When it comes to clever engineering, it is often the Germans we consider first. Yet history has shown us that the French engineers at Citroen lead the way with clever, Avant-Garde thinking, of course with a healthy dose of Gallic flair. From the elegant simplicity of the 2CV to the highly advanced and futuristic DS, Citroens have a reputation for incredibly creative engineering solutions paired with artistic design.
Citroen’s brilliant SM was born of a desire for a sporty DS based car that could compete with the Porsche 911. Several prototypes were built using shortened DS platforms, but the as the project evolved, it became something wholly different from a 911 competitor. In 1968, Citroen had acquired the ailing Maserati with an eye toward using their engines in this new sports car. The bosses in Paris requested a new engine from Maserati for their project and they were shown a compact, 90 degree V6 that was in essence a Maserati V8 with two cylinders lopped off, though this engine was just a one-off to see how the V6 concept would be perceived. Once the green light was given, Maserati’s Giulio Alfieri started with a clean sheet of paper to design the new V6.
When the new car, called the “SM”, debuted in 1970 it was no longer a lithe sports car, but a full-fledged grand touring car with an exotic, 2.7L DOHC V6 and either a 5-speed manual or automatic gearbox and front wheel drive. In typical Citroen fashion, the styling appeared to be inspired by science fiction. The long sweeping body featured wheel spats at the rear and actually tapered like a teardrop when viewed from above. Headlamps encased in glass were hydraulically adjustable and swiveled with the front wheels on European models. The chassis was equally space-age with fully adjustable hydro-pneumatic suspension, load sensitive brakes and fully powered, self-centering steering that allowed the car to be set up with zero caster, thereby keeping the tires in full contact with the road at all times and completely eliminating bump steer. The space age theme carries on in the cabin with rakish bucket seats, chrome and metallic detailing, and an instrument panel fitted with fabulous oval dials. The SM is truly a car like none other, before or since.
This 1973 example is one of the nicest and best performing SM’s we’ve encountered. Fully sorted by Jerry Hathaway at SM World, it is very handsome and very usable. Originally in long-term ownership in California, the car was purchased from the original owner in 2004 where it was then treated to a sympathetic restoration. Doors, brightwork and decklids were removed and the car was stripped and resprayed in the attractive medium blue base-clear it presents in now. After paint, the car was then sent to SM World for reassembly where it also received a full mechanical service that included timing chains, rebuilt carburetors, valve adjustment, new hydraulic spheres, rare anti-roll dampers and Mr. Hathaway’s own proprietary ignition upgrades.
The long, flowing Robert Opron-penned body work is crisp and very straight, showing good panel fit and very nice feature lines. The medium metallic blue color is very handsome, and the paint quality is very nice, showing just some very minor orange peel but remaining overall quite attractive and tidy. The original glass is excellent and has been fitted with new rubber at the time of reassembly. The chrome and stainless brightwork is correct and presents beautifully. It rides on correct original alloy wheels which are wrapped in proper tall-aspect ratio radial tires for just the right road presence.
The awesome space-age interior has been restored with black upholstery, accented by the signature gold inlays on the instrument panel and center console. The distinct oval gauges are in excellent condition, as are the switchgear and original radio which is correctly mounted longitudinally in the center console. Upholstery, carpeting, headlining, door cards and trim are all in excellent condition.
Beneath the hood rests the specially designed four-cam Maserati V6 engine connected to the very desirable 5-speed manual transaxle. Expert fettling by Jerry Hathaway ensures the hydro-pneumatic system works perfectly and that the sonorous V6 is running at its best. The signature green hydraulic spheres are in excellent condition, and the maze of plumbing is tidy and properly routed with many new hoses and fixtures apparent. Following the restoration work, the car was sold in 2008 where it received more specialist service, including a rebuilt alternator, hydraulic pump and R134a conversion. As recently as March 2016 it has had fresh fluids and a careful check of the timing chain. This truly is a turn-key SM.
The Citroen SM is one of the all-time great GT cars. It is not likely we will ever see designers and engineers pushing the limits of creativity in the same way. The SM looks and drives like no other car out there, and this example has the benefit of extensive service by the very best in the business. The sale of this fine SM includes records and receipts, California registrations from 1974-2004, extremely rare original folding key, books, manuals, spare and jack, tool kit, and original California blue plate that was fitted to the car from 1973. This is a rare opportunity to own one of the best.