Citroën’s great madness, some would say. The car responsible for the company’s bankruptcy in 1974 and its merger with Peugeot. A case of history repeating itself: after all, it was the ambitious Traction Avant that first brought the company down in 1935.
It is true that the French had little appetite for grand luxury touring cars and that the development of the automobile had accelerated. The SM traces its roots back to 1961 as the Project S, intended to be a sportier, faster DS, but in typical Citroën fashion it ballooned to the point that in 1968 Citroën bought Maserati largely to have an engine to put in. this car.
Granted, that’s a drastic generalization, because there was a lot of technology sharing after the 1968 takeover (mainly to Italy’s advantage). But the SM was the most obvious result of a partnership that ended acrimoniously in 1975, Maserati’s sales faltered due to the oil crisis, Citroën’s fortunes faded not because of the SM but because of a gamble on rotary engines, the absence of a mid-range model between the 2CV and the DS for 15 years until the arrival of the GS in 1970, and Michelin’s desire to divest, selling Citroën to Fiat, then buying it back before merging it with Peugeot. Everything was destabilizing.
Beneath the surface there may have been panic and chaos, but the SM serenely sailed through those stormy seas, Citroën effortlessly inserting an original car into a competitive market where it battled with Mercedes SLCs and Jaguars.E-Types. During a five-year service life from 1970, 12,920 Robert Opron-designed coupes were built. Retained under Peugeot ownership, some parts have lived an afterlife: the complete transmission from the Maserati Merak, the transmission from the Lotus Esprit, most of the high-tech features of the CX sedan.
And there were many. The self-leveling hydraulic suspension and pivoting headlights you probably already know. But what about Diravi, the fully motorized (not just power assisted) self-centering steering system that only had two turns between locks and centered when you let go of the wheel? Or the teardrop shape with a much narrower rear track and Kamm tail, leading to a drag factor of just 0.26 Cd? Or the fact that the all-aluminum 2.7-litre V6 weighed just 140kg, was mounted entirely behind the front axle and, in old-fashioned fashion, drove the front wheels?
Disc brakes were then used throughout the race, but brake pressure varied with weight at the rear of the car, so it decreased evenly as the race went on. In addition to the steel rims, Michelin (with motorsports in mind) developed carbon-reinforced resin rims that were just as strong, but less than half the weight. Imagine a company showing so much innovation today not just across its range, but in a single car? This is unheard of.
In its first competitive outing, the SM won the 1971 Morocco Rally. This prompted Citroën to develop a short-wheelbase “breadvan” version. He didn’t win anything. A V8 was inserted for factory testing, but that didn’t work either. All cars built by Citroën were coupes, although coachbuilder Henri Chapron produced two state convertibles: low-speed four-door cars for presidential parades and a long-wheelbase four-door Opera version. Only eight of them were built.
But it is the iconic coupe shape that is rightly celebrated. So what is it like to drive?
What’s the verdict?
Travel differently. This should be SM’s motto. It hails from a time when no one was trying to build cars that were out of line. Small cars were never designed to tackle highways, for example sports cars were loud and unforgiving in the city. So the best you can hope for is that the car you choose has done its job well. Imagine then that you wanted a grand tourer. A car from Paris to Nice.
Because that’s what the SM was designed for. And the boy does it well. In every action of every command, you feel this approach. It could have been complex and innovative, but the kid makes the whole gel together. There was nothing like it then and nothing since either. But you have to be glad that the SM existed and that it played its role so well.
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Source : topgear.com