Back on December 4, 2005, Top Gear showcased its ultimate cheap car challenge. Richard Hammond, James May and Jeremy Clarkson had to purchase an old supercar for £10,000 each – but there was a catch. The vehicles they brought back had to be mid-engined and Italian. A recipe for hilarity…
Ultimately, the Cheap Supercar Challenge saw Hammond in a Ferrari 308 GT4, May driving a Lamborghini Urraco and Clarkson swanning about in a 1975 Maserati Merak SS. Well, it was claimed to be an SS version – but after further on-screen investigation, the Maserati turned out to be a base model. Clarkson had been well and truly duped.
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Over the course of several challenges, the supercars proved to be in various states of decay. On a rolling road, each vehicle posted woeful power readouts. From new, the Ferrari Dino boasted 255bhp, yet Hammond’s 308 GT4 coughed up just 194bhp, whereas the Urraco could barely muster 117 of the original 220 horses.
However, nothing could touch Clarkson’s £10k Merak. Starting life with 190bhp, the engine had lost an almighty 110bhp. It was running with less power than a 1.4-litre Ford Focus. Ultimately, the Stig beat all three of them around a circuit, driving a diesel Vauxhall Astra.
However, that wasn’t the biggest calamity to befall perhaps the worst Merak of all time. During the final challenge – a road trip to Stringfellows nightclub – the engine’s bottom end exploded, spraying bits of crankshaft and block over traffic and tarmac, not to mention James May.
Left in a hedge on the outskirts of Reading, the Merak was ultimately ruined. Enthusiasts claimed that the vehicle could be revived, yet its future looked bleak. Rumours speculate that the BBC sold the Maserati on for cheap, yet the car simply disappeared.
Perhaps the date of liability should have granted the keyboard warriors a clue – 01/06/2006. It was never taxed for the road again.
The car was rediscovered back in 2016, but it still wasn’t running. In fact, the Merak was being sold for parts – and now, listed on EuroSpares, the Maserati’s fate has clearly been sealed. With the bottom end still in bits, Clarkson’s pretend SS will continue being dismantled for spare parts.
You can contact EuroSpares through its contact form to order bits from what’s left of JOK 229N – but we can bet the SS badge has already been snapped up…