Project Car Hell: TVR 280i or Maserati Merak?

Illustration for article titled Project Car Hell: TVR 280i or Maserati Merak?

We had our most one-sided Choose Your Eternity Poll ever yesterday, with Humber Sceptre getting obliterated by the Reliant Scimitar. Today we're going back to cars you can buy in the US of A, and we're going to jack up the admission cost to a Sisyphean future of endless wrenching. You want temperamental sports cars upon which to shatter your already-fragile sanity, pal? We got 'em!

Never mind that it's powered by the same Ford V6 used in the Capri, this '85 TVR 280i is chock full of challenges for its next owner. Parts are going to be a bit tough to find, and of course then there's that legendary TVR quality to contend with. Only six grand and this screamin' British machine will be all yours! The seller says it runs and drives, and you even get a new windshield, but there's also the part of the description that goes "ongoing project needing some minor work to be a solid driver." Translation: "Neverending project needing massive infusion of time and money to be a finicky weekend cruiser." Balance that against the glory of being the only TVR driver in town and make your decision acccordingly.

But why go with an obscure British make when you can flaunt some Italian style in an honest-to-God Maserati? And not some boring ol' 80s Biturbo sedan, either- this 1974 Maserati Merak is a lean, mean, mid-engined sports car! Yes, it's a grand more than the TVR, but: Maserati! Some of you might remember the Merak as the car Clarkson drove in the £10,000 Supercar episode of Top Gear; yeah, it has a wimpy thrifty Citroën V6, but just remember, the Citroën SM has the same engine! Oh, we'd be remiss if we forgot to tell you- the photograph in the Craigslist listing... well, er, it isn't exactly the car being sold (hence the added quote marks around its image in the illustration above). We're sure the actual car looks even nicer than the photo, though- why, the seller probably just didn't have time to take a photo of the car he wants $7000 for, that's all! Did we mention that it doesn't run? No? Welcome to Hell!


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I realize this feature isn't that old, but this is the best PCH of all time!

Although it was difficult, I think I have to go with the Merak. Although there are no photos and only a cryptic description, a fair estimate of the car's condition may be made based on the fact that, even adjusted for inflation, $7000 is less than the £7000 Clarkson paid for the rust-eaten Merak that fragged its engine in two days time. I can't even fathom the frustration that would be involved in getting the Merak roadworthy. This car would bankrupt all but the most well-heeled, and certainly drive all but the most patient to the brink of insanity.

The TVR, on the other hand, while doubtless possessed of build quality that makes a mid-80's GM F-body look like an S-class Benz, appears to be in fairly decent shape. It's plausible that you might take it for a pleasant drive before destroying your creditworthiness, marriage, and sense of hope. No such luck with the Maser.

I'll close with the line Clarkson used to close the above-referenced episode: "Yes, you can buy a supercar for less than £10,000, but for the love of God, don't."