Mid-engined Maseratis multiplying

Mid-engined Maseratis multiplying

The Bora was Maserati’s first ever midengined road car; the MC20 is its latest; but in between there have been several others. Maserati’s answer to the Ferrari Dino was a ‘baby’ version of the Bora whose mid-mounted engine was downgraded to a 2965cc V6 borrowed from the Citroën SM.

In its top-spec ‘SS’ guise, the Merak boasted 220hp, a top speed of 153mph and 0-60mph in 7.0 seconds. Giugiaro’s styling changes over his Bora included flying rear buttresses, a flat rear engine cover, vertical rear window and inset front half-bumpers. Between 1972 and 1983, some 1140 examples were made, 224 being the more powerful SS version. The front-engined Biturbo then dominated at Maserati but in 1990, Modena hatched plans for a new mid-engined supercar to rival Ferrari and Lamborghini: the Chubasco.

Engineered by Giacomo Caliri, it had a backbone chassis and was planned to use the Shamal’s 430hp V8 (in fact, no engine was ever fitted). Marcello Gandini’s radical coupe design featured a sliding targa roof, detachable spoiler and scissor doors. Despite Maserati talking about production of 150 units per year from 1992, the Chubasco had no future.

Maserati’s efforts were instead deflected in 1991 to the Barchetta, which essentially used the Chubasco’s backbone chassis. The mid-mounted 2.0-litre Biturbo V6 was tuned to develop 315hp at 7200rpm and was mated to a six-speed Getrag gearbox, while inboard pushrod suspension mimicked Formula 1 practice. The doorless, roofless shape was done by ex-Italdesign penman, Carlo Gaino. Although there was a streetlegal Stradale version, the Barchetta was really a track machine. A one-make race series ran in 1992 and 1993, but it wasn’t popular enough and only 17 Barchettas were made out of a planned 30-strong run.

By 2004, Maserati was firmly within Ferrari’s orbit and a plan was hatched to make a road and race version of the Enzo Ferrari with Maserati branding. The result was the MC12, a car that was even more expensive than the Ferrari. Despite its 5998cc V12 engine being less powerful than the Enzo’s (630hp versus 660hp), the MC12 had better low-down torque. With steel brakes, grander dimensions and Boge dampers, the MC12 weighed more, too (1335kg dry, versus 1255kg for the Ferrari).

Other changes over the Ferrari included unique bodywork with a much longer tail, targa top and engine snorkel. The MC12 was a true hypercar with its carbonfibre/Nomex tub, 205mph top speed and 0-62mph time of 3.8 seconds. Up to 2005, 50 road cars were made, plus an additional 12 racers.

The MC12 formed the basis of the spectacular Birdcage 75th concept car, created by Pininfarina to celebrate its 75th anniversary. First seen at the 2005 Geneva Show, it drew inspiration from Maserati’s Tipo 61 Birdcage of the 1960s but remained a one-off.




Birdcage 75th

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