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French Italian: 1972 Citroen SM

1972 Citroen Sm

With it’s blocky stying and plastic covered headlights, the Citroen left much to be desired in the looks department, but there is no denying that the the SM was one of the most technologically advanced automobiles of it’s day. It had many unique features that set it apart from the competition and most importantly, a special engine that makes it highly sought after today…

1972 Citroen Sm Rear

Citroen already had one of the most technically advanced cars around when it introduced the DS. The DS was equipped with a complicated hydropneumatic system that operated the brakes, clutch, steering, and suspension. The ride height was adjustable and even made it possible to change a tire without a jack by sitting on just three wheels!

1972 Citroen Sm Engine

To create the SM model in 1970, Citroen took the DS and mated it with an engine from a recently acquired stable mate, Maserati. They took the Maser quad cam V8 and lobbed off two cylinders to create the V6 seen here. With 180 horsepower going to the front wheels and a top speed of 135mph, the SM was finally the luxury cruiser that Citroen was seeking.

1972 Citroen Sm Dash

Many of these cars have been lost due to neglect because the hydraulic system proved to be unreliable and complicated to work on. There are many specialists today though that have worked the bugs out so that these can be made more reliable. This particular car is currently listed on eBay with the reserve unmet at $3,500 and a buy it now at $18,000. The BIN may be a little high considering the amount of rust on this car and the color change from white to black. It does look to all be original though and may shine up nicely with a good detailing. Notice the single spoke steering wheel and round brake pedal.

1972 Citroen Sm Interior

There are unique design touches all over this car that just make it so different than anything else out there. Just take a look at the gear shift gate and center mounted stereo head unit. This is not everyone’s cup of tea, but if we were to bid on this one we would make sure we knew a mechanic that felt comfortable working on this car’s suspension and engine. It could be a mechanical nightmare if you don’t know what you are doing, but we are sure it is a blast to cruise on the highway in this one.


  1. Doug

    I've enjoyed your postings, but is this a barn find? Seems like a driver.

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  2. Barn Finds

    You're right, it is a driver. We try to cover as many barn finds as we can, but we also like to feature oddball cars and survivors that we run across online. If you take a look at our about us page it explains our focus a little more.

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  3. Doug

    Thanks for clarifying. I read the About Us and now see the missions statement. I read most of it earlier, but missed the last bit until now.For what it's worth, your postings are getting better. It feels like you're getting more comfortable writing. Just my 2 cents.

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  4. Barn Finds

    Thanks for the compliment. Hopefully the posts get even better!

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  5. Todd Fitch

    I would love to have an SM!! But every time I turned the key I would get terrified that something would go BANG!! Inside the engine and the "Fun" would end

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  6. nick danger

    i have never ridden in a more comfortable car

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  7. Mads Henriksen

    @Todd: Actually, they are not that fiendishly complicated, once you understand the logic behind it. Many of its then-groundbreaking features found their way into the Citro?½n CX, by many Citroholics (including me, I own 2) regarded as the last true Citro?

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  8. jack looney

    Actually, the most unreliable component of the SM was the Maserati engine. I was a dealer for those and we replaced many engines, most still under warranty. We were told that oil consumption of one qt. every 600 miles was normal, but worse than that the primary timing chain would either slip a tooth or break between 15 to 20,000 miles. When that happened, the valves would clash with the pistons and destroy the engine.

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  9. Al

    The hydraulic system is quite reliable. The several Citroëns I had gave me little trouble in the hydraulic department. Recharging the spheres every few years is normal periodic maintenance. Changing the hydraulic fluid every couple of years is, too. Just don’t flush with pump gasoline. It’s dirty compared with hydraulic fluid and has ethanol in it. If the hydraulic system has red oil in it it’s probably ATF. ATF is a Citroën approved EMERGENCY fluid only. As soon as possible drain and replace with green LHM. ATF has friction modifiers in it for the clutches and bands in an automatic transmission.
    Avoid the Automatique SMs. They used a Borg-Warner T35 that was a good automatic for smaller, lighter and less powerful cars. It was OK for the DS. But the SM was heavier and much more powerful and overloads the T35 unless driven little-old-lady style. Parts for the automatics are now unobtainium, especially the final drive secondary shaft and crownwheel. The 5 speed is a good strong transaxle. Its only weak point is that the front secondary shaft bearing gets to whining at high mileage. I fixed one by replacing the balls with new ones from an industrial bearing supply, then slightly rubbing the inner race mating face on abrasive paper until a slight preload put just a little drag on the outer ring of the bearing using a lathe tailstock ram to force the inner races together. No more whine.
    The cylindrical roller bearing at the rear of the secondary (pinion) shaft is almost the same as a standard jobber bearing except that its bore is 1 mm larger (41mm) than the off-the-shelf one (40mm). Considered having one ground out but then just reassembled the trans, set the pinion depth with bluing, then the backlash and the car ran quietly from then on.
    Once the specialists worked out the timing chain problem of the Maserati C114 engine it turned out to be a good strong engine that can last several hundred thousand miles before a total rebuild. Few SMs now will ever be driven anything like that much. They are quite antique.

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