unlimited Products, including fiberglass bumpers and a carbon fiber bubble hood. Tess Wood sprayed the car Satin Black herself with several cases of Krylon rattle cans.
Chasing the fastest stock-short-block record with her Maverick, Tess runs a 1990 Ford 302 with a Trick Flow roller cam, Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads, COMP cams 1.6 rocker arms, and an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold. She tops it off with 14 pounds of boost from a Vortech Si-Trim blow-through setup and a 50-horse shot of giggle gas from a Nitrous Express dry nitrous system.
For helping her Maverick get to its current state, Tess went on to thank, “Tony Politano of the AV Boys, I wouldn’t be where I’m at without his help and knowledge, Vibrant Performance, Vortech Superchargers, Nitrous express, Five Star Tint, Dave at Murray’s Performance Garage, Kelly Henry at KWH Fabrication, Calvert Racing”
Framed by an MPG roll bar, the interior of Tess’ Maverick was freshened by Classic Touch Upholstery and features a Kirkey race seat to keep her planted on those dragstrip passes. The Hurst shifter protruding through the tunnel actuates at Protrans C4 automatic with a Cameron 4,600-rpm stall converter.
Menscer Motorsports front shocks and springs transfer weight to a 4.10-geared 8.8-inch rearend fortified with a Moser spool and 35-pline Moser axles. Leaf springs, Strange Engineering shocks, Calvert Racing rear springs suspend it, and a Team Z anti-roll bar installed by Freddy Bueno at Freddy’s Fabworks. All told, Tess’ setup has Weld Magnums up front and fitted the back with Sander’s 752 series single bead locks and Mickey Thompson Radial Pros to the tune of 1.24-second 60-foot times.

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Photography by Scott Lollis