The Merak gives an air of confidence and power, which is quintessentially Italian. But if you like the looks, why not get the power and buy a Bora instead?


In the world of auto design, the Italians are the acknowledged masters, and Giorgetto Giugiaro will always be at the top of the list. In 1968, Giugiaro established Italdesign and by 1972, when he designed the Maserati Bora and the Merak, he was recognized internationally. The lines of the Merak are among his most pleasing. It is beautiful from every angle and photogenic to a fault.

In 1975, Alessandro DeTomaso purchased Maserati from Citroën. The Merak reached its zenith in the form of the SS, with improvements including the replacement of the hydraulics from the Citroën SM with conventional coil-over shocks and A-frames. The transmission was a reliable ZF unit used on the much more powerful and heavier Bora.

Improvements were made to the ergonomics, and the elimination of the SM hydraulic suspension and tweaks to the frame design resulted in a weight reduction of over 300 pounds. With its larger 220-hp, 3-liter engine, the SS had a top speed of over 140 mph and reasonable fuel consumption in an ever-more fuel-conscious world. It fulfilled its promise as a reasonably priced supercar that could be driven with confidence.

The 1977 Merak SS offered here is perhaps one of the finest. It has had only two owners, both in Texas, and has no previous rust or collision damage. It has always been garaged and has traveled fewer than 25,000 miles from new. It is fitted with factory air conditioning. This car has its original interior featuring tobacco leather. Other than a bare-metal respray to concours standards in the original Bright White and cosmetics such as wheel refinishing, engine tune, new factory exhaust, and comprehensive detailing, this fabulous car is true to form and entirely unaltered.

The Merak SS has recently begun to come into its own in the eyes of collectors. For someone looking to add a rapidly appreciating, later-generation, performance-minded Maserati to his collection, this Merak SS offers a tremendous opportunity to achieve that dream.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1977 Maserati Merak SS
Number Produced:600 approx. (SS)
Original List Price:$29,800
Tune Up Cost:$750
Distributor Caps:$100
Chassis Number Location:On rear suspension upper support beam
Engine Number Location:Stamping on engine bellhousing
Club Info:Maserati Club International, PO Box 1015 Mercer Island, WA 98040
Alternatives:1977 Ferrari 308 GT4, 1977 Lamborghini Urraco P300, 1977 Alfa Romeo Montreal
Investment Grade:D

This 1977 Maserati Merak SS sold for $31,900, including buyer’s premium, at the Worldwide Group’s Hilton Head Sports & Classic Car Auction held November 1, 2008.

For readers who might be concerned that we at SCM spend too much time writing about cars only the wealthiest can afford, relax. Since I wrote last month about an Italian sports car sold at the Worldwide Group’s November auction for $300,000, this month I’ll cover one which brought $30,000.

Along with the Mexico and the Indy, the Merak is one of the “forgotten” Maseratis. Almost identical in looks to the powerful V8 Bora, it served as both an “entry-level” model for the Modenese marque, as well as a way to amortize the cost of the V6 created for the Citroën SM. In a reversal of the situation in the’60s, when every Maserati handily outsold its Ferrari equivalent, more of the hard-to-sell 308 GT4s were pushed out of Ferrari showrooms than Meraks by Maserati dealers.

That Maserati was able to sell approximately 1,800 Meraks in the 1970s, a time when manufacturers around the world were reeling from the pressures of safety legislation, energy concerns, and economic uncertainty, is certainly impressive. However, Ferrari and Lamborghini offered the V8 308 GT4 and Urraco for the same $30,000 Maserati was asking for the V6 Merak.

Why not go for V8 power in the Bora?

In addition, in 1977 potential buyers could still also choose a Porsche 911S for around $16,000 with a newly galvanized chassis-if anyone cared about that in a GT. So why would anyone want a Merak, then or now? Without doubt, the Bora/Merak is good looking, acknowledged as a great example of Giugiaro’s work, a wonderful mixture of ’60s voluptuousness with just enough ’70s edge. They also give an air of butch confidence and power, which is quintessentially Italian. But if you like the looks, why not go for the power to match them and buy a Bora instead? Gas mileage?

Even when gasoline in the U.S. was at or over $4 a gallon, you don’t buy an Italian thoroughbred based on the EPA numbers. So, is the Merak an unsung hidden bargain or is it cheap because no one cares for a good reason?

First, many collectors have been wrongly scared off from Maseratis of the Citroën era due to fear of the hydraulic systems employed in some models. This is totally unjustified today, with the current knowledge and experience available. Nevertheless, for cars built after the DeTomaso takeover, such as the Merak SS, it’s irrelevant.

I personally think the SM dashboard in the earlier cars is much more interesting-even with the oval dials and idiot lights-than the random assortment of boxes and cubes that replaced it. But the new panel is the visible manifestation of the re-Italianization of the brand.

The Merak, in either version, is a pleasure to drive, well-balanced and capable of impressive performance, if you don’t compare it back to back with its big brother Bora. It does not have the flexibility of the Urraco, or the handling, pace, or ride of the 308 GT4, but it does have without a doubt the best looks in the group.

The “flying buttresses” give the shape a gracefulness the Bora’s heavier rear quarter lacks, and the simple detailing stands the test of time. Cars such as the Merak SS are practical to own and use, as they are essentially modern vehicles, and the V6 has the advantage over some rivals in employing timing chains rather than belts. That said, attention must be paid to the tensioner, of course.

As for the catalog reference to “rapid appreciation,” it should be noted that while values of Maseratis have been steadily rising for the past few years, the Merak has basically been in a holding pattern in the mid $20,000 area since 1995. The sale of this example-stated to be “one of the finest”-at just over $30,000 makes sense at the top of that range. The estimated $35,000-$45,000 is where hopefuls have been looking for the Merak to go. Which it might, in another ten years.

So to answer the question I posed further up the page, the Merak is an unsung bargain. Many don’t care, because they don’t know any better. If you want one of the last of the truly characterful Maseratis, a car equally at home on a drive to the movies or a 1,000-mile rally, you could do much worse than a Merak SS. However, as an appreciating asset, it’s still an iffy proposition. Buy it for the drive, not as a future investment.

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