HomeThe MarketSEMA Seen: Sung Kang and Project Underdog 1972 Ford Maverick

SEMA Seen: Sung Kang and Project Underdog 1972 Ford Maverick


Actor and high school students worked with Steve Strope to build up the 'Underdog' Ford Maverick | Larry Edsall photos
Actor and high school students worked with Steve Strope to build up the ‘Underdog’ Ford Maverick | Larry Edsall photos

There has been a lot of talk — and action — at this 50th annual SEMA Show about attracting young people to careers involving cars.

The day before the show began, as part of the SEMA Career Paths initiative, some 600 high school and college students attended the first Student Career Day to learn about potential careers working for automotive and aftermarket companies.

The SEMA Show also featured the annual Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge in which teams of high school students compete in an engine-building contest.

Maverick 'underappreciated, overlooked and undervalued'
Maverick ‘underappreciated, overlooked and undervalued’

SEMA also announced during the show that it has begun accepting applications for scholarships of as much as $5,000 for those studying in technical and business fields.

And then there’s actor Sung Kang and his Project Underdog.

“If I were a car, I would be the Maverick,” Kang, who drove the classic compact Ford in the movie, Fast & Furious Five, said in a news release.

“The Maverick has always been underappreciated, overlooked and undervalued,” he added. “The Underdog.”

Kang worked a trio of students from California’s Alhambra High School and with custom car-builder Steve Strope to transform a 1972 Maverick into the Project Underdog car that was displayed in the Shell stand at the SEMA Show. Shell’s Pennzoil brand supported the project, as did several SEMA-member companies, and SEMA loaned its SEMA Garage in Diamond Bar, California, so the Project Underdog team had a place to work on the car.

The car has a 2.3-liter Ford EcoBoost four-cylinder engine boosted to nearly 400 horsepower with aftermarket turbos and intercooler, a Tremec manual 6-speed transmission, wears a Rocket Bunny body kit, has carbon fiber hood and trunk, and a redesigned interior.

Car will be auctioned to generate funds for scholarships
Car will be auctioned to generate funds for scholarships

The car will be going to auction with proceeds from the eventual sale doing to the SEMA Memorial Scholarship Foundation to provide aide for students pursuing automotive careers.

“The Underdog,” Kang said of the car. “But those who love her are loyal forever. This and the chance to make a difference for these students is something I can stand behind.”

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. Seriously, I almost fell over and would have never dreamed the Ford MAVERICK would be such a hot-looking car!!!

    I bought a Maverick as soon as it first hit the market (believe they came out 6-months early) I really wanted the ’66 Mustang however I got ‘ants in my pants’ and folded for the Maverick instead because I would have needed to wait a bit longer to save the money for a Mustang. The Maverick design choice became something I always was SORRY about. HOWEVER, I can tell you my little Maverick proved out to be such a dependable wonder!!! I drove it for about 12 to 15 years and excluding new tires the ONLY thing besides regular inexpensive maintenance I had to repair was some sort of rubber hose. I’m a gal so it was a good little car for me. The color I chose was “Anti-Establish-Mint” which so suited that era. Green being my favorite color and coupled with those ‘wanna-be-hippy days” the name of the color made me soooo very proud-LOL.

    Well, you’ve made my heart pitter-patter by creating such a beauty up for auction and for a very wonderful cause. And, you’ve brought personal healing to me for a design I for so long viewed as a blunder. Thank you!!!!

    Chico, CA

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