The Citroën SM
“The ride of a Mercedes, the speed of a Porsche”
In 1970, Citroën introduced the SM. This car encompassed the most advanced engineering technology of any vehicle built to that date. Even today, it would be considered advanced in many areas. The powerplant was a Maserati 2.7 litre DOHC (eventually becoming a 3.0 L), with three 2-barrel Weber carburators (fuel injection was a later option), 4 wheel disc brakes, anti-lock brakes (on the rear, where Citroën believed they would be the most effective). The famous Citroën hydraulic system, turning headlights, viradi variable steering (the steering wheel became increasingly difficult to turn, the faster the car went). This was without a doubt, the flagship of the fleet.
1972 SM, Canadian model.
Dealers had to actually instruct new owners how to drive an SM. The steering wheel was only one turn, lock-to-lock. The coachwork was designed by Robert Opron, this car was and still is, a marvel.
The styling was incredible. The drag co-efficient is still lower then most cars today. Looking at a cutout in profile, it has the characteristics of an upside-down aircraft wing, to prevent “floating” at high speeds. In fact, the faster one went, the more the SM hugged the ground.
Citroën never believed in front air-dams, believing they block wind, and hinder performance, as well as easily damaged by curbs, etc.
Citroën went to prove to the entire world that FWD cars can be high performance as well. The first race the SM entered, it won (Paris-Dakar rally)
Air induction to the final drive helped keep the transaxles and brakes cool. By foregoing CV joints and employing Double Hooke joints instead, reliability was ensured. Front disc brakes were inboard, to reduce stress while braking from high speeds.
The leather interior, the sideways mounted radio on the center console, the silky smooth 5-speed transmission (or 3-speed automatic), the absolute lack of wind noise and incredible handling of this car combined to totally cater to the whims of the driver. It was Motor Trend’s “Car of the Year” in 1972, with other magazines raving about its features as well.
Unfortunately, a number of factors caused the demise of this incredible car. One was the Arab oil embargo in 1973. The price of the car was steep, dealerships were sparse. During this time, Citroën was bought by Peugeot, whose conservative-minded leadership eventually killed production in 1975. SM’s can still be found in the marketplace, prices vary wildly, but parts are readily available. American models have round, fixed headlights, European and Canadian models have 6 rectangular lights, of which the inner two turn with the steering. All headlights are glass covered on the Euro-Canadian models.
The Canadian model is the one of the most sought after and desirable model of all, since it had options no other SM’s had, like a remote gasoline filler door, inline heater, turning headlights, outside marker lights, and a more powerful heating fan.
Although the car was an engineering breakthrough, there were technical issues. The Maserati engine used 5 chains inside the engine, which tended to stretch every time the A/C compressor engaged, causing eventual failure. The engines tended to run hot as well. Although these issues are easily resolved, proper education and due vigilance is a factor for anyone buying an SM.
Jerry and Sylvia Hathaway from SM World in California, fitted two turbochargers to an SM, and did a high speed trial on the Bonneville Salt Flats. The SM easily went over 200MPH.
The Maserati Engine