The Seventies was arguably the greatest period for flashy Italian supercars. You had the likes of the Countach, Stratos, and the Pantera — and they didn’t just all share a sleek, wedgy shape — they were all mid-engined too. They were akin to racing cars designed for the road. Maserati gave us the Bora in ’71 and with a 4.7-litre V8 making 280bhp, it offered a thrilling drive and gorgeous looks. A year later came its baby brother, the Merak.
Sharing the Bora’s chassis, suspension, steering and hydraulic brakes — which provided excellent stopping power and were praised for their progressive response — it wasn’t just as attractive, it was much cheaper and 250kg lighter. And with a mid-engine 3.0-litre twin-cam V6 (the same mill used in the SM; the other reminder of the French/Italian “marriage” was the dashboard which was lifted intact from the Citroën...) and mated to a five-speed manual, it was potent (190bhp, 240kph top speed, 0-100kph in 8.5 seconds), but more importantly it was far more nimble. In fact, it became known as the best-handling Maserati at the time.
When Maserati was taken over by De Tomaso, the Citroën engineering influences were ditched. The revised Merak SS of ’75 made a huge impact and possessed even better handling than before and performance was improved too. The V6 was tuned to 220bhp (it got bigger carburettors and a higher compression ratio along with a 50kg drop in weight) and to counter the oil crisis of the Seventies came another variant, the 2000 GT which got a detuned V6 and better fuel consumption.
The Bora ceased production in 1980 but the Merak kept going until 1983 and with a production run spanning 11 years and 1,830 units built in total, it’s not impossible to find a very good condition example and for a reasonable price. For instance, a low mileage and well maintained SS will set you back around Dh250,000 — that isn’t an awful lot to pay for what is a fabulous alternative to the more common V8 Maseratis out there.