Rare Rides: Maserati Merak SS From 1981 - a Seventies Time Warp

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides maserati merak ss from 1981 a seventies time warp

We’ve featured a Maserati previously in our Rare Rides series — a bespoke Quattroporte shooting brake which drew mixed styling opinions from the informed and gracious peanut gallery of the B&B. Today though, we step back in time to something closer to the traditional two-door, sporty exotica that makes up much of the brand’s history.

Presenting a Maserati Merak, this one decked out in special SS trim.

The Merak came into being all the way back in 1972, when a struggling Maserati company (oh how things change) found itself under the Citroën corporate umbrella. Carrying many of the same components as the beautiful Citroën SM, the Merak was also similar to Maserati’s Bora. While the Bora was powered by a large mid-mounted 4.7-liter V8, the Merak offered six-cylinder engines of two or three liters of displacement.

The smaller engine allowed the Merak to hold four people of roughly human proportion, rather than two like in the Bora. It also lowered the bottom line, making the Merak the entry level mid-engine model. Perhaps as a result of this lower price, the Merak lived longer than the Bora, which dropped from Maserati’s lineup after 1978.

Soldiering on as the company’s lone mid-engine offering, by the end of the Merak’s life in 1983 Maserati had once again changed owners. In 1975, control passed from Citroën to joint owners De Tomaso and GEPI, a state-owned Italian holding company. A year after the Citroën-backed Merak went away, Chrysler came to purchase five percent of Maserati, and Lee Iacocca was soon busy developing the Chrysler TC by Maserati. Irony knows no bounds.

Back to the Merak. The sporting SS version debuted in 1976, featuring a superleggera-like weight reduction of 110 pounds and an increase in horsepower, from 190 to 220. Power flowed from amidships to rear via just one transmission — a Citroën-supplied five-speed manual.

Aside from the rather awful U.S.-spec bumpers fitted to this later model, other modifications made to the Merak over time improved reliability and practicality. As soon as Citroën passed the ownership torch, engineers at Maserati began removing the complex hydraulic systems its French parents had mandated.

Maserati also designed its own fascia and added more driver-oriented instruments, a more uplevel steering wheel formerly found in the Bora, and replaced the Citroën sun loungers with the company’s own seats.

I’ll always remember the Merak (albeit a fake SS version) as the car Jeremy Clarkson drove in the Top Gear episode with the Budget Super Cars Challenge. Watch it right now if you’ve never seen it, or even if you have.

Maserati produced just 1,000 Merak SS versions, and today’s example is one of just 312 U.S.-spec models. The seller indicates there are just 15,500 miles on the odometer, and adds a list of recent maintenance work that includes carburetor rebuilds. All in all, it’s pretty tidy, and can be yours for $69,500 — which is likely too much money.

[Images via seller]

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  • Threeer Threeer on Oct 12, 2017

    Another one of those "cars linked to family" stories...my sister and I built a plastic model kit of a black Merak years and years ago. I cherished that thing, as it was something we did together. Everywhere I moved, that model was carefully packed up in enough wrapping to secure the Queen of England's crown. For some reason, the car's lines spoke to both of us. Sure, not anywhere near the fastest, most exotic, but a darned fine looking machine. I'll have to send her the link to this article as this looks like "our" model in full 1:1 scale.

  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Oct 24, 2017

    I love the instrumentation.

  • Theflyersfan One positive: doesn't appear to have a sunroof. So you won't need to keep paper towels in the car.But there's a serious question to ask this seller - he has less than 40,000 miles on some major engine work, and the transmission and clutch work and mods are less than 2 months old...why are you selling? That's some serious money in upgrades and repairs, knowing that the odds of getting it back at the time of sale is going to be close to nil. This applies to most cars and it needs to be broadcasted - these kinds of upgrades and mods are really just for the current owner. At the time of sale, a lot of buyers will hit pause or just won't pay for the work you've done. Something just doesn't sit well with me and this car. It could be a snowbelt beast and help save the manuals and all that, but a six year old VW with over 100,000 miles normally equals gremlins and electrical issues too numerous to list. Plus rust in New England. I like it, but I'd have to look for a crack pipe somewhere if the seller thinks he's selling at that price.
  • 2ACL I can't help feeling that baby is a gross misnomer for a vehicle which the owner's use necessitated a (manual!) transmission rebuild at 80,000 miles. An expensive lesson in diminishing returns I wouldn't recommend to anyone I know.
  • El scotto Rumbling through my pantry and looking for the box of sheets of aluminum foil. More alt right comments than actual comments on international trade policy. Also a great deal of ignorance about the global oil industry. I'm a geophysicist and I pay attention such things. Best of all we got to watch Tassos go FULL BOT on us.
  • El scotto No one and I mean no one on here is a UAW member or a salaried employee of the Big 3. Then again if someone identified themselves on here they would pilloried every time they posted.The comments on here are like listening to the overgrown children who call into sports radio shows.
  • Statikboy Those tires are the Wrong Size.