The Bora was styled by Italdesign, and was elegant but perhaps lacking a little animal beauty possessed by the Ghibli and Miura. It was also incredibly fast, with its 4.7-liter V8 engine it could top 281 km/h. Its ride was quiet and it also offered some of Citroen's complex hydraulics, like sharp brakes, power-adjustable pedals, seats and steering column.
Maserati produced the Merak and from the front it was almost impossible to detect any difference between it and the Bora. Its engine was one difference, however, as the Merak used a 3-liter V6, a much shorter engine allowing two rear seats to be used.
This was a time when the 3-liter 'mini supercar' market was becoming increasingly popular with Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari and Maserati all vying for customers. They all competed in the higher price bracket, too, but after the fuel crisis and a renewed desire for energy conservation and more restricting speed limits, the new generation of cars were best described as the 'sensible' pinnacle of sporting motoring.
Out of the select group of cars in the group, the Merak was probably the most underrated and most easily forgotten, mostly because of the company's financial crises and their allegiance and splitting with Citroen. For many years the Modena company would be smarting from its marriage with the French giant, and the remnants of the advanced technology injected by Citroen were chased out just as fast as the limited production facilities allowed.
The Maserati Merak SS
During this era motoring magnate Alejandro de Tomaso was in control of operations, and he oversaw development of the Merak SS, which had more power, revised suspension, new interior and, of course, more performance. The Merak featured an all-alloy 90' 2965 cc V6 engine developed for the Citroen SM. The four camshaft unit developed 220bhp at 6500 rpm (an increase of 30 bhp over the older car) and 198.9 lb ft of torque at 4500 rpm (just over 10 Ib ft more than the ordinary Merak).
The presence of the extra power was immediately evident on the road and, although the engine was not particularly high revving, the car wound up extremely well in the gears and felt as if it would accelerate way past the red line of 7000 rpm. In fact, most road-testers claimed the car felt as if it had a lot more than 3 liters at its disposal. Top speed worked out at a little over 150 mph, while the car accelerated from 0-60 mph in 6.7 secs. Fuel consumption worked out at just under 20 mpg, which was just about identical to the older car.
What was not evident from the outright performance figures was just how tractable the car was around town, as the SS Merak would potter along at less than 30 mph in top gear and still pull away strongly. You sat quite low in the car and the backrest had to be inclined to almost a hammock position to stop even an average-sized driver's head from touching the roof. It was not that confidence inspiring at first as the car felt quite large and it was not that easy to equate where all the corners were when negotiating traffic.
That was soon learned, however, and there were no such problems when on the open road: the Maserati's real territory. Handling via the power-assisted steering was excellent and cornering power was remarkably high, with the mid-engine design helping to make the car immensely controllable even in difficult conditions, although the Citroen-type brakes were way too sensitive. Production of the Bora ceased in 1980
with the Merak following
one year later.
Maserati Merak SS Quick Specifications
Centrally mounted, ninety degree V6. 91.6mm (3.61 in) bore x 75 mm (2.95 in) stroke 2965 cc (108.9cu in). Maximum power (DIN) 220bhp at 6500rpm; maximum torque (DIN) 1991b ft at 4500rpm; light-aI/ay cylinder block and heads. Compression ratio 9:1. 4 main bearings. 2 valves per cylinder operated via thimble tappets by four overhead camshafts. 3 Weber 44 DCNF twin barrel carburetors.
Single dry plate clutch and five-speed manual gearbox. Ratios 1st 2.920, 2nd 1.940, 3rd 1.320, 4th 0.940, 5th 0.730, reverse 3.150. Hypoid bevel final drive with limited slip differential ratio 4.750:1.
Front-independent by double wishbones and anti-roll bar, rear-independent by double wishbones and anti-roll bar.
Rack and pinion. Turns from lock to lock 3.
Discs front and rear. Dual hydraulic system. Servo assisted.
7.5 in x 15 in.
195/70 VR x 15 front. 215/70VR x 15 rear.
2 door, 2 seat.
Dimensions and weight:
Wheelbase 102.3in; track-front 58in rear- 58in; length 170in; width 69.6in; height 44.6in; ground clearance 5.12 in; weight 2601 lb; turning circle 34.4 ft: fuel tank capacity 18.6 gal.
Maximum speed 154 mph; acceleration 0-60 mph 6.7 secs; fuel consumption approx. 27 mpg.