By on October 11, 2017

Image: 1981 Maserati Merak SS, image via sellerWe’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.

Image: 1981 Maserati Merak SS, image via sellerThe 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.

Image: 1981 Maserati Merak SS, image via sellerThe 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.

Image: 1981 Maserati Merak SS, image via sellerBack 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.

Image: 1981 Maserati Merak SS, image via sellerAside 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.

Image: 1981 Maserati Merak SS, image via sellerMaserati 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.

Image: 1981 Maserati Merak SS, image via sellerMaserati 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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21 Comments on “Rare Rides: Maserati Merak SS From 1981 – a Seventies Time Warp...”

  • avatar

    Did somebody recently spend £10,000 overhauling the engine and adding “SS” badges?

  • avatar

    Thanks for including the Top Gear clip. I always view these particular cars with Clarkson’s voice proclaiming it was “the mighty Merak” to Richie Blackmore’s Stratocaster soundtrack.

    How I miss prime-era TG.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s one of my favorite challenges they did.

      Spearmint Rhinocerous!

      That’s a lapdancing bar.
      Is it?
      Oh, you didn’t *know*.

      • 0 avatar

        Any “cheap car” challenge is always entertaining, they’re at their absolute best when the dilemmas are real and their reactions are genuine.
        The later episodes (and even TGT) are too scripted and lack the spontaneous reactions that made that show oh-so-good, even for regular people. I laughed so hard during the “supercras for the price of a second-hand Mondeo challenge.”

        The Vietnam Special was one of the last great episodes. “Someone’s written PENIS on my helmet.”
        “It was me…”

  • avatar

    Nice looking ride. Repair cost are probably insane. But damn nice find.

  • avatar

    This would be so much cooler if it was named “Mercat”

  • avatar

    Although the Merak and, to a lesser extent, the Bora share a variety of components and assemblies with Citroën’s SM, they do not utilize the SM’s platform or a derivative of it.

  • avatar

    Because nothing says luxury like one climate vent for the entire vehicle.

  • avatar

    Why change Citroen seats for Maserati ones? The French engineers build quirky cars but the seats in French autos generally are more comforrable than my aging recliner. The seats reolaced dont look like they have much lateral support.

  • avatar

    I can’t believe it has a million mile odometer (as in one that reads past 99,999.9). How incredibly optimistic!

  • avatar

    I remember when Car & Driver called these “pauper’s budget exotics” along with the 2nd gen Dino and the Urracco. All under $18k new in the mid-70s. Amazing, really, although that was more than my Dad made in a year back then and a new Audi 100LS, say, was well under $6k. Yes, later cars are less quirky (this one has a brake pedal instead of the Citroen floor button – if you know the old DS you know of what I speak. This car looks good and would be great fun for under $40,000…..

  • avatar

    The pricing on Italian cars of this era went apesh*t in the past 5 years.

  • avatar

    How they were able to cram a back seat into that thing, I’ll never know.

    • 0 avatar

      I sat in the back of a Merak on a 10 minute test drive when I was six or seven when our local Citroen dealer took on Maserati after Citroen stopped selling cars here and it wasn’t particularly roomy. My father didn’t care for the car because it was too slow, especially considering how expensive it was. All show and no go.

  • avatar

    0-60 in 8-9 seconds, 12-13 mpg and only $69,000 – wow such a deal.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    I love the instrumentation.

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