Two cars from a time when luxury cars were unique
Citroën SM and Maserati The Merak shares the same heart - a magnificent V6 engine designed by Giulio Alfieri, with an unusual 90-degree cylinder bank angle. To integrate it in front of the rear axle in the Italian model, it is rotated 180 degrees. And this is not the only madness ...
This is a common occurrence for brothers: the firstborn must fight for his freedom, and once he has it, others can take advantage of the privileges that they have already acquired. On the other hand, from the same genes, subjects with very different characters can develop - rebellious or modest, calm or cruel, athletic or not at all.
What do cars have to do with it? In the case of the Maserati Merak and Citroën SM, the analogy includes, above all, the fact that both of them belong to a time that truly passionate fans of the Italian brand would rather not talk about. In 1968, 1967-year-old Maserati owner Adolfo Orsi sold his stake in Citroën (partner of Maserati '75), yielding XNUMX percent of the Italian company to the French automaker. This marked the beginning of a brief but turbulent era in automotive history, characterized by ambitious goals first and then by problems with the marketing of sports models as a result of the oil crisis.
In 1968, nothing foreshadowed such an event, so Citroën was incredibly ambitious about the future of the Italian company. Fortunately, talented Maserati designer Giulio Alfieri is still in a good position at the new company and is tasked with creating a new V-90 engine, including for some future Citroën models. So far, so good. According to the story, Alfieri was shocked when he read the assignment, which indicated the angle between the rows ... XNUMX degrees.
The reason for the need for such an unbalanced angle when running the V6 is because the engine had to fit under the beveled lines of the SM's front cover. Chief Designer Robert Opron designed the avant-garde Citroën SM with a rather low front end, so a standard mid-range V6 with a 60-degree row angle would not fit in height. IN Citroen it is not uncommon to make technological concessions in the name of form.
Block V6 Alfieri as a common heart
However, Giulio Alfieri accepted the challenge. A 2,7-liter light alloy unit weighing 140 kg has been developed, which, thanks to the complex constructive and expensive dohc valve heads, offers 170 hp. True, this is not such an impressive result, but one should not overlook the fact that the power in question is achieved at 5500 rpm. The engine can run up to 6500 rpm, but from a technical point of view, this is simply not necessary. The engine sound is recognized as the work of the composer Alfieri, but it has its own specifics. The noise of three circuits is well felt, two of which drive the camshafts. The third, but practically the first in terms of the drive sequence, performs the task of rotating the intermediate shaft, which, in turn, drives the water pump, the alternator, the high-pressure pump of the hydraulic system and the air conditioning compressor, as well as through the gears and the two mentioned chains. in action a total of four camshafts. This circuit is heavily loaded and is often a source of problems for vehicles in poor condition. Overall, however, the new V6 proved to be a relatively reliable car.
Maybe that's why Maserati engineers can afford to get more out of it. They increase the bore of the cylinders by 4,6 millimeters, which increases the displacement to three liters. Thus, power is increased by 20 hp and torque by 25 Nm, after which the unit rotates 180 degrees along the vertical axis and is implanted into the slightly modified Bora body, which debuted in 1972. Thus, the car turned out. is called Merak and in the range of the sports brand it is entrusted with the role of a basic model with a price (in Germany) below 50 brands. For comparison, a Bora with a V8 engine is 20 marks more expensive. With its 190 hp and 255 Nm of torque, the Merak maintains an honorable distance from the Bora, which is just 50 kg heavier, but has a 310 hp engine. Thus, Meraku has a difficult fate - to settle between his two brothers. One of them is the Citroën SM, which colleagues at Auto Motor und Sport called “the silver bullet” and “the biggest” because its driving comfort is just as good as that. Mercedes 600. Another is the Maserati Bora in question, a full-fledged sports car with a large displacement V8 engine. Unlike the Bora, the Merak has two additional, albeit miniature, rear seats, as well as non-glazed frames connecting the roof to the rear of the car. They look like a more elegant bodywork solution compared to the enclosed engine compartment of its larger engine counterpart.
De Tomaso erases Citroën's tracks
It is difficult for Merak to find customers, as evidenced by the fact that only 1830 vehicles were sold before production ceased in 1985. After 1975, Maserati became the property of the Italian state-owned company GEPI and, in particular, Alessandro de Tomaso, the latter became its owner. CEO, the model goes through two more stages of its evolution. In the spring of 1975, the SS version appeared with a 220 hp engine. and - as a result of the Italian luxury car tax in 1976 - a 170 hp version. and a reduced displacement called the Merak 2000 GT. The gears of the Citroën SM are giving way to others, and the high-pressure braking system has been replaced with a conventional hydraulic one. Since 1980, the Merak has been produced without Citroën components. However, it is the technical products of the French company that make Merak really interesting. For example, the aforementioned high-pressure braking system (190 bar), which provides a more efficient stopping and actuation process of retractable lights. These features are combined with spontaneous and direct road behavior - such as can only be provided by a car with an intermediate engine. Even at 3000 rpm, the V6 offers plenty of power and continues to maintain high thrust up to 6000 rpm.
When you sit in a Citroën SM and look at the almost identical instruments and dashboard, including the center console, there is almost déjà vu. However, the very first turn ends the common denominator in both cars. It is in SM that Citroën unleashes its technological potential to its fullest. A hydropneumatic system with unique shock absorption capacity ensures that the body, with a wheelbase of almost three meters, passes through bumps with amazing comfort. Added to this is the incomparable DIVARI steering with increased steering wheel return to center and a 200mm narrower rear track, which, after some getting used to, provides a relaxing ride and easy maneuvering. The SM is ideal for long distance travel, an avant-garde vehicle that makes its passengers feel important and is years ahead of its time. The rare Maserati is an exciting sports car that you sincerely forgive for small lapses.
Citroën SM and Masarati Merak are cars from the era when it was still possible in car production. When not only tightly controlled financiers, but also constructors and designers had a firm say in defining boundaries. This is how exciting cars like the two brothers of the 70s are born.
Text: Kai Clouder
Photo: Hardy Muchler