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73k Miles: 1973 Citroen SM

Citroen has put out many quirky-looking cars, which were often high performance and full of unique tech. This 1973 Citroen SM is a great example of that. It’s running and driving and appears to be in pretty good condition. It’s up for sale here on craigslist in Glendale, California. The listing price says $28,000 but the seller mentions $37,500 in the description. Perhaps it didn’t sell at the higher price and it’s been relisted, with that minor oversight in updating it?

In the late 1960s, Citroen bought Maserati, in part to create a high-performance flagship model. The result was the Citroen SM which was introduced in 1970. Some of the cutting edge options were rain-sensing wipers, variable assist power steering, great aerodynamics, hydraulic self-leveling suspension and headlights, and inboard front disc brakes.

Talk about a unique rear end! Unfortunately, there really aren’t any great photos of the exterior. It looks like the black paint is in good condition, but the lighting makes it hard to tell for sure. At least the plastic light lenses are undamaged and the trim is present. Hopefully it has been a long-time California car, which would definitely limit the potential for rust.

Again, not many good interior photos. However, it looks like all it really needs is a vacuuming – I didn’t notice any damage to the seats or dash, and it’s helpful that the aftermarket floor mat was pulled back in a photo to show the excellent condition of the carpet. This photo (not of the listed car) shows the whole dash, which was a pretty futuristic design. I’d be curious to know how well all the technology has help up over the last 50 years – that could be a potential money pit if major repairs are needed. Let’s hope the car is actually in as good condition as the photos make it look!

The engine is either the 2.7L V6 producing 170 hp, or the 180 hp 3.0L V6. I’m not sure which one this is (can anyone confirm just by looking at it?), but it looks surprisingly clean. The seller claims there are 73,000 miles on this car, and between the engine and interior I’m inclined to believe it. These cars came with either a 3-speed automatics or 5-speed manuals, but this example here has the automatic. This Citroen appears to be a solid candidate that doesn’t need any work, and should be the only one at the next owner’s local car show!


  1. Mikefromthehammer
  2. Neil Skirton

    Epic French car, years ahead of its time. Bit difficult for an Anglo Saxon to understand French logic! Looks like a decent motor , on the complex side especially the hydro pneumatic suspension. When its working well there really isn’t any vehicle that rides like an old Citreon !

    Like 10
  3. Steve Clinton

    Looked weird then, even weirder now.

    Like 3
  4. Raymond L Saunders

    Ahhhhhhhh….LeWeeWee, ZeSpacecar, is future, no? All zecars will look like this….oooooooooh those frenchys….

    Like 4
  5. Shaun Dymond

    California plate on the rear, UK plate on the front. A “P” on the UK number plate would suggest it’s a 1975/76 model.

    Like 5
  6. Ken Nelson Member

    Seller Doesn’t know squat – listed as RWD.. The Borgwarner slushbox is not worth the price – my one and only automatic my first SM, wouldn’t outrun a minivan from a stoplight even if I held the box in 1st gear! The 5 spd is the only way to go – and this car is a 3L from the VIN on Fleabay – 2.7L cars VINs started with SB, 3L VINS are SD – and that VIN is riveted to the bellhousing if anyone wants to make sure there hasn’t been an engine swap.

    As for yr, all US cars ended with ’73 models, due to gas shortage in ’73–4.
    That killed the SM in Europe and here. I’m not even sure if any ’75s were made – but no ’76 cars. Total produced was about 12,500 for all versions. Maybe half or more came to US – especially the slushboxes – exclusively for us lazy Amurricans who are shiftless.

    These cars are the ultimate highspeed, long distance tourers – the ride is better than anything else invented, and the handling is terrific, which is why they were named Car of the Yr in ’72, by one prominent US car rag – which incensed near everyone except folks who knew this car. It sold in ’72 for sticker $13,200 in some dealerships. The 5 speed is good for 140 mph out of the box – with only 180 hp – no sweat! Steering gets stiffer the faster you go, for great safety. The suspension eats speedbumps and RR crossings for dessert – the faster, the better the ride gets, yet in full control. Automatic loadleveling and brake balancing front/rear with zero electronics to go bad.

    And their profile provides excellent aerodynamics -t even has an upswept trunk floor, creating a coanda effect to suck the rear end down to the road for great traction and roadholding the faster you go – think the vacuum car run by one racer, who was banned from the track due to his sucker rear end with downforce fan!

    Those who pan this car don’t know what they’re looking at as they’ve never tried to understand the genius behind these amazing cars – will never be anything close to these for all around brilliance. You almost have to have a physics degree to understand all the features of these rocketships –

    Like 30
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      Ken Nelson,

      Thank you for your comments, you saved me from writing almost the same comments, except for the trunk floor, I learn something everyday! I’ve always wanted one, having had more than a few ID and DS cars, even a Traction Avant, but never a SM.

      Like 4
    • Dave Peterson

      When I was a kid teenager, the real car nuts would be separated by their love – and ownership – of the Citroen. I helped one good man build his new house and his four car garage to house his two DS, a ’37 Chev Pickup and various motorcycles and snowmobiles. That was rare in 1966. The Maserati – Citroen combo was in the $20k range, so buying took true commitment.

      Like 1
  7. Sam61

    The suspension floats over everything, except water, as Burt Reynolds stunt man demonstrated in The Longest Yard…a Viking funeral of sorts with a French kiss.

    I remember seeing a used SM on the used car lot of Len Pollock Buick, US 20 Gary Indiana around 1978. Lusted after that car being a 17 yr old. The car was in the “back row beauty” section…someone had some insight.

    Like 3
  8. Mike Hawke

    Interesting how Citroen and Maserati are again under the same corporate ownership.

    Like 6
  9. DRV

    If the motor has escaped a rebuild, you get to do it, and it’s not fun or cheap! If it had had a rebuild, you get to discover if the mechanic was any good. The rest of the problems are solvable with $ , and as Ken Nelson says, it’s one smooth rocket ship.

    Like 4
  10. Raymond L Saunders

    le spacecar!!! youknownothing….

    Like 2
  11. fran

    You must know what you are doing, when you own a car like that!! Good or bad, very cool!!
    Ebay has it listed also, and click on his other auctions, from land to Sunbeam

    Like 0
  12. MikeB

    Very cool car indeed. However-where would you get parts for an SM these days ? Seems to me that as unique as the SM is it would a nightmare to keep running. Anyone have recent experience with one ?

    Like 0
    • Ken Nelson Member

      MikeB, all the hydraulic parts are same as DS, and if you know where to look like joining the newsletter Citroenvie, you’ll find all sorts of sources/parts/manuals available – you just have to join the groups all over the web around the world!

      At one time I had 8 SMs I’d gathered when no one wanted them, and still have two parts cars and a complete one.
      One yr ago two ’73 5 speeds and a collection of parts were advertized all over the SF bay area and the few people who came to see them were only tire kickers. Both cars went for $30K, one ran fine and the other needed lots but still ran. Join the best groups if you’re serious.

      Like 3
  13. John C

    When I was a kid I was oggling a Citroen in a parking lot when the owner came up and started telling me all the features of his car. He was a professorial looking old German guy and very enamored with his car. I should have asked him for a ride and to this day I’ve yet to have the thrill, but thinking back he must have thought I was a pretty sharp young man to have taken the time to school me on these amazing vehicles. As it turned out I’m not all that sharp but I still love these cars!

    Like 0
  14. RBCJr

    Didn’t Burt Reynold’s character in ‘The Longest Yard’ dump his girlfriend’s SM off a bridge, thus putting him in prison?

    Like 2
  15. Daymo

    That UK reg – LCJ233P – issued between Aug ‘75 and Jul ‘76 in Gloucester – is currently registered to a Hillman Hunter, that ran out of tax in July 2018…
    Something fishy going on…?

    Like 1
  16. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member


    Nothing fishy going on, the car was officially exported out of the UK, and the seller made the decision to keep the number and probably put on his Hillman. Either that, or if the owner didn’t keep the number, The DVLA in Swansea, Wales re-assigned the number to another vehicle.

    Like 3
  17. chrlsful

    WoW, great find Nick.

    Only car I ever saw drive on 3 wheels (of its 4).

    Like 1
  18. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    Also it’s possible the original owner bought the SM new in 1973, drove it for 3 years & exported the car to the US. Then had his Hillman registered in 1976 using the same registration number.

    Like 1
  19. FireAxeGXP

    Fishy???? You guys are paranoid. The front plate is a vanity plate. Either a fake or old and used. Douche-y bimmer drivers are mocked for putting fake Euro plates as a last ditch effort of snobby stupidity so people will KNOW they drive a krautmobile, er bimmer. Not hard to realize this is happening here.

    Like 1
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member


      That’s a real British number plate inside the glass covered European front, not the ugly US version. Once the car is exported, the old plate as seen here is not registered to the car in the UK, and the DLVA does not require it to be turned in.

      This car was privately imported as a used car, and since the USA plate is too tall to fit into the area where the current UK plate is located. why go to the trouble to take it out?

      Yes, I see plenty of the same idiots you describe, running around here in one of America’s BMW-centric areas; Washington DC, displaying a non-legal German plate. If it’s a genuine German plate, it should have a tax disc riveted to the plate. If no disc or rivet hole, it’s a fake vanity plate. A German plate with the car name on it is 100% fake, Germany doesn’t have vanity plates.

      Over the last 40+ years I’ve brought in dozens of vintage cars from England and Europe, and except in the Czech Republic, where I had to give up the number plates from my Tatra cars, I kept the plates on each car, and subsequent owners always wanted to keep the plates as well.

      But in this case, that SM’s number plate is likely real, and original to the car.

      Like 2
      • Ken Nelson Member

        Actually Bill, those headlights are not original – the gorgeous original European lights, two of which rotate with the steering to light one’s way around corners, and the others can actually tilt to follow the road vs the body, are rectagular, and as those lamps are round but very strange in design, I can’t figure out what they are. The housings behind the glass are the US versions, so someone has retrofitted the European lined glass covers over US frames, which is possible. Vacuum-formed Lexan covers have also been made to cover US front ends to clean them up substantially over the abominable DOT designs forced on Citroen.

        Some yrs before I retired, the best Automotive engineering rag – appropriately names Automotive Engineering Mag – had a cover highlighting “Advanced automotive lighting” Guess what TWO cars were described and analyzed in the article? Of course – the DS and the SM – with their quad lamps with one pair pivoting with the steering – not exactly a new thing, but in continuous production from ’68 thru ’75 on the DS, and always (except for the awful US DOT insisting on stupid US lighting rules) on the SM everywhere else in the world but our 3rd world country.

        Like 1
      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

        Ken, thanks for the correction! As my ex-wife used to say, “You don’t know everything, dammit!”

        I’ve always been drawn to streamlined cars, That’s a major part of why I had the ID and DS cars. I also have an early Tatra T2-603, with the 4 light update, but not the wide lamps as seen on most T2-603 cars. I’ve been searching for an affordable set of the earlier 3 lamp front, as the lamps are covered 100% in curved glass, much like the SM.

        Like 2
  20. Howie Mueler

    The engine photo is good the rest of the photos are pretty bad. GLWS.

    Like 0
  21. Bruce

    I got to ride in a brand new 5 Speed over a very winding road call Blue River Road here in Kansas City and the Dealer was driving. It was far faster than most cars could cover that ground and there was a rail road track that we crossed over. I heard it but I never felt it. What an amazing combination of speed, handling and comfort. The only car I have eve been in where I felt that I was sitting still and the world was going on around me. I was totally amazed.

    As for the design anything over between 40 to 45 miles per hour you are pushing far more air than anything else. That this car goes so fast for its seemly limited power is a great testament to the cleanliness of this design. They are far more beautiful in person than in photos. Like the XKE Jaguar that way.

    Remember that these are not sports cars but hi performance luxury cruisers that can also handle. I would love to own one but I have a LOTUS addiction that I must cure first. LOL

    Like 2
  22. Kurt Member

    Are Citroens the exotic type of car that only an independent shop specializing in them can fix? Looks to me that what Citroen mechanics existed here in SoCal are gone. They look like wonderful cars, but so are SAABs, and those shops are vanishing.

    Like 2
  23. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member


    I always suggest that the owner of an antique or unusual vehicle contact and join car clubs, both national and local region clubs. But not just a club for your specific brand, join general clubs like the AACA too.

    Between the Marque clubs and the general clubs, you should be able to network and talk with other members to find suggestions for a mechanic or shop willing and capable of tackling the job. If you find a quality mechanic who has excellent abilities and tools, he can do the research on the specific job, and using the correct shop manual, he should be able to make it happen.

    In addition to keeping a copy of both the repair manual and parts manual in the trunk of your car, I also suggest you keep a club membership roster book, next to the tool box. Years ago I was on the way to a national club meet when the car developed a problem. I was in a small town in the midwest USA. I pulled out the membership roster and looked up the state, then checked where members lived by town. I found someone in a nearby town, and called him.

    He arranged for a local rollback truck to come and get my car and drop it off at his home. He actually had the rollback driver unload my car right into his garage after he parked one of his cars outside. He and I worked on the problem, he then called the local NAPA parts store and they even delivered the parts.

    He had me back on the road in a few hours, and refused any financial help [I paid for the parts], so I took the guy and his wife, with their 2 pre-teen kids, out to dinner at a very nice restaurant. That was 30 years ago, and we are still friends. When his daughter married, My wife and I drove my antique Rolls-Royce limo and used it for their wedding.

    Like 2
    • Kurt Member

      I learned early on the value of a committed bunch of fellow enthusiasts when I restored my Packard. The Packard club proved invaluable to me. Cars like the Citroen, particularly the beauty here discussed, look like NASA designed them and I would be totally unable to do any repairs myself. That’s why I’m sticking with air cooled VWs!

      Like 0
      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

        I’m also a Packard and air cooled motor guy. Since the mid 1960s I’ve owned about 300 Packards, and still have 2. As for VW, I’ve had several, from a 1947 cable brake version I bought out of a scrapyard for 100DM, when I was in Germany back in the mid 1970s, to a Super Bug Convertible. Had to sell the ’47 when I came back to the ‘states, because back then the shipping cost more than the car was worth! I have only one air cooled car today, a Tatra V8.

        Like 1
  24. Ken Nelson Member

    Bill McCoskey, Best advice of all BAT comments ever, regardless of make.
    When I was working, covering the eastern half of the US, I always took a club roster with me on the plane, and always called local club members, as much to learn what problems they’d had and how they handled them, to find cars they might want to sell that I was interested, so it was mostly selfish on my part, but if I knew how to help them, I’d explain over the phone or visit them if time allowed, and this all started when our first Citroen clubs started popping up in big cities who’d had dealerships – back in the late ’60s.

    Around 1984, a traveling salesman who owned a DS, called me up in a panic as he was passing thru Michigan, and ran into a small snowstorm. His car, which had earlier been in a front end collision, had behaved fine until he ran into this first small snowstorm as he was heading west on I-80. As his car started hitting light slush, it would veer erratically all over the road and scared the bejesus out of him. He was near Detroit, so I asked if he could make it to my suburban home, which he did. He’d gotten my name from our club roster, but I’d never known him. In my driveway I looked the car over, and asked him about the right front end accident. He’d been hit by a Toyota, which had crumpled the right fender and flattened the tire. I checked the steering action, he’d had no problem with the power rack, but on dry pavement the car behaved fine. It was the slush that really wrecked havoc in handling.

    I raised the car using its built-in jacking ability as both wheels on the same side come up readily, hung the jackstand on its integral chassis pin when the car was at max height, dropped the height lever, and both wheels came off the ground about 6 inches. Hubcap off, I removed the wheel, and studied the two extremely strong FORGED boomerang-shaped onepiece arms which are mounted in tapered ROLLERBEARINGS in a hugely strong cast aluminum acurately machined frame bolted to locations on the precision-machined chassis so no shims are EVER needed to adjust the fit. Only the Pontiac Fiero ever copied this machined FRAME feature to my knowledge, and I worked the Fiero plant as part of my job as a consultant to many of the world’s auto co’s.

    Looking at the angle of the pivot line thru top & bottom huge balljoints holding the 7 inch diameter FWD wheelbearing and shaft (which are greased for life & virtually NEVER wear out, along with the near zero maintenance driveshafts which take FULL braking torque, not just driving torque), I could see the caster had been reversed! No wonder the car handled like a worn-out radio flyer wagon. The impact had been hard enough on the wheel to bend that forged steel arm back about an inch.
    And removing that arm to work on it separately amounts to a major disassembly job – the whole right side suspension unit, cast alum frame, rollbar, driveshaft, have to come out, BUT no need for all that.

    I disconnected the lower arm, eyeballed the pivot line top to bottom with a woodworkers square, found my 10 foot 2 inch dia. iron pipe, stuck it on the lower arm, and reefed on it with all my strength (parking brake applied of course). With about 3 yanks, I got the arm to what looked like a fairly accurate caster angle when I put the arm back against the balljoint socket.
    Reassembled in 30 mins, we roadtested the car on lots of slush, and car felt fine. He finished his crosscountry sales route, and that was that. No charge. Mantra: Club roster in glovebox of every car and suitcase! Makes a lot of friends out of strangers.

    Like 2
  25. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member


    I know the front suspension of the ID and DS cars well, and have never had to repair one, ’cause as you say, they don’t wear out!

    After the fall of the iron curtain, my best friend in Europe told me he bought a Tatra T2-603 with the air-cooled V8. I had always wanted one, and I said if he finds a nice one, I want it. Well he found one and I bought it, then while on it’s way over, he found another one, so I got that one shipped on another boat. I kept the first one, and sold the second one to a Museum in New York.

    Thanks to my interest in old cars, and having owned a fairly decent size restoration shop, I have met people from all over the world, and that was before the internet. If I went to countries like England, Germany, Holland, or France, I often didn’t need a hotel room as my car friends would insist I stay with them. And several provided me with a car to drive.

    In the mid 1980s and early 1990s I was a frequent visitor to England to buy cars & spare parts, and I was actually vending US transportation things at the big Beaulieu Autojumble. I was [and still are] friends with a wonderful couple from Andover, Hants, who always opened up their home to me during the event. They happened to collect American cars and general vintage stuff, so I would invite them to stay at my farm. They owned an Airstream motorhome here in the USA, and would park it next to my barn, and I set it up so they had access to water hookup and the septic drain. One year they came for the Carlisle show and the only vehicle I had for them to use was an older Ford pickup with a big block V8. I apologized for the gas guzzler engine, and my friend said they didn’t care because the gas was so cheap!

    One year the Beaulieu event ran very late in the year, and the big Carlisle event in PA was early. I ended up driving them to Heathrow Airport, so while I was at Beaulieu, staying at their house, they were headed to Carlisle, PA! Until I sold my farm, I had a front door key to their house, and they had one for my house!

    Like 1
  26. Ken Nelson Member

    Kurt, I keep telling people “it’s just PLUMBING” If you can fix a bit of plumbing, the Citroen hydraulics you can handle if you just ask a few questions, such as How to release system pressure so it’s safe to work on. Well, the system has a bleed screw, in a PITA location, but reachable with a long arm. I relocate this bit of stupidity on part of the factory in the ’60s, which makes the pressure regulator with its bleedscrew, super easy to access. One twist with 12 mm wrench and the system goes “Wheeeeee…….” and it’s done. Then a 9 mm crowfoot wrench or tiny crescent can undo most any line, most are similar, and once you’ve done one seal replacement – fairly easy to find in any city with hydraulic parts supply store and even any hardware store for later cars with ATF- type fluid, and you’re back in business. Far easier than adjusting the valves on non-hyd-lifter engines. Once you’ve studied the plumbing a bit, you know every car they built. l fix my leaks with hardware store parts most often, or a hydraulic supply store which every city has many of –

    For example, I fixed the terribly leaking hydraulic windowlift system on the ’65 Mercedes 600 monster owned by a Ca. billionaire 12 yrs ago. The system followed Citroen’s lead, but powered the windows, doorlatches, trunk lift & lock. rear seat movement, driver’s compartment privacy glass, and cowl vent doors! BUT lacked an integral bleed system – ? Why I’ll never know, so I installed one from hardware store. Also replaced his normally $7000 Bosch pressure storage tank, which was blown internally, with an offtheshelf one from Parker hydraulics, for $950 and few bucks of hardware store plumbing. Saved him at least $10K. As long as you’ve closed every line/connection where the system pressure is applied – 2500 psi in Cits, Rolls, Mercedes 600s – and build up pressure slowly while wearing goggles, gloves, and think safety, the systems are similar to your brake system, which also operates at around 1500 psi as I recall.

    Just as with any plumbing system, one must think thru where the pressure is going and be sure it’s all back together and sealed. A slow pressure build will find a leak in a hurry to tell the operator it’s time to shut down and rethink. Hope that helps anyone contemplating learning about these cars.

    Like 1
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member


      Sounds like you’ve done a lot of the same work as I’ve done to these cars. My shop also specialized in Rolls-Royce cars, and I am very familiar with the Citroen-based hydraulics on them as well, probably more so because there are a lot more Rolls-Royce cars in the Washington DC area than Citroens.

      Have you ever worked on one of the later cars with mineral oil instead of Girling DOT-3 brake fluid? Sometimes it’s damn near impossible to stop the thin mineral oil from seeping out of the oddest locations

      One day I had a Silver Shadow I come in on a rollback truck, the brakes hydraulically locking up as soon as the engine was started! The problem began when the owner took the car in for new tires. The car drove in fine, but after the tires were installed and the car placed back on the ground, the brakes went batsh-t crazy. Turning the engine off, the brakes slowly went back to normal pressures.

      Turned out the guy who placed the lift arms [twin-post above ground lift] put the left front arm half onto the frame section. The other half, on twisting the rotating cup upwards, hit the hydraulic frame assembly for the 3 master cylinder units [the single regular master cylinder to provide pedal feel and the dual high pressure systems [ala Citroen]. That frame assembly was racked in 3 directions! The customer was very lucky I had a Silver Shadow parts car out back, as the entire assembly would have set him back about $10k from the R-R dealer.

      Like 1
      • Ken Nelson Member

        Too many mechanics these days can’t fix a part – they’re just replacement folks, throw away a valuable part, but then their time costs also, but when push comes to shove, I never bin a part if I know how to fix it, and that’s basically how I learned to fix everything I’ve worked on – break down the part and the mysteries disappear, and one can often figure out how to salvage them or prevent their failing again.

        And too many shop guys fail to check the underside of any unfamiliar part, like the lift guy who crunched that RRs brake system! I’d heard Rolls tripled the complexity of the Cit system – supposedly for redundancy, but of course the Brits invented “redundancy” – for their people too! I was a short-term apprentice at F.J.Payne Ltd in Oxford summer of ’66, needing a job to keep me fed & my 30 quid (totally clapped-out) ’54 Beezer Super Rocket 650 in petrol at twice US price or more. And have kept a lifetime connection with the firm started i 1914. My boss was a very impressive bloke – John Payne, who hired me sans work permit, at 85 cents/hr paid out of petty cash so no permit needed, gave me a key to the works so I could sleep my first night on the tearoom floor, so of course being the new yokel, had to learn how to make tea for the other apprentices. Best thing and first thing I crossed off on my then vacant bucket list, was riding all over the UK, Wales, Europe, into W Berlin thru the commie corridor lined with barbed wire and mines. Was last one in to the Jugendherberger (hostel) with an official police escort! (I’d gotten lost – no GPS – and stopped for speeding as the hostels closed at 10 and I was late!) The US’s Berlin airlift created the gratitude the Berliners showed me..
        John’s son Tim was 7 then, now he runs his grandfather’s firm in Eynsham, where they did Leno”s Bentley engine 30 yrs ago, and we’ve helped each other out ever since. His father was so well thought of they named a Technical college after him in 203 on his passing. A month later I drove the breakdown Citroen Zantia co. car as Tim ran the London-Brighton on a borrowed 1904 “Nere-a-Car” Vtwin 3 wheeler til it seized the 6th time. Tim saved me many times, helping me import a ’53 Bristol 403 and a ’53 Panhard Dyna X87 break stored 37 yrs before I rescued it.
        We’re just too isolated in the States – every college kid should thumb around some other part of the world before he goes to work!

        Like 1
      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

        Damn Ken,

        You’ve accomplished one thing I’ve always wanted to do since childhood, but never was able to accomplish, due to various reasons like timing, other obligations, and a fire that my insurance company was able to wiggle out of paying, that put me into bankruptcy.

        And that is the Brighton run. I’ve wanted to be part of the run since I heard about it in elementary school. In 1995 I had put a deposit on a 1900 De Dion-Bouton Vis-a-Vis in France, with an unusual wicker roof, and shortly after my shop was struck by lightning. Had to let the De Dion go, along with my dream of running a car in the Brighton run. Sadly due to medical restrictions, I’m unable to fly in a commercial airplane, so It’s not gonna happen for me.

        Like 1
    • Kurt Member

      Ken, can you rebuild the ball shaped shock absorbers? I discovered the hard way that some European shock absorbers, specifically the bumper shocks on a ‘74 Super Beetle, CANNOT be rebuilt!

      Like 0
      • Ken Nelson Member

        Kurt, those balls are actually the gas springs, have a bladder inside which is pressurized to 900 psi with dry nitrogen. The open threaded end has a crimped-in block of steel drilled thru with about 18 holes, which are covered with spring steel discs riveted to the block. Those spring discs flex out of the way to control speed of fluid flow from the hydraulic cylinder attached to each suspension arm. The arm-driven piston pushes fluid thru the shock disc (which never wears out) to control ride motion. However, the gas ball can sometimes be repressurized if the interior urethane bladder is ok. They do use pressure very slowly over time due to diffusion thru the bladder.

        Early spheres were made of two halves, screwed together at their equator. The halves pinched a hemispherical diaphragm inside – at the equator, in a groove of the bottom sphere half where it screws into the suspension cylinder. These spheres can be rebuilt, and should never be discarded. I’ve built rebuilding tools and have the eqpt to install new diaphragms, refill them with nitrogen, and test their internal pressure – it’s pretty simple eqpt, and the Italians sell special Shrader-type tire valves which can be installed in the balls and filled thru a valved filler device with pressure gauge on it.

        Alternatively, new spheres can be bought thru various suppliers and are usually less than $100 each – cheap for both a spring and non-wearing shock absorber! These spheres are totally unlike anything else on the road anywhere. But hydraulic co’s sell all sorts of pressurized “Pressure accumulators” for hydraulic eqpt – to store pressure when a pump isn’t operating, and also when it does – to provide backup pressure in event of pump failure – it’s a standard sort of part available thru industrial supply houses – but Citroen was the first co. to utilize them as primary suspension springs!

        Like 1
  27. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member


    Thanks for the info! I would also point out that the Rolls-Royce system uses a special brake fluid called RR363, which is DOT4 fluid with a special Castor oil to lubricate the caliper pistons, as they are designed to operate at far higher temperatures compared to other disc brake calipers. And never use regular brake fluid in a disc brake Rolls-Royce or Bentley, as it will cause lots of problems.

    It’s also important to remember that in 1980 the company switched to a special mineral oil instead of brake fluid, and again the fluid is special for these braking systems. The change over was for Chassis series 50000 and up. And don’t worry, the mineral oil cars have a special fill valve on the bottles that won’t allow DOT4 or RR363 fluid to be added to the reservoirs by mistake. These valves mate up to special receptacles on the reservoirs as an additional method to prevent mixing of fluid.

    While I was operating my shop, we inevitably had one or 2 cars towed in each year because the owners put the wrong fluid in their brakes. Some owners, too cheap to pay the R-R dealer, or even my cheaper prices, had local shops rebuild the brakes, and within 6 months the brake calipers began to seize from lack of lubrication.

    That situation was one of the top reasons why people sold their Silver Shadows to me cheap when they found out how much the total rebuild of the brakes was gonna cost; $5k and up. Double that at the dealer! [And those were prices 30 to 40 years ago.]

    All the parts with rubber in them had to be replaced, including the 2 balls, 2 pressure regulating valves [and on the early Shadows it included 4 new leveling shocks], 5 or 6 various control valves, manual master cylinder, 6 calipers [4 piston], 2 high pressure proportioning valves, 8 to 10 stainless steel braided flex lines at $150 each, reservoir tank gaskets and rebuild kit, and $100 in special brake fluid.

    Almost forgot the 2 hydraulic pumps; these are mounted on top of the engine, under the carbs, and are driven off 2 special camshaft lobes. To remove and replace them requires the entire top of the engine to be removed [not the heads]. To re-install the cast aluminum valley cover requires a special genuine silk thread that is laid around the edge of the opening and the ends crossed over each other at a specific location. Failure to use the silk thread can destroy the pumps and the camshaft! Yes, it’s that precise.

    All because the owner tried to save a little by using a cheaper brake fluid!

    It’s best never to use Citroen balls in Rolls-Royce systems, and vice-versa. I also don’t suggest using regular hydraulic fluid industrial balls for the Rolls-Royce systems, because unlike the Citroen system that uses similar fluids that the flexible diaphragms can handle, the Rolls-Royce types are not designed for regular hydraulic fluid, green fluid, or ATF. ATF can f-up a
    R-R363 system in a matter of a few miles of driving.

    And FWIW, there were 2 situations where I hired a mechanic based on a single sentence. Here are those sentences:
    1. “I’ve been working on Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars for many years.”
    2. “I’m a former US Navy Seal, Seal team 2 in Norfolk, VA, and I’ve restored several cars.”

    Both statements indicated to me they could handle just about any problem.

    Like 1
  28. Ken Nelson Member

    Wow Bill, a De Dion-Bouton – this Nere-a-car may have had one of those engines. What about a ship if you can’t fly? They’re faster than ever –
    My chance at the L-B was an unfortunately caused bit of timing. Son Tim of Payne’s had notified me soon enough after his father John passed at 90, that I was able to catch a flight to attend the funeral in late Oct 2013. Finding Tim had entered the rallye, I stuck around afterward & helped him regrind the valve cams as the twin cyls were breathing way differently. So we worked on the bike – two wheels in front with the passenger seat between them – passenger became bumper, like it or not! The engine was splash lubed, and was known to be trouble, but it was the only “car” eligible that Tim could get his hands on.
    We hauled it to London, Tim had gotten it running a bit better, so he started off and I went on ahead to meet him down the route. He eventually showed up with his son as bumper absorber, and fortunately it only sprinkled a bit – this being November of course, as originally started with the demise of the red flag rule that prohibited motorcars from driving over 14 mph or thereabouts in 1896. Revived in 1927, it’s been run ever since – in cold Nov unfortunately! Short adventure shorter, halfway to Brighton, the trike started heating enough to seize temporarily, which led to frequent cooldown stops, lots of pushing – occasionally with RAC help – and finally we threw in the towel about 12 clicks from Brighton and got there for late festivities in the breakdown Zantia. Oh well, it was quite an adventure, especially seeing the steam-powered wagon with two up front, and a sort of “footman” working the shovel at the back end, feeding coal to the burner in the trunk end of the wagon from the rear coalbin trailer! If I can be of any assistance re you’re getting there, let me know if possible thru BF or BAT –

    Like 0
  29. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    Ken, contact me at my email for longer discourse; billmccoskey@aol.com.

    I’ve been able to attend the L to B, and that alone was incredible, but as always, once I’ve done something, I tend to notch it up a bit. Sort of like seeing a Rolls-Royce as a young boy and hoping to sit in one someday, after that happened, I wanted to ride in one, then drive one, then own one, then own 2, etc. As a child of 4, I saw the 1956 Packard Predictor show car and wanted to sit in it. I finally had the opportunity a few years ago, but drive it? Not possible, it was made inoperable when it was given to the museum.

    Like 0

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