Citroen’s brilliant SM was born of a desire by Citroen boss Pierre Bercot to offer a sporty DS-based car that could compete with the Porsche 911. Over the course of development, several prototypes were built using shortened DS platforms and various engines, but due to an internal rift between management and engineering who wanted to highlight the brilliant high-pressure hydraulic system, the end result became something wholly different from a 911 competitor. The new car was less a sports car and more a luxurious GT car comparable to a BMW CS coupe or Mercedes-Benz SL. Citroen had already approached Giulio Alfieri of Maserati to design an engine for the project, and by 1968, had acquired the ailing Italian firm altogether. Maserati’s Giulio Alfieri first supplied Citroen with a 90 degree V6 that was, in essence, a Maserati V8 with two cylinders lopped off. This prototype was used to gauge reaction within Citroen, and once the green light was given, Alfieri started with a clean sheet of paper to design purpose-built V6 engine for the new project.
When 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, front wheel drive, and a highly advanced chassis. In typical Citroen fashion, the styling appeared to be inspired by science fiction. The long sweeping body penned by the genius Robert Opron 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 look was sleek, aerodynamic and incredibly advanced in the best French Avant-Garde tradition. The advanced chassis featured fully adjustable hydro-pneumatic suspension, load sensitive four-wheel disc 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. Passengers were cosseted in a luxurious cabin with rakish bucket seats, metallic detailing, and an instrument panel fitted with fabulous oval dials – including a speedometer that also showed braking distance. A technical and stylistic masterpiece, the SM is truly a car like none other.
This 1972 Citroen SM is a very attractive example of the breed, finished in the handsome shade of Brun Scarabée over a natural brown leather interior and presenting in very good driver-quality condition. It is a desirable 5-speed model with covered headlamps that was enjoyed regularly by its previous owner who kept it as part of a large East Coast collection of French and German automobiles. The light metallic color highlights the striking shape which combines large sweeping surfaces with sharply creased details, and this car does not disappoint with its straight panels, crisp lines, and very good gaps. The paint quality is quite good overall, with only a few minor flaws doing little to detract from the otherwise attractive presentation. Exterior detailing is quite good, with straight, original bumpers, rocker panel decos, and stainless steel trim all presenting in fine order. It rides factory steel wheels with original styled-stainless wheel covers and shod with properly sized 205/65-15 Dunlop radials that give the right balance of ride and handling quality.
The futuristic interior is presented in excellent original condition, with the natural brown leather seats in fine condition, showing minimal wear. Carpets, headlining and door panels also remain in very good original condition and the signature brushed gold-colored console and instrument fascia inlays are excellent, as are the original gauges and switchgear. An aftermarket radio is fitted in the center console in its unusual but factory-correct location at the driver’s elbow between the front seats. Overall, the interior is very well presented, having been carefully preserved in largely original condition.
At the heart of the SM is Maserati’s purpose-built 2.7 liter V6, which runs very well thanks to regular maintenance in the hands of its last owner. The underhood presentation is proper and clean, with correct green paint on the Citroen hydraulic components along with tidy wiring and plumbing. The cutting-edge hydraulic system powers the brakes, suspension and the unique DIRAVI self-centering steering system. The hydraulics benefit from recent servicing, with newer rear shock absorbers and hydraulic accumulators. It functions as it should; providing the signature ride quality, self-leveling ability, and ride height adjustment. The car performs beautifully on the road, with Maserati’s gorgeous V6 delivering smooth and linear power with a magnificent Italian soundtrack and crisp shifting 5-speed manual transaxle.
This 1972 SM is a very strong example of Citroen’s masterpiece. Well maintained and presented in desirable colors and specification, it delivers the exquisite ride and performance that make Citroen’s revolutionary GT car so unique among its peers and truly like no other automobile before or since.