One thing I like to do with my own shopping in the collector car market is to look for alternatives. If I really want a 1973 Aston Martin V8 that costs somewhere north of $125,000 I will often look for another car built in the same period that was a competitor. This is how I ended up with a $20,000 Jensen Interceptor coupe a few years ago. It has the same rarity and was a proper high-end GT car at the time but costs a fraction of the price of the Aston. While not exactly the same car, it was the same category of car, built in the same country and when new was aimed at the same type of customer with a similar price.
Now one of my all-time favorite cars is the Ferrari 308. To me they are emblematic of what the Ferrari brand was in the 1980s and are one of the most important models in the entire Ferrari catalog. This importance is due to the 308 being featured in the television show Magnum P.I. and exposed millions of people to the Ferrari brand for the first time.
About 10-years ago you could buy a nice 308 Ferrari for as little as $30,000. Sadly, those days are over, so I decided to look for alternatives. The number one alternative I could find was the Maserati Merak SS.
When new the Merak was a revolution in that it was a mid-engine car powered by a Maserati V6 that offered exotic car looks in a package that was both more comfortable to drive than the Ferrari 308 GT4, its head-to-head competition, and also available for a bit less money. Though not penned by Pininfarina, the Merak was designed by another legendary designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro. They are different looking cars but still look like the 1970s exotic cars they are.
What is interesting is when they were new the Merak was less expensive than the 308, and today is still a lot less expensive than the Ferrari 308 GTB or GTS which will likely cost somewhere north of $100,000. Even the most inexpensive 308 and the one that is universally less loved, the 308 GT4 2+2, is going to cost a minimum of $70k.
The West Chester, Pennsylvania dealer offering this 1974 Maserati Merak SS states that this Merak has only covered 18,000 miles from new and features a stunning red exterior over a black leather interior. It is powered by the 3.0-liter 190 bhp Maserati V6 backed by a 5-speed manual trans-axle and features a limited-slip differential. It wears factory correct 15” Campagnolo alloy wheels, and still has a period AM/FM radio.
They add that the car was acquired by the selling dealer in 2021 from its previous long-term owner, and they performed a comprehensive service on the car, including replacement of the ignition components, oil cooler lines, and air cleaner components as well as a compression test, an oil change, and carburetor work. This Merak includes its factory shop manual, original owner’s manuals, service records, and a tool kit.
The asking price for this Maserati is a very fair $65,000, which is around 40% less money than a Ferrari 308 GTB or GTS. Sure, it is not a Ferrari but it is a nice compromise.
That being said, if the car you have dreamed about the most is a Ferrari 308 GTB/GTS then I would not buy the Merak. The reason is that no matter how good the Merak is you will still wish it was a Ferrari 308. In the timepiece world it is much like wanting a Rolex Submariner but settling for a Tudor Black Bay 58. It is close to the dream but not close enough. On the other hand if you like to think outside the box, this Merak SS would make for an excellent alternative.