Citroën SM

Citroën SM 1970s French classic car

The SM was almost as much Maserati as it was Citroën. The late Sixties saw the French manufacturer also at the helm of the iconic Italian car maker. Indeed, the SM was the first showpiece from the new automotive 'double act'. It was a classic 'best of both worlds' scenario. Citroën's slick and slippery shape was mated with Maserati's expert engine know-how. The nose - with its panoply of lights - was deftly faired in behind a slender strip of glass. At the back, a sweetly-styled hatchback sloped gently down to the rear light cluster. Between the two were some of the most eye-catching lines ever to grace a GT car. Window geometry alone warranted careful study!

Power was provided by a scaled-down version of Maserati's four-cam V8. The resulting V6 had a capacity of 2.7 litres. There was a good reason for that ... French tax regulations hammered engines over 2.8 litres. The 'micro' Maser motor still delivered 170bhp. That made it good for 140mph. In keeping with Citroën tradition, the SM was FWD. To enable that, the gearbox/transaxle sat fore of the front-mounted motor. Citroën's self-levelling hydro-pneumatic suspension system saw power to road, in safe and seamless style. That was the SM's trump card. The union of French/Italian technical excellence meant that the ride stayed serene and smooth, whatever the speed. And Maserati had made sure there was plenty of the latter!

For a classic car, the SM felt futuristic. If the switches/dials on its expansive dash were not space-age, as such - they were definitely avant-garde. The single-spoke steering-wheel would have looked at home on a lunar landing craft! Exterior lines, too, were ahead of their time. Sadly, though, for the SM, timing was not on its side. It was launched in 1970 - just in time for the '73 oil crisis! With its 18mpg fuel economy, it was a dead duck from then on. Up to that point, business had been brisk. French drivers had gorged on the first luxury GT since the Facel Vega Facel II. Citroën did what they could to stem the tide. A version of the SM was offered with a 3-litre injected engine - and optional auto transmission. But, if Citroën hoped those with deep pockets would save the day, it was not to be. A tad shy of 13,000 units had been sold when the SM plug was pulled, in '75. That was a shame - because for the few years of its life, the Citroën SM showcased European collaboration of the highest calibre.

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