"…that rare quality of being a nice car to be in at any speed, from stationary to maximum." Motorsport 1972
Launched in 1970, two years after Citroen acquired Maserati to provide a halo brand name for its own upmarket products as well as a number of beautifully engineered drive train items such as the compact 90 degree V6 ultimately found in both the SM and Maserati’s own Merak junior Supercar, the SM was at the razor sharp cutting edge of design and technology to the extent that it might as well have been from another planet. The SM positively groaned under the weight of typically Citroen-esc innovations from ultra-quick two turns lock to lock “DIRAVI“ variable rate power steering to brakes activated literally by a button to ‘look round the corner’ headlights and oleo pneumatic self-leveling suspension, a remarkable proportion of which have found their way into today’s mainstream production machines. Externally the space age two door styling was aped some thirty years later by Honda’s Insight with its aerodynamically efficient enclosed rear wheels and truncated tail. The SM was a fabulous collision of French and Italian flair that answered the question ‘how do you get four adults to 140 miles an hour in a front wheel drive rocket ship with limousine-like ride?’ While it could be argued that no one had actually asked that particular question, that is not the point and it is just this sort of unfettered thinking that results in glorious technical tour de force’ such as Concord and the Citroen SM.
While we would not dream of questioning the oracle that is Motorsport magazine, we do wonder if currently this Citroen SM project quite lives up to their billing of the model. Off the road for the last 20 years the SM is ripe for restoration back to its former “nice to be in” glory. The current Citroen fan owner was bewitched by the sight of the SM in a Mercedes dealership on the A40 Western Avenue on his daily commute into London back in 1994. An eventual test drive was truncated due to a non-functioning gearbox and it saw our hero marching out of the showroom, though the time it took him to cross the faux-marble floor was sufficient to secure a 70% discount on the asking price and the deal was done. Returned to fully functioning, MOT tested health by marque guru the late lamented Andrew Brodie, the Citroen became the owner’s daily driver for the next few years until the constant attention generated by something that looked as though it had been conceived by Gerry Anderson after one too many Night Nurses ultimately became too wearing and the car was parked up. For the first fifteen odd years the SM was stored in the owner's garage until that space was required for other uses and the Citroen was moved outside though it was covered with soft cotton sheeting and a waterproof tarpaulin which was only removed a couple of months ago, exposing the car to the great British summer.
Prior to this the SM was manufactured in 1973 to US specification with the deleted headlight covers and MPH speedometer (but thankfully not the side mounted indicator repeaters) and exported across the pond. The American market’s aversion to that new, fangled fuel injection means that this SM not only benefits from the triple Weber carburettor set up but also the full 3.0 litre engine (the Americans didn’t share the French view that engines over 2.7 litres should attract additional taxes!). A sticker in the rear window warning that the car is protected by a private security firm in Bell-Air indicates that the Citroen has spent at least some of its time in the car friendly climate of California. It was imported to and registered in the UK in 1991 since when it has had just four UK owners.
The exact opposite of so many classic cars, we firmly believe this Citroen Maserati is better than it at first looks. The body itself, perhaps due to its time in California and its subsequent lack of road use and dry storage, is apparently in exceptionally solid shape. The underside is still almost completely covered in what looks to be the original factory bitumastic protection and all the pressings are correct and sharp. The plastic sill covers can be peeled back to reveal no real ‘nasties’ lurking behind them and the jacking points look really solid. Topside the shut lines are very good and the car all seems to fit together well. With no major dinks or donks there is just a small area of peeling paint behind the off-side rear wheel spat and a rust spot on the near-side C post. There is a rust stain on the near-side door where the chrome window frame meets the door skin. With apparently only one or two spots of localised rusting the overall impression seems to be of a remarkably well preserved shell.
Re-painted to a ‘functional’ standard in the mid 1990’s in its original shade of white, the paintwork is now a little bit flat with the odd minor chip and while it might be made presentable with a cut and polish, a future owner may well decide the car deserves a more thorough strip and repaint.
With the majority of the external trim being in stainless steel, completeness and lack of damage are the key issues on an SM and this example thankfully scores well in both cases; one really wouldn’t want to have to source a front or (twin) rear bumper. All four wheel trims are present, correct and in fairly good condition. One C post ‘Citroen SM’ badge is loose in the boot of the car but the other is apparently missing though the large ‘Maserati’ script on rear the valence compensates for this – sort of. The chrome-work such as window frames and door handles is in generally good order and probably just needs a good clean and polish.
Stepping into the interior of the full 4 seater (with safety belts for all) you seem to be taken both back in time to the 1970s and forward to some point in the future where seats fold from half way down their back rests and instruments are configured as a mix of oval dials and rectangular linear bands; it is, however, best summarised as scruffy throughout. The uber-cool front seats are a combination of vinyl outer areas with leather roll inserts and they are in need of attention though the rears appear to be all leather which may just need a clean and feed. The grey/brown carpets may just about be salvageable as might the drooping headlining. No fewer than fourteen tell-tale lights are present surrounding a large orange ‘STOP’ light that one feels one would be wise to obey if systems went critical. The 160 MPH speedometer is annotated with dry road stopping distances in feet (950’ from 130 mph seems pretty impressive) though in the heat of an emergency stop, it is debatable how useful this information is and given the power of the brakes you should probably be more concerned about the two ton salon car on drums behind you. A matching Jaeger tachometer sports a 6,500 RPM red line and the extravagantly swooping dash is fronted by a Citroen signature single spoke wheel.
Having been put into mechanically good order by Mr Brodie as mentioned above, the car has covered very few miles – 139 to be exact since it was last MOT tested in 1996. With the carburettors currently removed the SM is obviously a ‘non-runner’ and will require some reassembly and at the very least a significant amount of re-commissioning. However, it appears to be complete and represents, we feel, a potentially highly rewarding proposition.
Given the car’s ‘project’ status we have included a larger number of detailed pictures in the photo gallery in an attempt to give potential purchasers a fair impression of what work will be required. We trust you will forgive the lack of more aesthetically pleasing shots.
Registration number: VBY 657L
Chassis Number: AC7300SD0217
Engine Number: 400378