The Merak
"... from an Adriatic wind a star is born."

Photos courtesy of Italdesign, Marcello Candini, Henny Cate,
Dr. George Lipperts and Ivan Ruiz.

When, towards the end of the 60s, CitroŽn, the then major shareholder of Maserati, decided that the moment was bright for the 'Casa del Tridente' to launch a mid-engined GT, it already had in mind two distinct models, one a luxury version in the traditional mode and another cheaper version to compete with the likes of the Lamborghini 'Urraco' and the Ferrari 308/GT4.

Giugiaro's Merak - the Bora Junior!

The Maserati Bora had been launched in 1971 and represented the typical Maserati GT concept, with its big classic 4.7-litre V8 and the beautiful line sculptored by Giorgetto Giugiaro.

A US spec Merak, note the compulsory side lights

A year later, in 1972, Maserati introduced what could be considered a Bora 'Junior': the Merak, not named after a wind this time but after a star from the constellation 'Ursa Major'.

The Merak utilised a great part of the structure of the chassis of the Bora and the body design was placed once more in the hands of Giugiaro who cleverly maintained the Bora's overall shape; but the new car was powered by a 3-litre V6 directly derived from the Maserati engine already in use in the CitroŽn SM.

Consequently the price of the Merak was substantialy lower than that of the prestigious Bora; the new model being aimed at a potentially larger market.

For CitroŽn and Maserati this made practical sense, as at the time there was a move towards producing lower capacity high performance cars with a lower fuel consumption, and here was yet another opportunity for the inclusion of more CitroŽn components.

A Merak at the Masertati Club Concours 2001

The Merak adopted a major part of its chassis and bodywork from the Bora, especially in the frontal area.

The main differences between the Merak and the Bora were at the rear, both visually and mechanically: a longitudinally mounted 3-litre V6 was installed.

This V6, derived from an abandoned V8 engine design from Giulio Alfieri back in 1965, was manufactured by Maserati in a 2.6-litre version for the CitroŽn SM. The capacity of the V6 engine rose from the SM's 2675cc to 2965cc by increasing the bore size from 87 mm to 91.6 mm and the engine now developed 190 bhp (170bhp in the SM) with a declared top speed of around 240 kph.

The monocoque steel chassis of the Merak with flexibly anchored engine subframe.

In order to reduce costs, the tubular chassis of the Bora, with its costly rear subframe, was replaced by an all-steel monocoque with a more simplified rear subframe due to the smaller lighter V6 engine.

The V-6 four overhead camshaft engine with two valves per cylinder 2965 cc engine, fed by three twin-choke downdraught Weber 42DCNF carburettors, produced 190 bhp @ 6000 rpm with a maximun torque figure of 188 lb ft @ 4000 rpm.
In 1975 Maserati introduced the SS version with bigger 44DCNF carbs and engine power was increased to 220 bhp @ 6500 rpm with a maximun torque figure of 199 lb ft @ 4400 rpm.
In 1977 Maserati introduced the 2000 GT with its 2-litre engine (1999 cc) 44DCNF carbs developing 170 bhp @ 7000 rpm with a maximun torque figure of 131 lb ft @ 5700 rpm.

Giulio Alfieri's 3-litre V6 engine ('Il Tridente' photograph)

The body of the Merak designed by Giugiaro is practically identical to the Bora from the nose to the doors. The only differences being to the front panels reduced to accomodate the shape of the bumper, the chrome trimmed grilles being replaced by a two chromium plated bumpers either side of the traditional trident. The Bora's distictive protective rubber strip along the belt-line was replaced with a single character line. The single retractable headlights remained unchanged.

For the rear Giugiaro gave the Merak a more standard treatment, with a flat engine bonnet incorporating louvred slats to expel warm air from the engine bay behind a flat full width rear window. To soften the chopped-roof, Giugiaro added two buttresses running from the roof line to the rear of the car to give a more elegant profile. These buttresses wre removable to facilitate engine maintenance.

Although the Merak was less expensive than the elite Bora, Maserati tradition demanded that the car had to stylish, solidly built, fast, reliable and comfortable.

The Merak, designated Tipo 122 by the factory, was officially launched at the Paris Motor Show in October 1972.

The lighter and more powerful Merak SS was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1975.

In November 1976, the Merak 2000 GT was first displayed at the Turin Motor Show.

The 5-speed gearbox fitted to cars from 1972 to 1973 was Citroën from 1976 all Meraks were fitted with the ZF gearbox.

Suspension was independent all round with unequal length wishbones/A-arms, coil springs, hydraulic shock absorbers with anti-roll bar at the front and rear.

Braking was by Citroën's high pressure hydraulically assisted system with ventilated discs all round, 11-inch discs at the front and 11¾-inch discs at the rear.

In 1976 Maserati reverted to a vacuum-assisted braking system.

The mid-engined 3-litre V6, note the air intakes

In 1976 Maserati replaced all Citroën components. Having ended its association with Citroë, it was De Tomaso who decided to introduce a 2-litre version, mainly for the Italian market with its punitive tax laws (cars with a cubic capacity over 2000 cc were rated at 38% Value Added Tax against only 19% VAT for cars under 2000 cc). And so was born the Merak 2000 GT, its 2-litre engine (1999 cc) producing approximately 170 bhp and a top speed of around 220 kph.

The Merak like the Bora, was in all its versions, a sports car that was comfortable and easy to drive: the controls were very docile and for a GT of this type it had good all-round visibility; the engine was very responsive but never "brutal" and its road-holding and handling were excellent. Later Meraks also benifitted from a traditional servo-assisted braking system instead of the high pressure Citroën system fitted to the earlier 3-litre models which had a tendency to lock the wheels under heavy braking.

Naturally the modifications made to the Merak were not just to the engine and mechanics. In fact the first 3-litre models were fitted with the same dashboard and single-spoked steering wheel as the Citroën SM. The Citroën fascia panel was soon replaced with a more standard square shaped instrument panel, designed by Maserati, with a classic four-spoked steering wheel. Later models were fitted with the same dashboard as the Bora.

The bucket seats, facia, door trim, centre console and rear bulkhead were trimmed in leather. The dashboard incorporated analogue instruments including a speedometer, rev counter, oil temperature, water temperature and fuel level gauge, battery condition indicator and a clock. The centre console housed the electric window switches, cooling and heating/ air conditioning controls and air vents.

Luggage could be stored in the 10 cu ft of space in the front boot area, an adequate amount for this type of car.

The early Merak's Citroën fascia panel and the later 'square-shaped' instrument binnacle in the dashboard of the Merak and Merak SS. (from factory brochures)

The distinctive Campagnolo light alloy wheels of the Merak

The 2000 GT, was fitted with the grilles on the front cowling, but without the front spoiler, which was available as an option. Other details that distinguished it from the Merak and Merak SS models: a wide black adhesive strip which ran along the length of the car just below the belt-line, black front and rear bumpers in place of the usual chrome, and the same squared dashboard of the later 3-litre versions, with a four-spoked steering wheel, but with CitroŽn derived oval shaped instruments instead of the round ones.

Location of Maserati Merak Identification Numbers.

>In its production run from 1972 to 1983 some 1830 Meraks were built, of which 1000 were Merak SSs and 200 were 2000 GTs; the most productive year being 1973.

231 Meraks were imported into the UK (between 1973 and 1982).

According to the 'Catalogue Raisonné 1926-1990' by Gianni Cancellieri, 17 Meraks were built in 1972, 430 in 1973, 334 in 1974, 102 in 1975, 139 in 1976, 142 in 1977, 153 in 1978, 194 in 1979, 150 in 1980, 101 in 1981 and 4 in 1982.

The Merak, like the Bora, suffered greatly at first from the fall-out of the energy crisis, and above all later from the managerial difficulties at Maserati. Because at that time the 'Casa del Tridente' was making the difficult transition from the old owners CitroŽn to that of new owner, Alejandro De Tomaso.

This US specification Merak is fitted with the compulsory large bumpers.

Classified as a 2+2, the rear seats of the Merak were only suitable for small children.

The later Meraks were fitted with the Bora dashboard.

The door trims had simple storage pockets.

A space-saver spare wheel was housed just above the transaxle.

The early chrome-plated and later black painted bumpers.

Some models had ugly humps on the bonnet to allow for the compulsory full size spare wheel.


Body type 2-door 2+2-seater Granturismo

Production years From 1971 to 1983

Engine Mid-engined V6-cyl @ 90°

Bore and stroke 91.6 mm X 75 mm (80 x 66.3 mm)

Engine capacity 2965 cc (1999 cc)

Compression ratio 8.75:1/ SS 9.0:1 (9.0:1)

Maximum power 190-bhp @ 6000 rpm/ SS 220 bhp @ 6500 rpm (170 bhp @ 7000 rpm)

Distribution Four overhead camshafts, two valves per cylinder

Induction system No 3 Twin-choke Weber 42DCNF (44DCNF)downdraught carburettors

Ignition Electronic ignition
Lubrification Forced with pressure pump

Transmission Rear wheel drive

Differential Citroën/ ZF transaxle

Clutch Hydraulic single dry plate

Gearbox 5-speed and reverse transaxle

Chassis Monocoque structure with flexibly mounted rear subframe

Front suspension:- Independent wheels, coil-springs and
telescopic shock-absorbers and anti-roll bar

Rear suspension:- Independent wheels, coil-springs and
telescopic shock-absorbers and anti-roll bar

Brakes Hydraulically operated ventilated disc brakes on all four wheels

Wheelbase 2600 mm

Wheel tracks Front 1474 mm    Rear 1470 mm

Tyres Front:- 205/70 x 15 (195/70 x 15)         Rear:- 205/70 x 15 (215/70 x 15)

Dry weight 1451 kg

Overall length 4330 mm

Overall width 1768 mm

Overall height 1134 mm

Maximum speed 204 to 245 kph

Models constructed 1830

These Bora brochure courtesy of Henry Peder.

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