Let’s call it the CC Cohort Effect, or maybe even divine intervention: I was feeling a bit woozy and in need for an antidote to today’s two-ton double BigMacBroughams with extra crushed-velour sauce on the front page menu, so I headed to the Cohort for some Broughmo-Seltzer. Lo! There it was, sent to me straight from automotive heaven by the goddess herself: Her one and only begotten daughter, the Citroen SM. What propitious timing too; this is the first SM ever posted at the Cohort, and on the very day of our 1972 CCOTY Nominations. Not only is the SM the ultimate Anti-Brougham, but it even managed to win Motor Trend’s 1972 COTY. So much for the conspiracy theory of that award being based on a lucrative advertising budget from the winner.
It’s already 9:30 AM as I write this, so a proper gushing, tear-jerking, emo, full-on paean is not in the works just now; maybe another time, when I finally stumble into one on the streets of Eugene. But here’s one that fulfills requirements for an in-depth SM-ode pretty well. But let’s just say that the SM is one of the true wonders of the Automotive World, maybe even if that list were limited to to just seven.
In a nutshell: it was the fruit of a very unlikely hookup. In 1968, Citroen bought Maserati. What possible synergies might have been anticipated from the maker of eccentric long-wheelbase hydro-pneumatically suspended FWD cars that had very little sporting pretensions and the builder of classic RWD sports cars and coupe is anybody’s guess, but we can indulge Maserati dreams, right? Citroen certainly must have been.
But the unholy alliance did bear fruit, or fruity cars, depending on your POV. Citroen set itself to the task of building a world-class high performance coupe, based on the DS platform, but incorporating the DOHC 2.7L (later 3.0 L) alloy Maserati V6 from the mid-engine Merak. The SM’s hydraulically-assisted steering was an evolution of the DS’, and allowed superb feel at high speed, yet effortless turning in the parking lot. Ditto for the four-wheel disc brakes.
The SM’s supremely aerodynamic body (CD: 0.26) was designed in-house by Robert Opron, and facilitated effortless 120+ mph cruising for hours on end, and a top speed in excess of 140 mph, despite its modest 170-180 hp ratings.
This SM, shot in Stockholm and posted at the Cohort by DeeTwoAr, has the original six-headlight front end, whose beams are self-leveling, and also swiveled in corners with the steering. The US version had four regular round sealed bulbs, and lost their clear covers; ugh!
DeeTwoAr didn’t post any shot’s of the SM’s interior, so this one is from wikipedia. No velour loose-pillow seats, I’m sorry to say. But the SM’s height-adjusting and self-leveling ride would still have put any American Brougham to shame, regardless whether it was a pot-holed street in Manhattan or at 125 mph in the Nevada desert.
Citroen looked to the US as the primary export market for the SM, since the luxury coupe market was hot there. It was a bit of a tough sell, not surprisingly. Continental Mark IV buyers weren’t exactly cross-shopping an exotic Citroen. And given the SM’s complexity, degrees in mechanical, hydraulic and electrical engineering would be recommended prerequisites for ownership.
Only 12,920 SMs were built between 1970 and 1975. Citroen assumed it would get an exemption from the draconian 1974 US five-mph bumper regulations, which would have been impossible to meet, from the adjustable ride height alone. The feds turned the request down, and all the remaining 1974 US-bound SMs were shipped off to Japan.
In 1974, Citroen declared bankruptcy, and the SM was probably one of its many coffin nails. But what a brilliant way to go….