Citroen SM turns 50

By: Unique Cars magazine

Presented by

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Happy Anniversary to Citroen's cutting edge GT from 1970


Even for the French, this was a courageous and out-there car. You do wonder whether someone in the Citroen organisation felt they had to to do something wild to top the long-lived success of the DS ‘Goddess’ series. If that was the intention it was a complete success, even if the end result was rich person’s express rather than a car of (or for) the people.

Launched in 1970, it was the result of over a decade of development, which originally began as a sports variant of the DS. Classic mission creep set in and the car ended up as an entirely new platform in its own right.

Underneath the unusual long-nose hatch exterior (arguably the French asnwer to a Jensen Interceptor) lay a 2.7lt Maserati V6. Citroen had taken over the italian marque in 1967-68, which in itself was at the start of a long-running ownership roller coaster ride.

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This was a heady time for Citroen. Along with the launch of the SM in 1970, it unleashed more accessible GS series.

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The choice of the relatively small 2.7lt engine for the SM – which was soon expanded to 3.0lt for several Maserati models – had its roots in the peculiar French tax system, which at the time ‘punished’ the use of large capacity engines.

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That turned out to be a serious marketing handicap when the car was competing with other grand tourers from the likes of Jaguar, Aston Martin, Benz and so-on.
However the SM developed an enviable reputation among reviewers, who pointed out it could sit comfortably on 200km/h and was an exceptional car in most respects – particularly comfort, handling and braking.

The SM bristled with Citroen innovations, such as the famous self-levelling hydro-pneumatic suspension and, perhaps more importantly, variable-assist power steering that was a true industry leader. Overall it was a benchmark for what could be packed into a font-wheel-drive vehicle. Drive one today and you may be surprised at how modern it feels.

 

From Unique Cars #443, Aug 2020

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