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

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 BB. 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]