There’s no excuse for paying someone to work on your car when you can handle the work yourself. Sure, machine work and other aspects of a build can be farmed out, but for Russ Grimes, every part of his Ford Maverick passed through his hands in an effort to make the car look good—and go fast. Russ operates a small shop named Joe Dirt Fabrication and fabricates everything from subframe connectors to complete turbo kits. He handled every portion of this build, from the junkyard engine rebuild to the bodywork and paint and everything between. It’s this type of street car that can truly be considered budget-built, as Russ regulated his spending by avoiding the costly labor rates of pro shops. His work paid off, as his Maverick is bad-fast and always attracts a crowd with its crossbred engine combination, which happens to include a blow-through turbo setup.
Russ has owned a number of cars over the years, and he has not been afraid to dig in and make them the way he wants them. This particular car, a ’74 Maverick, has gone through a half-dozen major rebuilds in the past few years, thanks to Russ’ unwillingness to be satisfied with its performance. It started with a turbocharged small-block Ford, which was a fuel-injected unit from a truck. It did OK, considering the setup, but Russ later removed the injection and turbo, installing a fogger nitrous kit in its place. When that combination ran its course, the Ford mill came out for good and was replaced with a GM powerplant: a 5.3L Vortec engine, to be exact. The LS-based engine cost $350 from a local junkyard, so he laid down the cash and proceeded to fabricate the necessary mounts to perform the swap.
The stock intake manifold and fuel-injection system were the first parts of the new engine to reach the bottom of Russ’ swap-meet pile. He installed an Edelbrock intake manifold and a Holley carburetor to simplify the setup and get his Maverick back on the road. After a brief encounter with a nitrous kit, the 5.3 was forced to endure a turbocharger. These dirt-cheap engines have been known to hold up rather well, but Russ found the limit of the stock pistons during a bit of spirited street driving. He rebuilt the engine with junkyard parts and got it back on the street in less than a week.
Russ hasn’t spent much time at the dragstrip with his budget-built Maverick, but he has driven it thousands of miles on the street, putting the blow-through turbo setup through its paces. In addition to its awesome performance and dependability, the car has a killer look, with a slick paintjob and clean interior. And while it doesn’t have the necessary safety equipment to pass tech at most dragstrips, Russ prefers to do most of his driving on the street, so it’s not a big deal. He drives the car several times a week, and the fuel system is set up to run on pump gas, so it’s fairly inexpensive to operate.
When we asked Russ to come up with a total investment on his Maverick, he gave it to us with very thorough notes, documenting every penny spent on the car. The final tally is $7,155.49 for a good-looking car that terrorizes the street on a regular basis. He didn’t end up with any money tied up in the body, which was acquired during a trade, so if you factor in the initial value of the body, you’re looking at an $8,500 machine that runs 10s and looks good doing it. This budget street brawler has run a best of 6.90 in the eighth-mile with an un-sumped tank and 70mm turbo; Russ says it should go low 6s with the new combo. One thing is for sure: The car is insanely fun on the street, and its budget-friendly buildup is enough proof to make one a believer in the junkyard LS movement.
Who: Russ Grimes
What: ’74 Ford Maverick
Where: Ooltewah, Tennessee
Engine: Starting with a $350 junkyard 5.3, Russ tore the engine down and rebuilt it with new bearings, rings and gaskets. All of the components were stock, but the engine rebuild was a good time to upgrade to a new Trick Flow camshaft, pushrods, valvesprings, and timing chain. The camshaft has 220 degrees of duration on the intake and 224 degrees on the exhaust at 0.050 lift. The valve lift is 0.575 inch, and the lobe-separation angle is 112 degrees. This cam works well with the turbo setup. The cylinder heads are completely stock and are sealed with Fel-Pro gaskets and ARP bolts. Russ modified the Holley 750-cfm carburetor to withstand the abuse of a blow-through turbo kit and beefed up the fuel system with a sumped Mustang tank, an Aeromotive A1000 pump, and a Mallory regulator. The total cash spent was only $1,750.
Power-Adder: Boost is the star of this car’s budget combination, and it all starts with an On 3 Performance 76mm turbocharger. Russ built all the piping and decided to make it a “hot air” system instead of incorporating an intercooler. A total of $575 is invested in the turbo system, and he tacked on another $250 for a dual-nozzle water/methanol kit, which allows him to run more than 20 pounds of boost on 93-octane pump gas. The total here was $825.
Transmission: The transmission cost a total of $640, starting with a junkyard TH350 core. Russ paid $65 for the transmission and rebuilt it using a Summit kit and a Turbo Action valvebody. The 3,100-rpm torque converter is from Speedway and works well with the turbo combination.
Chassis: Russ spent $1,920 to upgrade the stock suspension with a custom AJE K-member and tubular control arms. A pair of Strange coilovers replaces the original coils, and the shock towers have been modified to accommodate the new engine. A Fox-body Mustang rack-and-pinion saves lots of weight compared with the old steering box and linkage, while disc brakes from a ’94–’98 Mustang help bring the Maverick to a halt. Rear suspension consists of the stock leaf springs with adjustable traction bars, which are homebuilt. Russ adapted a narrowed Ford Explorer 8.8 rear end to the Maverick and packed the housing with 31-spline axles, a Moser girdle, and 3.27 gears. Homebuilt subframe connectors stiffen the chassis.
Wheels/Tires: Rolling stock was only $660 and consists of Summit Racing wheels, which are partially painted to match the car. The skinnies up front are wrapped in regular radials, while the rears feature Hoosier 275/60R15 drag radials.
Body/Paint: Russ straightened up the body and used Sherwin Williams materials during the body restoration. The color is Medium Yellow Gold with black stripes and a black Boss hoodscoop. The front spoiler is a modified Boss piece, while the bumpers are from an earlier “small bumper” car. The total here was $1,050.
Interior: For $195, you won’t find a rollcage in this car, even though it definitely needs one. Russ’ Maverick is mostly stock on the inside, but a pair of Hyundai Tiburon seats gives it a fresh look. All of the interior panels are used, but they look nice and provide comfortable surroundings for Russ and whoever is brave enough to be a passenger in this beast.