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Estate Sale Find: 1973 Citroen SM

Certainly one of the most exotic, unusual, sleek, sexy, unusual, unusual, and unusual cars maybe of all time, this 1973 Citroen SM is a great looking example of a very unusual car. It’s listed here on craigslist – which is also a bit unusual that it isn’t being listed on an auction site –  in Los Gatos, California. There is a $29,500 asking price listed. Thanks to Pat L. for the tip!

I’m trying to think of a more unusual and unique front end – a Comuta-Car maybe? A ’78 AMC Matador? Hmm.. I’m stumped after that. Any thoughts? US cars didn’t receive the very cool covered headlights. They were more than just covered headlights, they swiveled depending on which way the steering wheel was turning, something that wasn’t legal in the US at the time.

I love the rear fender skirts. I had to think for a minute that this otherworldly, modern-looking-even-now car is actually from 48 years ago when fender skirts were a thing. After acquiring Maserati in the 1960s, the Citroen SM was introduced in 1970. It went on sale later that year, but they didn’t make it to the US until 1972, and then by the end of 1973, they were gone from the market here. Bumper regulations that couldn’t be met with the hydraulic height-adjustable suspension were the final blow.

This car is part of an estate sale where six cars are being sold, this Citroen SM and two others in less than perfect condition, two Rolls-Royces, and an Austin-Healey 3000 Mark III. I don’t think that my estate sale will be quite that interesting. The interior looks fantastic in this car, the seats look like new and the shifter is always fun to see in an SM, they’re so unique without a shift boot as with most other manual transmissions.

The engine should be Maserati’s 3.0L V6 which had around 180 horsepower giving the SM a 0-60 time in the 8.5-second range. These cars can be fairly reliable if properly maintained and as with any complicated vehicle, regular maintenance by a knowledgable mechanic is key to keeping them on the road. Hagerty is at $37,300 for a #3 good condition SM so this could be a bargain. Have any of you owned one?


  1. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    I’m definitely not a Citroen expert, but it looks like they’ve got a few grenades under the hood!

    Like 7
    • Chinga-Trailer

      The grenades are the infamous spheres – shared by Rolls-Royce and Bentley. I’ve always felt that these, along with every other full size Citroen such as the ID and DS look like stylized vacuum cleaners! But I’m a Citroen fan, have probably owned at least a dozen.

      Like 7
      • Albert Troy Lively

        You DO know what these “grenades” are, don’t you?

        Like 1
      • Concinnity

        And shared by Mercedes Benz, Maserati, and Peugeot as well.
        You would think that marketing people at Citroën might have made something of the fact that those other prestigious engineering lead companies used not just Citroën ideas but actual Citroën parts with the relevent part numbers. But alas they are lazy idiots who changed the crisp early Citroën logo for one that could be off a sport shoe, and dropped the well proven and reliable hydropneumatic suspension just as self-levelling and adjustable ride hight sstarted being offered by manucturers with unreliable air systems.

        As for the complexity that many people seem to whine about, I’d rather work on one of these Citroëns than an early millenium high end Audi or BMW. Cam chain replacement on your V8 Audi or suspension work on your M5 suspension? Give me the logically mechanical, non electronic interfaced Citroën any day.

        Like 2
    • Jean-Pierre Teyssier

      Hello, I had a chance to see and drive this car 2 weeks ago. It drives nicely but not perfectly: the second gear synchro is worn out, the tyres are not the (expensive) good ones but kind of truck tyres with not the required speed index and too flexible for a good driving experience, there is a vibration noise at 2100 rpm, looks to be in the accessory equipment area. The interior is good but not perfect. The car color has been changed from grey to white, but the paint job is poor and the color inside the doors or under the hood is not changed… Below the car is pretty bad, it seems the car has made a race in a rock field. The worst is the engine maintenance record. It seems the main distribution chain has not been replaced yet, and the infamous original sodium exhaust valve are still here. When aging they can break, and you need to find another engine. With this engine issue and the worn gearbox, there is a very big bill to do very very urgently (at least $15000, info from knowledgeable people). A good job paint and the undercarriage repair is another less urgent big bill.
      So, in my opinion, this car is by far not worth the asked price.

      Like 1
  2. alphasud Member

    It would be nice to see if they could find the service file. One of the most important things to have on a car like this. One could check the operation of all the hydraulics pretty easily but it’s not easy to know if it has received new exhaust valves and timing chain updates. Has a rotary compressor conversion so it looks as if it’s been cared for. The 3.0 with a 5-speed is most desirable and the asking price represents a good value if all checks out.

    Like 4
  3. JonArd

    Back in 1973, WCFL in Chicago had what they called “The Last Contest” … the Citroen Maserati was one of the prizes … I think the “Contest” fizzled out and I can’t recall how it ended … evidently I didn’t wine the grand prize …

    Like 1
  4. Albert Troy Lively

    Owned 1960 and a 1968 Citroen DS models. Excellent vehicle but a real bear to work on. At that time (1970s in Houston) there were only 2 mechanics authorized to work on them. Plenty tried but found out the hard way that they are different beasts. But definitely an unusual vehicle.

    Like 2
  5. Solosolo Solosolo Member

    A much better buy than the Tomcat scooter/plane featured earlier for my money. Ken Tilly UK

    Like 1
  6. misterlou Member

    That plate is from the early 80’s. Could mean they owned for quite awhile.

    Like 1
  7. Malcolm Boyes

    Every car nut should spend time behind the wheel of a Citroen is a driving experience like no other. I nearly bought two at different times but the complexity scared me off ( wish to this day it hadn’t). To me they are gorgeous, futuristic ( but really need the covered headlights) and a truly comfortable grand tourer..maybe one day…

    Like 4
  8. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    With my small town Midwestern upbringing, contact with anything beyond normal Fords and Chevys came only via my subscription to Motor Trend magazine. So when they named the Citroen SM Car of the Year it caught my attention. But at the time I just thought the car was…. weird. Decades later I understand it (a bit) better, and appreciate it (some) more. I think I have seen exactly one in the flesh.

    Like 2
  9. Nick

    It says 5 speed manual and I see a shifter with what looks like 1-5 + R, yet they’re only two pedals in the footwell. ???
    Also, the speedometer shows stopping distance from speed in addition to speed.

    Like 1
  10. Malcolm Boyes

    Look between the clutch and throttle pedal..that big “button” is the brake “pedal” amazingly well…just light pressure on it and this beauty will glide to a quick stop! This is a 5 speed..

    Like 5
  11. Albert Troy Lively

    You should have seen the shifter on the DS model. No manual clutch at all. You had an accelerator pedal in the usual spot and then you had the big round black button( the brake). Moving your foot from gas to brake was merely a pivoting movement of your right foot. The gear shift (4 speed, if I remember) was on the dash directly in front of the steering wheel and it moved in a U-shaped pattern. Starting out in first gear, you would accelerate normally to the appropriate RPM and with a flick of the wrist, you would pop the gearshift into the 2nd gear position. So on through the rest of the gear range.

    Like 3
  12. Richard Nepon

    I was a mechanic at a Citroën Datsun dealer in Massachusetts in the 70’s. We had a beruitvtrainedvguyvehobwas the master Citroën guy but we all worked on them. We didn’t let anyone who bought one leave without taking a driving course as the experience was totally different from the regular US market offerings. We sold SM’s to a bunch of famous folks who weren’t happy with that.

    Like 2
  13. sam Dibitonto

    If you REALLY want a driving experience take a DS on a 1/4 mile short course and FLOOR ANY roadster..

    Like 2

    I had several DS models. Fantastic drivers and the black button on he floor stops the car dead and in a straight line. I know it saved my life once!!!

  15. gary martin

    leave it in the barn best place for this POS,they where crap when new and didnt get any better with age,that engine is horrendous and those hydraulics can be a knightmare,i would not have one for free never mind 29000$,a guy up the road in England where i lived had 15 of these outside rotting away thats how good and sought after these where,me i like the DS Citroen its a quirky thing, brakes that put you through the screen not feeling on the steering floats like Mohamed Ali but again not for me give me something you can hit with a hammer and not worry about the cost if you smash it!!! send it back to france they loce crap like this

    Like 2
    • Solosolo Solosolo Member

      I don’t think Jay Leno shares your point of view. He has owned his for more than 35 years and loves it. I suggest that you watch his video “The Futuristic 1972 Citroën SM | Jay Leno’s Garage” to see just how much a POS this car actually isn’t! It was the first foreign car to win Motor Trend’s car of the year award. The problem was that the French didn’t care that it won the award and they didn’t advertise it nor did they train mechanics on how to service and repair it because they are French and don’t give a toss about the rest of the world. Their attitude is “like it or lump it”

      Like 3
  16. Danger Dan

    Burt Reynolds drives the wheels off one in “The Longest Yard”

    Like 2
    • tompdx Member

      And then drove it off a pier and into the drink! (which is what landed him in the clink)

      Like 1
  17. Malcolm Boyes

    Sadly they wrecked one, maybe two, SM’s in the movie ..Burt kept the third one and had it for a while..

    Like 1
    • Bill Erickson

      I own that third one.

  18. Lance

    As once was told to me: Fancy cars are like fancy women…hard to keep.

  19. Doyler

    I always thought these would lend themselves to an EV covnersion.

  20. Jasper

    These cars are bad ass! Wish I had the money right now!
    Kinda cool to think back to when these were new. The age of the buyers and their automotive experiences. Those brave enough and with the imagination to buy something totally different. Like the nearest thing to getting a second chance to buy a Tucker.

    Like 1

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