Launched to worldwide and critical acclaim at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show this is the truly amazing Citroën SM.
The Citroën SM project has started way back in 1961 as ‘Project S’ a sports version of the successful and popular Citroën DS. The SM was produced from 1970 – 1975 and exported to a worldwide customer base particularly the US where it enjoyed an initial success up against other large automobile competitors such as the Cadillac Eldorado and the Ford Thunderbird.
The Citroën SM was particularly special for a large number of reasons. But none so more than the purchase of Maserati in 1968 by Citroën, allowing them to use the marque’s high performance engine technology and the quite amazing Maserati V6 engine. The SM also enjoyed the Citroën Hydropneumatic Suspension, developed by Citroën and also used under licence to other manufacturers like Maserati and Rolls Royce. The combination of the V6 powertrain and the superior ride quality provided by the sophisticated suspension ensured the SM took it’s rightful place as the flagship vehicle in the Citroën range.
With two engine choices the 170bhp 2.7 V6 and the 3.0 V6, either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 3-speed fully automatic transmission, the SM was able to achieve a top speed of over 140mph making it one of the fastest front wheel drive cars of it’s day.
Often described as a car of the future the SM was designed by Citroën’s in-house Chief Designer Robert Opron. (Opron was in later years responsible for the design of the Renault Fuego, 9, 11 and 25.) Whilst the styling was of course influenced by the DS, the rear wheel spats a clear indication of this and something to be seen in many future Citroën’s, The SM was extremely aerodynamically advanced, with a low drag resistance ensuring outstanding fuel efficiency by 1970’s standards providing owners with around 17mpg. The aerodynamics also ensured that the ride was silky smooth for long periods even at high speeds.
Winning scores of international fans, famous owners of the Citroën SM included musicians such as Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, Carlos Sanatana and heads of states such as the Shah of Iran, Idi Amin and Haile Seassie 1 of Ethiopia. The SM also made dozens of appearances on the big and little screen in movies such as the Burt Reynolds classic ‘The Longest Yard’ and the 1975 Charles Bronson film ‘Breakout’
1975 saw production of the SM cease due to poor sales, the bankruptcy of Citroën and subsequent purchase by Peugeot, and law changes in key markets such as the 1974 American 5 mph bumper regulation which the SM failed to meet. In total 12,920 SM’s were produced and sold worldwide with 2,400 of those going to the US market in in 1971/2.
The Citroën SM today represents a truly important part of motoring history and with few still left in existence today, it will continue to remain an icon of 1970’s French motoring excellence.
Photography © Morgan Sheff Photography