Of all the automakers in history, Citroen was the one that proved that cleverly-designed, avant-garde cars could sell well to the general public. 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 and a distinctly Gallic charm.
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, based on shortened DS platforms, but the project changed tack over time and became something wholly different than 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. 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.
Our featured SM is a handsome 1972 model showing just 41,000 miles from new, finished in the classic color combination of champagne over tobacco brown leather. It is a quality car that has been very well maintained by marque experts, a critical fact to consider when purchasing an SM.
The champagne paintwork is very tidy and attractive. Body panel fit is very good, and the exterior trim is factory correct, in very good condition and in keeping with the fine, unrestored and low mileage nature of this car. As any true Grand Touring machine should be, the interior is luxuriously appointed, and this being a Citroen, magnificently styled. Handsome brown leather appears original and is in excellent condition, very well preserved and quite inviting. Electric and hydraulic functions work as they should and this example is fitted with an automatic transmission which suits the soft-riding and relaxed nature of the SM quite well.
The Maserati V6 runs strong and appears very tidy and properly presented in the engine bay. The hydro-pneumatic suspension appears to have been regularly serviced as well; functioning properly and offering excellent handling with incredible ride control. Having never been fully restored, this SM remains very tight and warmly attractive, with an inviting patina that encourages regular use. The Citroen SM is one of the most advanced, forward thinking automobiles of all time. Thankfully, the performance lives up to the avant-garde styling and these cars reward owners who use them on a regular basis. For an enthusiast looking for a classic driver’s car that combines the best of Italian power with French flair, there can only be one choice: The Citroen SM.