TG’s guide to concepts: the Ford Maya | Top Gear
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Saturday 2nd December

TG’s guide to concepts: the Ford Maya

Small, mid-engined and wedge-shaped. And… American?

1984 Ford Maya rear
  • If that’s American, I’m a silvertip badger.

    Well, time to use your hair as a shaving brush then, mon ami, because this one’s from the land of apple pie and post-truth. It’s (whisper it) a Ford.

    Okay, full disclosure time. Ford had done wedge-shaped in the past – even if the GT40 was a Lola by any other name – so the concept of something low-slung and slinky was certainly not outside the bounds of Ford design by 1984, when the Maya was first presented. 

    Also, there’s the not-inconsequential fact that the designer was none other than Giorgietto Giugiaro, which you’ll notice is quite an Italian moniker.

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  • Well, if the Salvatore Ferragamo loafer fits…

    Precisely. It’s really a question of the best people for the job. And it turns out that Italians tend to be quite good at that whole ‘styling’ thing. 

    Think of anything from the original Fiat 500, any number of pieces of unobtainable Italian exotica or even the almost architectural beauty of the humble Moka Pot. Yup, it’s those wonderful Italians again, ready to make even the most banal aspects of daily life a treat. 

  • Steady on, sunshine. It’s not all La Dolce Vita. Before you waft away amid strains of Puccini, can you get back to the car, please?

    Yes, good point. 

    So, the Ford Maya concept follows perhaps the best recipe in motoring: Italian design on the outside, a powerful American engine in the middle and rear-wheel drive underneath.

    Giugiaro had more than a little form creating low-slung, mid-engined wedges – in fact, when he started on the Maya, he was fresh off the back of penning the DeLorean DMC-12 and Lotus Esprit. And let’s not forget, either, that he gave us the De Tomaso Mangusta, one of the prettiest American-Italian mashups of all time – and that includes Alexandra Daddario. 

    Okay, so the 140bhp Ford V6 that actually made it behind the seats of the Maya was never going blow anyone’s hair back, it was more of a placeholder than anything else. The final production version, developed in tandem with Yamaha, would have made a much more appealing 250bhp. And, as we know from the Volvo-Yamaha V8 that currently powers the Noble M600, it’s a good idea to get Yamaha involved in your engine build. However much power eventuated, it would run through a five-speed manual gearbox, as the driving gods intended. 

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  • So this was an actual working car?

    Very much so – there was even enough room for a 6’8” journalist to fold himself inside for a quick spin around Turin in 1985. The unassisted rack and pinion steering was apparently lovely, in the great Lotus Elise / Alfa 4C fashion. The all-round disc brakes – with two-piston callipers – needed a proper shove but were progressive and powerful. The double-wishbone front and five-link rear suspension arms were made from lightweight alloys. Forget the early ’80s – this is still the gold standard today. 

  • Almost like it was all thought out, or something.

    You’d better believe it – the idea, apparently, flowed along the lines of building ‘mass market exotic’ cars. These would look and feel special, drive with real verve and flood your brain with all the feel-good chemicals that you’re supposed to derive from a well-sorted supercar. But the kicker is that they’d be underpinned by mass-market components, like a Ford V6 from a saloon. Lotus may or may not be following that formula to this day with the Elise and Exige, but that’s another story. 

    The Maya concept went further still, providing an almost excessive amount of luggage and interior space. It was almost as if the plan was to create an everyday supercar. Now, where have we heard that concept before? Was it Germany?

  • So, it was going to be like the Cadillac Allante or that hopeless Maserati-Chrysler tie-in?

    Good lord – just how old are you? Well, yes, if you can remember back to the heady days of 1980s excess then the Maya would have been of that ilk, yes.

    But the Allante was a front-engined, front-wheel-drive barge from 1980s Cadillac. And it’s every bit as good as that description suggests. And as for the Chrysler TC by Maserati, that was the product of Maserati’s lowest ebb (to date) and a flobbery American malaise-mobile.

    The Ford-Italdesign partnership, on the other hand, had all the ingredients there for a seriously fun two-seater, 250bhp everyday sports car. Plans were on the table to build 50 a day, either by hand at a European coachbuilder, or in a Ford factory – either was apparently possible, thanks to the way the Maya was designed.

  • Are you about to get all misty-eyed for what could have been again?

    Well, do you blame us? Consider the specs of the most-famous everyday supercar at that time – power in the low 200s, five-speed manual and an engine behind the driver – and it would have been a very interesting tete a tete between Porsche and Ford. And maybe dusty, worn-out Mayas might be worth untold thousands of pounds at auction, too…

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