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Maserati Bora


What prestigious sports car manufacturer and former Formula 1 team has produced everything from the wondrous to the hideous, has flirted with bankruptcy, and has had more owners than your average twenty pound note? And one last thing, in case you were about to answer ‘Lotus’ – it’s not from the UK.

 

The manufacturer is, of course, Maserati, a company whose involvement in motor racing at the highest levels pre-dates such Johnny-come-latelies as Ferrari and Porsche, but whose ability to wrestle defeat from the jaws of victory has been surpassed only by certain British tennis players.

 

But, like Lotus, to focus on the defeats and disasters is to tell less than half of the story, and perhaps the least interesting part, as Maserati has, spasmodically, produced some of the world’s most beautiful road and race cars.

 

And none is more beautiful than the Bora, a car that heralded Maserati’s arrival at the mid-engined party, which, in the early 1970s, was the only place to be if you were an Italian supercar manufacturer.

 

Conceived and manufactured during the period of Citroen ownership of the marque, which produced such unlikely collaborations as the SM, the Bora has earned its place on The List by virtue of its fluid lines and understated elegance. This is not a car like the Countach that bullies onlookers, with its size, drama and silly doors, into showing respect; it is a car that discreetly seduces with its finely balanced proportions, and exemplifies the maxim that less is often more.

 

There are, of course, a number of distinctive styling cues: the trident badge, which, to our eyes, is just as evocative as the prancing horse; the buttresses and glass area that enclose the engine bay; and the four exhausts, menacingly indicating to the car behind that this is a car that should not be messed with, despite its apparent femininity. The overall design is cohesive, and does not lapse into supercar parody.

 

Although the Citroen era ended in disaster, there were some noticeable advantages to Maserati being owned by the French company, not least of which was the use of the parent company’s technology to provide both power steering and brake assistance. This may have robbed the primary controls of a little feel, but anyone who has driven a non-power assisted supercar from this era will admit that the trade-off is one worth having.

 

Inside, the first thing that one notices is the lack of adjustment of the driver’s seat; instead the pedal box is moveable, much like a Marcos. The downside of this setup is that it results in the brake pedal having very little travel before the brakes begin to bite, which can initially cause slightly jerky progress until the driver becomes familiar with this characteristic.

 

The interior is typical Seventies playboy, with acres of leather and a plethora of dials angled towards the driver. Unusually, the Bora benefits from double glazed windows, which insulate toccupants from some of the road noise, although the 4.7 litre V8, which sits behind one’s head, is sufficiently vocal to make its presence felt in the cockpit.

 

With the engine warmed up, the slightly recalcitrant gearshift becomes smoother and one feels more inclined to explore the performance. The V8 is not a high revs unit – peak power is delivered at 6000 rpm – but it makes a glorious racket getting there; deep and powerful and perhaps more American sounding than its Italian peers.

 

Floor the throttle, finesse your way through the gears and the Bora will hit 100 MPH in around 15 seconds; slower than some of the wilder supercars from the 1970s, but still quick, even by modern standards (although, predictably, somewhat slower than Maserati’s optimistic claims from the time). Think Lotus Elise 160, but with better in-gear performance, and you will be in the right ballpark.

 

Heading into a series of bends, the Bora displays a fairly neutral balance; despite the engine sitting fairly high in the chassis, it does not feel as if misjudging entry speed into a hard sequence of corners would result in the car exiting backwards into the nearest hedge (or barrier). The most likely consequence of ambitious corner entry is understeer, followed by an easily controllable four wheel drift.

 

The steering is relatively feelsome for a car of its age with power steering and is quick enough to allow for any corrections when the Bora is sliding without the need for wildly flailing arms.

 

It is not really the sort of car that one should be sliding luridly around a race track, though. It is better thought of as a mid-engined GT than a race-honed supercar; a car to enjoy at eight tenths on some of the better roads in the South of France, before outshining garish modern machinery in Casino Square in the evening.





 
 

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