The Maserati Merak is a two-hour 2+2 coupe available from 1972 to 1983. It is a rear mid-engine design with rear-wheel drive and only 1,830 units were produced, making it yet another exclusive vehicle from the Maserati brand.
Maserati Merak Original Design and Leadership
Initially unveiled at the 1972 Paris Auto Show, just one year after the popular Bora, the Merak came to the market under the ownership of Citroën, and featured the many hydraulic systems that the brand had been well known for. As the ownership of Maserati shifted from Citroën to Alejandro de Tomaso (through near-bankruptcy proceedings and with substantial Italian government assistance), De Tomaso cut the Bora production yet kept the Merak around for many years. Giorgetto Giugiaro was commissioned to transform the Bora into the Merak, removing the full glass fastback design in favor of a vertical rear window with open flying buttresses to keep the lines full, with a horizontal engine cover behind the rear window. In doing so, two additional rear seats were able to be added to the Merak, making it a four-seater in comparison to the Bora’s two-passenger limit. While still keeping a sporty vibe, the Marek was a bit more practical of a vehicle that could be used for getting the whole family around town.
Performance and Engine Features
Like many high-performance vehicles from the era, the Maserati Merak utilizes a steel monocoque chassis with tubular subframe to support the rear powertrain and suspension. Coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers, and unequal length A-arms were used to provide suspension, while four-wheel disc brakes, with vents in front, took care of braking. The engine used was designed by the legendary Italian engineer Giulio Alfieri. He was also behind the design of the 3500 GT and the Maserati Birdcage. The design would stand the test of time, as his late 1960s metric would last through the 1990s manufacturing process. It’s never easy to bridge that long of a gap, especially through the changes that came during the energy crisis in the 1970s. The result was a 3.0L V6 with a chain-driven dual-overhead camshaft. While many high performance opt for the dry sump lubrication and V8 engine, the Merak broke trend with a wet sump lubrication system and smaller displacement V6. Three twin-choke Weber carburetors provided the air/fuel mixture, using a compression ratio of 8.75:1. The engine was paired with a 5-speed synchromesh transaxle transmission and limited-slip rear differential. The smaller engine allowed for it to be longitudinally mounted behind the passenger compartment. This differed from many of the other Italian engineered machines from the era, who used a transverse V8 engine instead. Performance figures were a bit lackluster, but still repeatable for cars from the energy crisis era. The 3.0L engine could produce 187 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and 188 lb ft of torque. While these numbers didn’t match up with the best of the time, they could still beat many cars off the line when approaching a regular intersection.
Later Variants and Current Market
In 1975, a lighter and more powerful Merak SS was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show with production following in 1976. By taking out 110 pounds and bumping up performance to 217 horsepower, the SS variant provided a bit more fun behind the seat. Larger carbs and increased compression were the main drivers behind the increased performance. Then in 1977, the Turin Auto Show hosted the Merak 2000 GT under Alegandro de Tomaso’s leadership. Due to increasing regulations, especially in the Italian market where any engine larger than 2.0L faced stiff tax implications of a 38% value-added tax, this version was released to appease those needs and used a 2.0L engine. The 2000 GT still could produce 168 horsepower and 137 lb ft or torque. While nothing special for the track, it was still a decent way to hop around the Italian cities without facing a 38% markup on your luxury sports car. In the current collector’s market, some Maserati Meraks are coming across with affordable prices around $30,000. But others, especially the limited-edition SS with increased performance figures, are hitting upwards of $165,000. The somewhat practical sports car with V6 might be making a comeback.