1972 Citroen SM Coupe

Rarely have mass-market automobile manufacturers found success in pushing high-tech, cutting-edge products to the general buying public. While innovation and provocative styling are comfortably within the realm of sports car manufacturers, the average consumer prefers to sacrifice some technology for safety and reliability. Yet, Citroen managed to find the sweet spot - embracing the Avant-Garde in its everyday products while still selling them on a mass-market platform. From the elegant simplicity of the 2CV to the technical advancements of the stunningly beautiful DS, Citroens have long held a reputation for creative engineering paired with artistic and uniquely French design.

Citroen’s SM was born of a desire to offer a sporty car based on the DS to compete with the Porsche 911. In 1968, Citroen had acquired the ailing Maserati with an eye toward using their engines in the new flagship. The top brass in Paris requested a new engine from Maserati for their project and they were shown a compact, 90 degree V6 that was basically an older Maserati V8 with two cylinders lopped off. But this engine was just a one-off to see how the V6 concept would be perceived. When the green light was given, Maserati’s Giulio Alfieri designed the new V6 from a clean sheet of paper. When the SM debuted in 1970 it was no longer a lithe sports car, but a full-fledged, four-seat GT with an exotic, Italian-built 2.7L V6, choice of a 5-speed manual or automatic gearbox, and front wheel drive. In typical Citroen fashion, the styling seemed 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 underpinnings were equally space-age with fully adjustable hydro-pneumatic suspension developed from the DS, high-pressure load sensitive brakes and fully powered, self-centering steering that allowed the car to be set up with zero caster, thereby eliminating bump steer, but requiring a unique approach to driving. Thanks to its unparalleled ride quality and sonorous Italian V6, the SM has long been considered one of the finest GTs of the era; counted among the most admired and advanced cars of all time.

This 1972 Citroen SM Automatique is a lovely, expertly maintained example finished in Blanc Meije over black leather. This US-market car is one of 1128 SMs imported in 1972, and it spent a number of years as the personal car of Dave Burnham; a highly respected Citroen restorer and mechanic, and one of the nation’s leading marque specialists. Mr. Burnham purchased the car from the Benzal family of Schenectady, NY who had owned it since the late 1970s. The Benzals had their SM serviced by Carmichael Citroen of Albany, NY, where Dave Burnham was employed as a mechanic and recalled working on the car. As one would expect, this car has been meticulously well cared-for and presents in fine order throughout. The body is exceptionally straight and clean, with crisp feature lines and excellent, well-maintained paintwork in the factory correct color. The bumpers and brightwork are in similarly fine order, appearing to be factory correct and unrestored, all very straight and ding-free.

Swinging open the big doors reveals a beautifully preserved interior trimmed in black leather and in fabulous original condition throughout. The leather seats show some light creasing, which lends the cabin with a rather inviting character like a favorite old pair of gloves. Original charcoal carpets are tidy and in good condition, as is the black headlining. Rear seats show very little use, and the original upholstered parcel shelf remains in place and in good order under the rear glass. The full array of signature oval dials is in good condition, with the gold-colored fascia and console inlays in similarly fine shape. Features include air conditioning and electric windows, and even the seldom-seen original Citroen radio is at home in the center console, in its somewhat unusual but factory-correct location, placed vertically between the seats. The original jack and tools are in place in the factory location in the spare wheel.

The 2.7 liter Maserati-built V6 is in fine condition mechanically and cosmetically, in keeping with an expertly-maintained and low mileage car. Nearly $40,000 in receipts show the level of care that went into maintaining this car in top mechanical order. Timing chains were replaced in 2009, and then checked and adjusted 5,000 miles ago. Mr. Burnham changed the engine and transmission oils religiously every 3,000 miles during his ownership. Engine detailing is to a high quality driver standard and it retains the original air cleaner and most of the correct labels and decals. The DIRAVI steering, hydopneumatic suspension and hydraulically boosted brakes work as they should and the 3-speed automatic transmission shifts well. Similarly, the undercarriage is tidy and befitting of a low-mileage car that has been driven but sensibly maintained. The automatic transmission lends itself rather well to the SM, accentuating the relaxed, high-speed cruising ability of these remarkable cars.

Rarely do we find Citroen SMs in such sound and usable condition, backed by meticulous maintenance. This car has be clearly benefited from exceptional care while in the personal fleet of a marque specialist, and it remains thoroughly usable. With its outstanding coachwork and beautifully presented interior, this is a fine example of one of the worlds most advanced GT cars – courtesy of the brilliantly creative minds at Citroen.

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