The mighty Merak is a great budget supercar.
This week's supercar on a $50,000 budget is a classic 1970s Maserati. The Merak was built between 1972 and 1983, and featured a 2+2 mid-engined layout. It is rare today to see a mid-engined car that can sit four people. Not only is the Merak an appreciating classic, you will be able to drive around with your kids or grandkids. The Merak was heavily based on the Maserati Bora, but had a 3.0-liter V6 in place of the Bora's 4.7-liter V8. The extra space from the smaller engine was used to create a second row for passengers.
The other main difference between the Merak and the Bora, is that the Merak did not have a full-glass fastback. The Merak had a vertical rear window and a horizontal engine cover with ventilation slats. The Merak also has open flying buttresses that visually extend the car's roofline. Back in the 1970s, the Merak competed against cars like the Ferrari 308 GT4 and Lamborghini Urraco which were both transversely mounted mid-engined V8 cars. Since the Merak used a smaller V6, its engine could be mounted longitudinally. The Lamborghini Urraco and the Ferrari 308 GT4 may sound familiar to you because one of Top Gear's most popular challenges ever pitted them against the Merak.
Richard Hammond chose the Ferrari, James May chose the Lamborghini, and Jeremy Clarkson chose the Maserati. The challenge was to buy something that was mid-engined and Italian for less than 10,000 GBP (around $12,000). Clarkson paid less than $9,000 for his Merak.
The Maserati Merak that we found is a 1974 model with just 28,645 miles on the odometer. The car is currently being offered by Beverly Hills Car Club in California. The asking price for this Merak is $44,500. Now, you may be asking "why would we pay over $40,000 when Clarkson paid less than $10,000?" Well, if you watched the rest of the Top Gear episode, you may remember that Clarkson's Merak basically exploded during a short road trip. We would hope that this much more pristine Merak wouldn't grenade itself when you go to drive it and that should be worth the extra money. The dealership says that the Merak just had over $10,000 put into it in the past year.
Although, when Jeremy Clarkson bought his Merak, the owner claimed that he had just spent over $10,000 fixing up the engine, so you never really know. We really recommend watching this episode of Top Gear from start to finish, because it shows how bad a cheap Merak could be and why you need to buy a nice one.
Compared to any modern supercar, the Merak won't wow you with performance. The 3.0-liter V6 produced 187 horsepower and 188 lb-ft of torque. There was also a more powerful SS version with 217 hp thanks to larger carburetors and a higher compression ratio. Jeremy Clarkson actually though his Merak was an SS, but he later found out that is was just a cheap badge which was bought when the car was new. Only 1,830 examples of the Merak were ever built, and we doubt that the one Clarkson drove is still around, so that makes it even more rare. If you want to turn heads and enjoy a nice family drive in a classic Italian supercar, look at the Maserati Merak.