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Maserati Merak

Maserati Merak (Italy, 1972-1982)

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Review


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Review

In the early ’70s, Italy’s exotic marques developed “junior supercar” models as complements to their larger, faster, and more expensive top-of-range machines. Ferrari launched the Dino 308 GT4 and Lamborghini the mid-engined Urraco. Maserati’s front line exotic was the Bora, which was an elegant, Giugiaro-designed slingshot that was powered by a descendant of the legendary racing V-8. Not wishing to develop a new from-scratch platform, Maserati sent the Bora back to Giorgetto Giugiaro’s drawing board, asking ItalDesign to rework the car into something equally handsome but less costly to build, and something that was competitive with the offerings from Ferrari and Lamborghini.

The great Giugiaro met the challenge with smart solutions, including the replacement of the Bora’s expensive stainless-steel roof panel and the reconfiguration of the glassy rear canopy engine cover with a more conventional steel lid and a pair of flying buttresses to visually continue the sloping roofline over the rear deck. Maserati already had an appropriate engine available: the DOHC V-6 powerplant it had developed for use by Citroën in the exotic SM. As Maserati was owned by Citroën at the time, it only made sense to dip into the Citroën parts bin for its entire dashboard and instrument cluster, plus a myriad of hydraulic systems, which reduced costs and development time. The new model, which was called Merak, after a star in the Ursa Major constellation, came to market in 1972.

The 170-horsepower, 3.0-liter Merak was lauded for its exceptional handling balance and comfortable ride, and it competed favorably with the V-8-engined Urraco and 308 GT4. The Merak proved a worthy addition to the lineup, and when Maserati and Citroën had divorced, sometime mid-decade, the Merak was given a substantive mid-life update. The SM-sourced interior gave way to a more elegant, Bora-style cabin, and the complex Citroën hydraulics were replaced with more conventional mechanical systems. The engine was reengineered for a near 30-horsepower increase, the bumpers were redesigned, and a new chin spoiler was installed to reduce front end lift at high speeds. The much revised and improved Merak was rechristened Merak SS. Maserati produced just 1,236 Meraks between 1972 and 1982.



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At the turn from the 19th to the 20th century, the Maserati family integrated 6 brothers that were all somehow involved in automobile engineering and design: Alfieri, Bindo, Carlo, Ettore, Ernesto and Mario Maserati. They were initially in charge for the production of racing vehicles for the Diatto brand but when Diatto was suspended from racing, in 1926, the brothers decided to create their first Maserati car. Subsequently they formed the Maserati trademark. I...  more

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