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
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