As in those models the Merak had a mid-mounted engine, but instead of their V8 configurations, it used the already celebrated V6 designed by Giulio Alfieri for the original and revolutionary Citroën SM. Being more compact than the other brands’ designs, Maserati was able to install the engine in a longitudinal configuration, allowing the Merak to have a small rear seat.
The capacity for the Merak’s engine was increased from 2675cc to 2965cc, allowing it to develop 190hp at 6000 revolutions per minute, thanks in no small part to its three double-body Weber carburettors. The brand stated a top speed of more than 240 km/h. It employed hydro-pneumatic technology for the braking system, clutch and in the mechanism for its retractable headlights. The car’s five-speed gearbox also originated from Citroën who owned Maserati at the time of the Marek’s design.
The chassis construction is a monocoque type with an attached rear tubular structure to support the engine and suspension. The body, designed by Giugiaro, is identical in the frontal area to the Bora, Merak’s older brother, with only minor changes in detail. At the rear, Giugiaro opted for a more traditional approach—a flat hood incorporating fins for extracting the hot air from the engine. To balance the profile, two pillars connect the roof to the rear, which are removable to facilitate access to the engine during maintenance.
Inside, we note the use of further Citroën components such as the dashboard, instrumentation and single-spoked steering wheel. 630 units were built with this initial configuration. Cheaper than the Bora, the Merak still had to honour the Maserati tradition, therefore, it had to have an appealing design, be fast, comfortable, reliable and solidly built.
Like many sports cars of the time, the Merak suffered from the oil crisis in the early 1970s which inevitably forced a change of ownership of the brand. Unlike the Bora, the Merak would continue to be produced until the early 1980s. Curiously, when it started production, the brand did not follow its usual tradition of christening models with names derived from the wind. This time, Maserati looked to the Ursa Major constellation for inspiration and named it after a star.