Citroen SM – 1970

Citroen had purchased Maserati in 1968, with a view to combining its own advanced suspension system with Maserati engines to create a GT version of the upmarket Citroen DS. The result went on show at the Geneva Motor Show in 1970 as Citroen’s headliner, destined to keep the company’s name in lights alongside the likes of Porsche, Jaguar, Lotus, Alfa Romeo . . . even Ferrari and Aston Martin. It was an odd market sector for the French mass-marketeer to chase, but the pursuit was both enthusiastic and stylish.

The two-door SM 2+2 was designed in-house by Robert Opron and this big front-wheel drive car had a slippery fastback shape with a wide front and tapering rear. Every aspect of the car was engineered with aerodynamic efficiency in mind, done so well that the SM was literally sucked down onto the road at high speeds. The SM still appears futuristic today, four decades on, so the impact in 1970 was nothing short of sensational.

Good looks were enhanced by the SM’s advanced technology, which included self-levelling pneumatic suspension, lights that swivelled with the power steering, self-centering steering, advanced disc brakes delivering extraordinary stopping power and a wiper system that was rain sensitive. Despite this, the SM’s very complexity created problems, as there were technical teething troubles and the cars required specialist attention from dealers with expertise in Maserati engines. In a country where most villages still had a mechanic, this didn’t go down well.

Still, the interior was luxurious and performance was excellent. In pre-speed-limit days the SM’s ability to cruise for long periods at 120 mph (193 km/h) on trans-European journeys was impressive. It wasn’t enough. Sales fell sharply and, following Citroen’s collapse in 1974, new owner Peugeot sold Maserati and called time on the brilliant but commercially unsuccessful SM.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

France

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

1970 (until 1975)

ENGINE:

2,670 cc Quad-cam V6

PERFORMANCE:

Top speed of 142 mph (229 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 8.3 secs

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

There are two explanations of the SM model name, neither confirmed. Was it SM for ‘Sport Maserati’? Or, more romantically, did the letters stand for Sa Majeste — French for ‘Her Majesty’ and an entirely appropriate extension of the DS’s punning nickname La Deesse (The Goddess)?

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