In the realm of everyday transportation, the average consumer generally prefers to play it safe, preferring safety and reliability over exotic, untested technology. Despite the conservative nature of the general public, a handful of manufacturers have managed to build their reputations on bringing high-tech engineering and advanced design to the masses, and few car companies embraced the Avant-Garde more than Citroen. The most essential of all French cars, Citroen pushed the boundaries of engineering and design, with vehicles like the front-drive, unitary body Traction Avant, the brilliantly simple 2CV, and the brilliantly complex DS. The DS was so advanced that the company nearly went bankrupt in developing its hydraulic suspension, steering, and gear change systems. Luckily for Citroen, their gamble paid off, and the car eventually sold in the millions, becoming an icon of French popular culture.
Buoyed by the success of the DS, Citroen envisioned a DS-based sports car to compete head-to-head with Porsche’s all-conquering 911. In 1968, Citroen had acquired the ailing Maserati, with the idea they would provide the perfect engine to power the flagship sports car. The top brass in Paris requested a new engine proposal from Maserati, who showed them a compact, 90-degree V6 that was, in essence, an older Maserati V8 with two cylinders lopped off. However, this engine was merely a one-off that Maserati used to judge the perception of a V6. Once the boys in Paris gave the go-ahead, Maserati’s Giulio Alfieri designed a new four-cam V6 from a clean sheet of paper, specifically for the SM.
When the SM finally debuted in 1970, it was no longer the lithe sports car first envisioned, instead morphing into 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. The science-fiction styling came from the pen of Citroen’s own Robert Opron, the brilliant designer responsible for the facelifted DS. The long sweeping body tapered like a teardrop when viewed from above, and skirted rear wheels contributed to its futuristic appearance. Opron covered the headlamps in a glass panel to reduce drag, and like the DS, the main beams swiveled hydraulically with the steering. Many of the chassis components came from the DS, including the fully adjustable hydro-pneumatic suspension, and high-pressure load sensitive brakes. New for the SM was the so-called DIRAVI self-centering steering. The unique arrangement allowed the car to be set up with zero caster thereby eliminating bump steer and making parking a breeze – although it did require some adjustment on behalf of the driver. Thanks to its unparalleled ride quality and powerful, sonorous Italian V6 engine, Citroen’s brilliant SM is long considered one of the most exceptional GTs of the era; proudly counted among the most technologically advanced automobiles of all time.
Offered here is a fine example of Citroen’s ground-breaking continental cruiser. This 1972 SM coupe is well-equipped with numerous desirable features, including European-market headlamps, air conditioning, and a 5-speed manual transaxle paired with the carbureted Maserati V6 engine. It presents in an attractive era-appropriate shade of light metallic green over a tobacco brown leather cabin. For more than a decade, this car was part of a private collection of significant sports and GT cars. It presents today with a careworn character, making it ideally suited to on-road enjoyment on tours, rallies, and events. Panel fit is even, with crisp feature lines in the body, and the green paintwork is attractive. A few minor paint blemishes are noted on close inspection. Similarly, the original stainless brightwork is straight and consistent, showing some superficial polish marks and care-related wear. The car rides on its factory-correct steel wheels with bright stainless wheel covers and excellent Michelin rubber.
The four-seat cabin presents in original condition with well-preserved leather upholstery. Tobacco-brown leather covers the seats and door panels, and is in good order overall; the only notable demerit being a split seam on the outer driver’s shoulder bolster. Beyond that, the leather on the seats and door panels is well-kept and in excellent original condition. The same goes for the original brown carpeting, which is tidy and fits properly, including in the large boot. Controls and switches are in good condition, including the original oval gauges set into the correct gold-finish inlay. The original, rarely-seen Continental-Edison FM/MW/LW radio sits in the correct location between the seats, and other desirable features include air conditioning, electric windows, and heated rear glass.
Maserati’s excellent 2.7-liter V6 is placed well-back behind the front axle line, thanks to the 5-speed manual transaxle mounted ahead of it. Thanks to consistent use and care, the hydraulic suspension, steering, and braking systems currently function as they should, and it runs and drives well. Like the engine bay, the underbody is honest and well-presented, with good floors and the tidy appearance of a well-maintained driver-quality car.
This 1972 SM is an attractive, collector-owned example of Citroen’s grand-touring icon. Pleasingly maintained and presented in desirable colors and specification, it delivers the exciting performance and unique driving experience that make Citroen’s revolutionary grand tourer an automobile like no other before or since.
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