Few cars can claim to look more typically 1970s than the Maserati Merak. The low wedge shaped nose sprouts a pair of pop-up headlamps, the lightweight Campagnolo alloy wheels and the flying buttresses which extend to the tail of the car all combine to make it an iconic design of its era.
Despite the looks, the Merak has traditionally been overlooked in the classic market. Mechanically and aesthetically it shares much with the Maserati Bora, though thanks to a much less powerful 3.0-litre V6 (co-developed with Citroen for use in the SM) in place of the Bora’s 4.7-litre V8, it remains the less desirable car.
The smaller engine does bring its benefits, though. Longitudinally mounted, it allows space for an extra pair of rear seats, while kerb weight was significantly reduced relative to the Bora. Save for a pair of twin chromed bumpers, styling remained near-identical to the Bora up to the B-pillar, where the Italdesign shape rejected the glass fastback shape in favour of a more abrupt end to the cabin.
Developed during Citroen’s ownership of Maserati, the Merak made use of some of Citroen's Hydropneumatic systems, such as the braking system, the clutch and those pop-up headlights. Stopping power is fairly strong thanks to discs all round (the front pair are vented) and the reduced weight behind the driver relative to the Bora makes the Merak feel a little more stable than its bigger brother.
Which one to buy?
During the Merak’s 11-year production run, three distinct versions were produced. The launch model V6 had 187bhp, enough to propel it to a top speed of 149mph. Fuelling was controlled by three twin-choke Weber carburettors. As with several hydraulic components, early Meraks also borrowed much of their interior design from the Citroen SM, with much of the dashboard and the steering wheel shared between the two.
In 1976, the SS model was released. Cosmetically, it differed from the original Merak thanks to a black grille on the bonnet and a redesigned interior, which looked more conventional and featured a three spoke steering wheel. Mechanically, the fitment of larger carburettors and a higher compression ratio increased power by 30bhp to 217bhp, while kerb weight was reduced by approximately 50kg. The hydraulic clutch gained power assistance, answering the criticisms of the painfully heavy pedal in early models.
The final version of the Merak was named 2000 GT. Released in 1977, the 2000 GT was built exclusively for the Italian market, where cars displacing over a 2000cc capacity were subjected to double the VAT rate of smaller engined cars. The 1999cc four-cylinder engine developed 168bhp, and 200 were built.
By the time production ended in 1983, 1830 Meraks had rolled off the production line.
Performance and spec
Engine 2965cc V6
Power 217bhp @ 6500rpm
Torque 199lb ft @ 4500rpm
Top speed 155mph
Fuel consumption approx 23mpg
Gearbox Five-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
● Parts, maintenance and restoration can be quite expensive. As values dropped to affordable levels, many Meraks have suffered from owners who have skimped on important work. Make sure there is a deep history file documenting plenty of work
● Check for rust around the car and on ll the body panels. The fuel tank compartments are the worst areas, as the filler cap allows water to leak around the outside of the tank, causing potential for rot on the floor. The tank itself can corrode because of this, too
● Early models in particular are known for issues with the timing chain. It is vitally important that the tensioners are correctly adjusted, and replaced every 45,000 miles
● Ensure the valve clearances are checked every 10,000 miles or so to confirm everything is positioned as it should be
Oct 1972: Merak revealed at the Paris Motor Show, designed to sit below the Bora in the Maserati range
Mar 1976: Merak SS introduced. Gains 30bhp, a redesigned interior and reduced weight
1977: 2000 GT revealed at Turin Auto Show. Featured 1999cc four cylinder engine to avoid higher VAT rates for large-engined cars
Key clubs and websites
• www.maseraticlub.co.uk – enthusiast and owners club for Maseratis old and new
• www.mcgrathmaserati.co.uk – Specialist based in Hertfordshire
• www.autoshieldmaserati.co.uk – Specialist based in Manchester
• www.merak-registry.com/ – a site containing a database of almost all of the 1830 Meraks ever produced, as well as links to a wide range of parts specialists
Summary and prices
While values for the Merak are generally half as much as those for the Bora, prices are very much on the rise. Expect to pay between of £65-£75,000 for a clean, low mileage right-hand drive model. In some overseas markets, left-hand drive examples might go for even more. Slightly scruffy examples might be available for closer to £30,000.
Words: Alex Ingram