Maserati Bora 4,9 Coupe by Italdesign

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Bora 4,9 Coupe by Italdesign





Initially known as Tipo 117 and later the Bora, the Maserati project got underway in October 1968 and a prototype was on the road by mid-1969. Shown in its final form at the Geneva Salon in March 1971, deliveries began before the end of the year. Maserati struggled after being bought by De Tomaso in 1975, and the Bora was discontinued after the 1978 model year.

Maserati had developed a reputation for producing technologically out of date cars, but that changed with the Bora. A number of innovative features were introduced that distinguished the car from their previous offerings. Compared to other supercars it was civilized and practical, featuring a hydraulically powered pedal cluster that could be moved forward and backwards at the touch of a button and a steering wheel that could be tilted and telescoped, addressing the common problem of entering and exiting the vehicle common to all supercars.

Most supercars offer little foot room and little to no provision for luggage, but the Bora has a full-size trunk in the front of the vehicle, and was otherwise known as being much more civilized in comforts from its competitors, while still being rated at 171 mph by the Maserati factory. Unlike its competitors, the Bora used dual-pane glass separating its cabin from the engine compartment as well as a carpeted aluminum engine cap, greatly decreasing the engine noise in the cabin and increasing the comfort level for the driver.

Two engines were offered initially, including a high-revving 4.7-litre (290 cu in) V8 and a higher torque 4.9-litre (300 cu in) V8; a US smog-qualified 4.9-litre engine was used (a stroked version of the 4.7), starting with 1973 deliveries. Eventually, production switched to using only a more powerful version of the 4.9-litre engine producing 320 hp at 6000 rpm. All these engines traced their lineage back to the famous 450S racecar, were aluminum alloy, had hemispheric combustion chambers with 16 valves total operated by four cams (chain-driven) and fed by eight throats of Weber carburetion, fired by electronic ignition. The extraordinarily competent and strong ZF-1 five-speed trans-axel was used, as it was with the GT-40, Pantera, BMW M1, and other supercars of this era. Regardless of engine size or modification level, the Bora was considered an extraordinarily powerful car in its time.

A combined steel monocoque chassis and body featured a tubular steel subframe at the back for the engine and transmission. Suspension was independent all round (a first for a Maserati road car) with coil springs, telescopic shocks and anti-roll bars. The development prototype and the broadly similar show car first seen at the 1971 Geneva Motor Show featured MacPherson strut based front suspension, but this was abandoned for production because, installed in combination with very wide front tires and rack-and-pinion steering, the strut-based solution produced severe kickback. For the production cars Maserati reverted to a more conservative wishbone front-suspension arrangement.

Citroën's advanced high-pressure LHM hydraulics were adopted to operate the ventilated disc brakes on the main circuit, and on an auxiliary circuit the pedal box [clutch, brake, foot-throttle], the driver's seat [vertical adjustments], and the retractable headlights. Wheels were 7.5 x 15 inch Campagnolo light alloy rims with distinctive removable polished stainless steel hubcaps in the earlier automobiles, and tyres were Michelin XWX 205x70 front and rear, however these early cars exhibited problems with "tramlining" at speed. To solve this problem Maserati fitted later cars with 215x70 Michelins'.

Maserati decided to install a subtly uprated version of their familiar DOHC 90° V8, displacement having been 4719 cc thanks to a bore and stroke of 93.9 x 85 mm. Mounted longitudinally, compression was set at 8.5:1 and with four Weber 42 DCNF downdraught carbs and electronic Bosch ignition, the Bora could boast 310 bhp (230 kW) at 6000 rpm. Great attention was paid to reducing noise and vibration, the engine and five-speed ZF transaxle being mounted on a subframe attached to the monocoque via four flexible mounts. The body was created by Giorgetto Giugiaro for Ital Design, fabrication of the all-steel panels being contracted to Officine Padane of Modena.

Standing 1138 mm high, perhaps the most distinctive details were the brushed stainless steel roof and windscreen pillars. Inside, the bucket seats, dash, door trim, centre console and rear bulkhead were trimmed in leather, electric windows having been standard, most cars also getting air conditioners. The steering column was manually adjustable for rake and reach, whereas the LHM aux. circuit controls adjusted the driver's seat vertically, the pedal box [consisting of the brake, clutch and throttle pedals] horizontally forwards and backwards by around three inches (76 mm)--a first such application in the world for a production car, and also to raise and lower the concealed headlights in the front fenders.

The original design weight was 1400 kg, however noise and safety concerns pushed this up to 1535 kg. It is popularly believed that the Bora is heavier than the Ghibli however the Ghibli weighs some 1650 kg, 115 kg more than the Bora. The reason for this misconception probably stems from the state of tune of their respective engines as well as the difference in the gearing of the two cars. The Ghiblis' 4.7 litre motor was tuned to give 335 bhp in SS form, whilst the 310 bhp Bora was tuned for a smoother power delivery but more initial ignition advance gave it more power lower in the rev range. Differences in the gearing are a little harder to understand, the Ghibli had the option of two final drives 331 or 354 both of these lower than the Boras' 4.11 in US form or 3.77 for the few rhd cars, also having a 2.97 first gear verses 2.86 in the Bora made the heavier but more powerful Ghibli accelerate at almost exactly the same rate as the Bora, initially. However as speed climbed the more highly geared Bora ( 5th gear of .74 verses .90 in the Ghibli ) would take the lead, top speeds were similar at 154 to 160 for the Ghibli verses 155 mph for US spec Boras' and up to 174 mph for rhd and European spec cars without smog controls.

About early 1974, front lids became hinged at front instead of rear, pop-up headlights showed rounded inside corners, and a rectangular black air-exit grille was added across the hood (similar to Pantera).

From 1973, as the 4.7-litre engine had not been homologated in North America, US Bora models had air-pump emissions-equipped 4930cc Super-Ghibli engines similar to those found in US-bound Ghiblis. Output was 310 bhp (231 kW) at 6000 rpm, only 30 bhp (22 kW) or less than the Euro-spec' derivative.

US safety-compliant front bumpers had to be added to meet US DOT safety legislation, on US-delivered cars, though many US Bora owners have subsequently retro-fitted the original Euro versions. Three years later, the 4.9-litre engine became standard on all Boras, displacement having been stroked from 85 to 89 mm, this resulting in a size of 4930 cc. With compression set at 8.75:1, output was 10 bhp (7.5 kW) up on the 4.7 with 320 (330 in Europe) bhp at 5500 rpm. Production ran from 1971 to 1978, with 524 Boras eventually being built, 289 of which were 4.7s and the remaining 235, 4.9s.

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