Looking to get back into drag racing, Kendall Collins wanted a Maverick like his father had, and when the owner of that car wouldn’t sell it, he found another one and built it into the wicked-fast street car you see here.
When Collins was a teenager in the 80s, he began visiting the drag strip with his father who was racing his Ford Maverick. Eventually, Collins himself made his first passes down track in his first car, a 1970 Mustang coupe that he traded for a 429-powered Ranchero. He piloted a number of cars after that, and gradually went quicker and faster with each one.
“In the late ‘90s, the 10.5-inch tire, heads-up street car class had blown up and I was hooked on doing that, so I built a 10.5-inch tire Fox-body Mustang,” Collins said. “I didn’t race it but a few times locally. I got my son into racing BMX and Motocross and that was the end of my drag racing for a while. When my son was 18, he finally decided he wanted to pursue other things other than motocross so at that point, I’m like, ‘OK, it’s time for me to build me a car to play with.’”
In 2013, Collins found this 1970 Maverick on Craigslist and spent the next two years working on it, but at one point quit and almost sold it, as he grew tired of working on it and not being able to enjoy the fruits of his labor. After playing with a couple of other cars, he eventually got back to working on it, though.
In contemplating the Maverick’s powertrain, Collins passed over the Coyote as it was still too expensive at the time and procured a 5.4-liter DOHC Navigator V-8 engine.
“I had been out of drag racing for about 13 years, and it was mind blowing that people were using stock parts and making that kind of power,” Collins said of Ford’s dual overhead cam Modular engines. “It really drew me in. With the Navigator motor, you could get them pretty reasonable and make big power with them.”
Collins equipped the Navi engine with a pair of turbochargers and a F.A.S.T. electronic fuel injection system. He backed the Mod motor with a Turbo 400 transmission built by Jerry Waller and a Cameron’s Converters torque converter, and swapped in a Ford Explorer 8.8 rearend with 4.10 gears and a Strange Engineering 35-spline spool and axles.
With an engine combination like that, there was going to be some big horsepower to handle, so Collins and Daryl Waldrup shored up the chassis with a full roll cage, and Collins added an Anthony Jones Engineering K-member and Viking front struts up front, while out back, he installed a pair of Calvert Racing mono-leaf springs, Caltrac bars, and Menscer Motorsport shocks.
The largely all-steel, save for the fiberglass hood and bumpers, exterior of the Maverick received a full makeover by Gerald Smith, who sprayed the Ash Metallic hue. Complementing the gray hue is a set of slotted mags that gave Collins the old-school cool look he was after, even with the addition of bead locks.
Once the twin-turbocharged Navigator engine roared to life, Collins took it to the Turkey Rod Run in Daytona Beach, Florida, in 2018. The machinist from Savannah, Georgia, enjoyed cruising the event, but the dyno tuning session he had planned for the following Monday did not go so well, as a cylinder head got torched during the tuning session.
The malady gave Collins the opportunity to reconsider his engine options, and as prices on used Coyote engines had come down by this point, he decided to switch to that platform and bought two damaged engines and built one good one from all of the parts. He equipped it with Comp Cams camshafts, stock cylinder heads that he and Shea Floyd ported, and he adapted the 66mm turbochargers that were previously fitted to the 5.4. The forced induction system initially did not have an intercooler, as Collins couldn’t find one small enough that could support the power level.
With Coyote power on board, Collins’ Maverick ran a best elapsed time of 5.02 to the eighth-mile at 140 mph, and he eventually improved on that with a 4.97.
“It was the snowball effect,” Collins said of the additional mods that followed. “Look how fast I went. If I do this, I can go a little faster.”
Knowing he was going after more power, Collins and friends Dana Brown and Mike Stevens pulled the engine and fitted the short-block Darton sleeves, a Boss 302 crankshaft, Wiseco Boostline connecting rods and Manley pistons. Parts delays due to the pandemic meant that the engine was down for several months, though and it didn’t get completed until early 2021.
Unfortunately, the new crankshaft decided it wasn’t up to the task and promptly broke the first time out at the track. Thankfully, Collins was able to get the engine back up and running in less than a month.
In the search of more power, Collins changed the turbos to larger 78/75 models and fitted a small Treadstone Performance intercooler as well. He was able to clock a 4.97 at the Mod Nationals in November that year, and also took home the win at the Southeast Street-N-Yeet event that same month.
While it had some success in competition, the new engine combination had a hard time spooling the turbos up on the line. With that in mind, Collins first thought was to change the turbos and he contacted Jose Zayas at Forced Inductions who set him up with a pair of smaller 72/73 turbos.
“Some tuners tried to help me at Sick Week,” Collins said of his first outing with the new turbos and his first trip to the drag-and-drive event in January of 2023. “They said I needed a 3-step and a boost builder. If the F.A.S.T. had that, it could have done better. I had just put the Forced Induction turbos and bigger intercooler on and a new converter, but it was too tight. The car had no boost, just 6psi. It was kind of embarrassing because I had just won Street-N-Yeet.”
Despite running an improved 4.86 in May, Collins felt the boost building was still a bit of an issue and had a FuelTech FT600 ECU installed over the summer.
“The FuelTech has a 3-step that will take the rpm where it needs to go to build boost. It’ll build what you want it to, and when it sees that boost it goes back to the 2-step limit. I have to leave on at least 10-12 psi.” Collins was able to have Michael Bunton of MJB Performance wire up the FT600 and TKM Performance performed the engine calibration.
FL2K at Bradenton Motorsports Park in 2023 was Collins first race with the new ECU and he entered the event untested and worked on fine-tuning the car at the track. There, he logged a new best eighth-mile time of 4.855 seconds at 146 mph, and went through the quarter-mile clocks at a staggering 7.601 seconds at 166.70 mph. He qualified in the top 16 cars of the Street Car class, but unfortunately, went out in the first round.
After that event, Collins entered the Street Car Bragging Rights class at the No Mercy event in Georgia. He made it to the semi-finals and also improved his elapsed times to a 4.777 at 149.68 mph and a 7.415 at 183.97. He whittled the eighth-mile time down further to a 4.762 at 149.28 at the Mod Nationals event, and collected his quickest eighth-mile timeslip to date, a 4.69 at Carolina Dragway during Nate Prater’s Burnouts for Kids event.
“It keeps getting faster and faster,” Collins told us.
Going into 2024, he plans to test before entering the Street Car Bragging Rights class at the Lights Out event in February.
“My first goal was to go 4s,” said Collins. “Everyone wants to do that with a street car.”
Now, he’s not far away from 4.50s and he continues to make positive changes to his 1,645.6-horsepower Maverick, which recently received a refreshed transmission by Gene Hughes. To see if he gets there, you can catch Collins competing at most street car races in the southeast, or you can follow his exploits on his son Austin’s YouTube channel, Hot Rod Heaven. And soon the Collins household will have two Mavericks on track, as they were finally able to purchase Collin’s father’s Maverick and are going to set it up for Austin to race.