|Engine||V6, 2965cc DOHC|
The junior mid-engined supercar became a fixture of the Italian exotic car manufacturers in the 1970s, with Lamborghini, Ferrari and Maserati all marketing less expensive models alongside the Countach, Berlinetta Boxer and Bora in the hope of increasing sales. While Lamborghini and Ferrari chose V8 power for their Urracco and 308 models respectively, Maserati took the sweet V6 motor originally designed by Giulio Alfieri (first seen in parent company Citroën's SM) and installed it in a heavily revised Bora platform. Both Maserati models shared the same svelte styling from Giorgetto Giugiaro's Ital Design studio in Turin but whereas the Bora's V8 was visible underneath a glassed-in engine cover, the Merak sported novel flying buttresses. The smaller engine meant there was room enough inside for occasional rear seats and even a decent sized boot in the Merak, whose name was taken from a star in the Plough constellation. In its original form, the quad-cam V6 breathed through triple Weber 42 DCNF carburettors, produced 190bhp and drove the rear wheels through a ZF five-speed transaxle, while the braking system employed a high-pressure pump sourced from Citroën. The interior was typical of Italian exotics from the era, with low-slung seats, a dash fully stocked with instruments and the usual offset driving position made easier to live with thanks to fully adjustable pedals and decent seat travel. The Merak was a strong performer on the road, capable of reaching 240km/h. Total Merak production was very low, with 1,309 examples of the original model produced before the introduction of the SS in 1975, and only a handful of these ever reached our shores. The 1970s was the last time Maserati could be considered in the same breath as Lamborghini and Ferrari and the Merak is an affordable, practical and gorgeous alternative to its rivals from Bologna and Modena.