Citroën SM went down in history as “His Majesty”. The government for perhaps the most beautiful car in the world lasted only a short while. The mix of sports cars and sedans is still unique today.
The world is on its way: in the 1970s, no goal seems to be out of reach. Americans fly to the moon, Concorde commutes across the Atlantic and Trans-Europ-Express makes the distances shrink by rail.
This is the spirit that Citroën’s engineers also dare again. In the fight for advancement, recognition and the longing for a sporty top model, in the spring of 1970 they showed a car as another star with the SM.
An architect draws the future
The SM was designed by designer Robert Opron, who was actually trained as an architect – with a spectacular line, a quick silhouette and a front with six floodlights hidden under glass. With the engine purchased from Maserati, the almost 4.90-meter-long luxury coupe leads directly to the top and becomes the most elegant and avant-garde car produced by the French PS world to date: fans have the official abbreviation, which depending on the source also comes with System Maserati or Sport-Maserati is advertised in “Sa Majesté” or “His Majesty”.
The plans for the SM went back to the early 1960s, when technical awakening began and Citroën was looking for an avant-garde offer for Haute Volée. And even then, the French spoke to Maserati because they did not have a six-cylinder.
The fact that the implementation will take a few years longer does not stop the project. Since Citroën is now the majority owner of the troubled dream brand from Italy, and nothing stands in the way of “organ donation”, says SM expert Volker Hammes from Kaarst.
Concorde for the street
So Concorde gets its start approval for the road and takes the highway by storm: The testers are happy. Details such as the speed-dependent power steering, which is reset even when stationary, and the hydraulic suspension with its cloud-like suspension comfort impresses.
Even the German sports car Porsche 911 fades, given the sophistication, avant-garde and luxury that the French have to offer. And given the price, Hammes must admit: SM is more expensive than 911. “It doesn’t matter,” the collector gathers the coordinates.
Because even though the mileage was at the same level, the SM aimed more comfort and luxury at another brand from Stuttgart: Mercedes. “The SM was for the French what the S-Class was for the Germans,” says Hammes: “The best that the car industry had to offer.”
The fact that the SM was sometimes called Concorde for the road is not only due to the aerodynamic design with an unrivaled drag coefficient of 0.32 and the avant-garde technology, but above all the driving performance. Since the six-cylinder is shut down to a displacement of 2.7 liters and 125 kW / 170 hp due to a tax limitation, the SM reached 220 km / h and was the fastest front-wheel drive in the world then.
Thoughtful test drive
Then, to run so fast took at least exercises and now takes some courage. Firstly because the SM is an absolute rarity and it is therefore better to move the classic car with caution. And secondly, because technology has its pitfalls. This is especially true of idiosyncratic control. Because if you use the real steering wheel without the necessary sensitivity, you take corners quite angled and sometimes run on serpentines.
That the car has about 20 centimeters greater track width than the rear is at least unusual. And braking also takes a little getting used to, since the SM doesn’t have a pedal for it, but a kind of rubber ball – which doesn’t facilitate the measurement.
Then you should start slowly and let your eyes wander in a cockpit that is second to none. The steering wheel is also a show, the oval instruments in the copper-lined cockpit are a feast for the eyes and the filigree gear in the large environment is an eye catcher. Not to mention the radio between the seats.
The longer you are on the road with the SM, the more majestic the great Frenchman feels. And even more, you can understand the Gran Turismo feeling that customers joined then. As fast as a sports car, as comfortable as a limousine – it was a very special combination.
The future was short, the classic cars are expensive
As steep as the SM rose, his career lasted so short. Since the fantasy flight lasted until 1975, Citroën spokesman Christopher Rux reports. The reasons for it are complex. The emerging oil crisis must have been one, Peugeot’s takeover and the sale of Maserati shares to De Tomaso to another.
And that in 1974 France limited the speed of the highway to 130 km / h was really not favorable for the high speed. Therefore, a total of only 12,920 cars were built – and the last white body was even scrapped due to lack of demand.
If you want to run a well-preserved SM today, you usually have to have funds for high five-figure amounts, in extreme cases even more. And it also requires some skill. “The spare parts inventory is not bad,” Hammes says, referring to the reproduction of important components organized by the club. “But if you can’t screw the car yourself, you have to dig deep in your pocket, especially when you restore a restoration item.”
But “His Majesty” is worth the effort. Not just financially, because according to Hammes estimates, prices will rise rather than fall in the future. But also because of the unrivaled driving experience. While the real Concorde has long been out of operation, the SM continues to fly across the street.
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