The Story Of The Maserati Bora

A brave effort to sell sports cars by Citroen after their takeover of Maserati

large image of Maserati Bora

f you want to build a car that is not only fast but also has excellent roadholding then weight distribution is extremely important. Too much at the front can cause understeer; too much at the back can cause oversteer and a tendency for the front-end to lift at high speed. Putting an engine in the middle of the car sounds like a good idea.

Unfortunately things are not that simple. Firstly the engine is then taking up space which could have been utilised by passengers, and secondly it is difficult to isolate the driver and passengers from the noise and vibration that the engine creates. This is not such a problem in a racing car since performance is everything; but in a sports car it is less easy to justify providing roadholding at the expense of comfort. A compromise has to be reached.

Citroen took over Maserati in 1968 and not long afterwards they proposed to look into the possibility of building such a car to compete with the likes of Ferrari, De Tomaso and Lamborghini, who were already producing, or were about to produce, their own mid-engined sports cars. Maserati, however, wanted to produce a car that not only had the advantages of this layout, but which minimised the disadvantages. The result was the Bora, which hit the market in 1971; a car named after an Italian north-easterly wind. The company's engineers wanted to produce a car that was a cross between an out and out supercar and a grand tourer. This was to be the Bora, a two seater mid-engined sports coupe that came onto the market in 1971.

If this was to be a civilised car it had to be comfortable. One of the problems of a high-performance supercar was that the bodywork was designed for speed and not for ease of getting in and out. The Bora's steering wheel could be moved up and down, and in and out, to facilitate this. Another common problem was that pedals could be difficult to operate for anyone of other than average height. The Bora's could be moved hydraulically at the touch of a button. Most important of all however was considered to be the noise issue.

Designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, whom we have already met, spent a great deal of time and thought on insulating the cabin from the engine and settled on separating them with double glazed glass. An aluminium lid was placed over the engine, and covered with carpeting for extra insulation. Finally the engine and gearbox were attached to the subframe on flexible mountings to reduce vibration.

Two engine choices were offered; 4.7 litre and 4.9 litre V8's, both constructed of aluminium alloy with quad cams and 16 valves, fed by four carburettors. Combination of the light weight of the car and the power of the engine gave the 4.9 litre a claimed top speed of 177 mph and a nought to 60 mph time of 6.1 seconds; the 4.7 litre engine was slightly slower at a claimed 168 mph.

Boras continued to be built between 1971 and 1978, during which time a total of an estimated 571 were built. This car was very much a sheep in wolf's clothing; capable of the exciting performance of a mid-engined racing car in a refined and civilised sports car.