Green Orbs: 1972 Citroen SM

citroen-sm-garage-find

We love the idea of driving a Maserati powered Citroen. That combination of power and cushy ride turned a bland car into a great grand tourer. The looks may take some getting used to, but once you drive an SM you will appreciate its Maser V6 and hydro-pneumatic suspension. You may change your mind though when the repair bills start coming in. Still, every SM that comes to market is worth a look because they are truly special cars. This one is located up in Mission, Canada and is listed here on eBay where bidding is currently at $103 with no reserve. Thanks goes to Jim S. for the tip!

citroen-sm-engine

There are those green orbs. Citroen was very creative in their use of hydraulics to control everything. The self-leveling suspension provided a “magic carpet ride” feel and the steering system smoothed out the bumps before they could reach your hands. Car manufacturers tout the same features today, but Citroen was doing it a long time ago. These were seriously high-tech cars that may have been ahead of their time because they did not sell as well as expected.

citroen-sm-interior

The seller claims to have used the car as their daily driver for over 15k miles. Problem is, that was 18 years ago. At some point the clutch froze up so it sat in their front yard for a while. They were able to get things unstuck enough to move it down to their barn, but while doing so the hood flew up busting the windshield. This poor SM then sat for many years in a state of disrepair. We hope it can be saved or at least used to save other cars. So, anyone here have any run-ins with those green orbs?

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Comments

  1. paul

    More green orbs then I ever want to see, great cars , very innovative for sure, but unless you are a Citroen tech, you wouldn’t want to go down this road.

  2. Randy Rush

    I worked for a guy who owned one of these brand new in NH, everytime it needed a tune up he drove it to montreal for $700.

  3. Jonathan Bush

    I don’t exactly remember the quote or who said it – pretty sure it was Keith Martin – but the basic idea was: “The Italians and the French probably couldn’t decide where to go to lunch, much less how to collaborate on a car.”

  4. Joe Howell

    Who left all the turkey basters under the hood? Only the French.

  5. skloon

    It is on my list of cars that I want to own- however I may be committed long before I get through my list

  6. Dolphin Dolphin Member

    Truly great cars when they’re running well, but……..

    “Windshield broken by hood when trying to break free a frozen clutch before driving into barn.”
    Hmmmm…..better not comment further.

    The seller might have been better off listing it on eBay France. Still, there’s a good chance someone from Europe might buy it unless it gets to a crazy price.

  7. Graham Line

    I’m sure Speedy Glass has the windshield in stock . . . and it looks like someone was playing with the wiring. Would be a good project for someone who has warmed up with a couple of DS restos.

  8. rancho bella

    I almost never write this cuz I like stock stuff…….yank it all and put a SMC and GM auto trans, dump the existing air ride and put in modern air bags (to fool the French) to keep the high/low option. Then you’ll have a ride…………..this is of course if you have nothing else to do with you dough. Or….forget this nightmare.

    • Keruth

      Can I have this motor? I have a Fiat Spider it might fit in. Think about it, lol!

  9. Rev Rory

    The horror….

    • Joe Howell

      That’s too funny :)

  10. Jamie Wallhauser

    What a fabulous car! NO, not this one, just SM’s in general. This one makes me want to commit suicide and I haven’t even bought it. Honestly? I think it’s parts at this point. Too bad.

  11. hawk

    If they paid you $25000. to take and restore it, you would still lose money on the deal

  12. Jeff

    *Most memorable Citroen moment”, I was a kid in HS watching the original movie “The Longest yard” with Burt Reynolds (74′), it was the chase scene, he was in his bimbo’s Maserati (Citroen) running from the cops, came to a stop, reversed it spinning the wheels and the whole rear end jumped up, I thought that was pretty cool back then.

  13. Don Andreina

    I have a looooooong list of US steel that I love, so this is not an anti-American question. It always bugged me that the headlights in US spec euro cars had to have be different from the original design (federalised?) on cars such as Mercedes, Porsche 911, Fiat 850 spider and these Citroens. For me, this always ruined the aesthetic (to say nothing of oversized bumpers and side lights that came later). From the inside, what do US aficionados think of this?

    • rancho bella

      Don,
      don’t get me started on that issue. I guess we citizens are just to dumb to be safe on our own………….

    • paul

      We always got the ugly crap, bumpers, side markers,headlights, tail lights & they used to raise the ride height on the sports car’s to bring the bumper’s up to meet our height requirement, which ruined the handling characteristics. The practice is still done today to the license plate areas.

    • paul

      Oh & you left out the biggest upset the 68 XKE Jag as well as the 68 Alfa Romeo, both had wonderful covered lights.

      • Don Andreina

        Some states in Australia changed road laws to allow LHD cars to be fully road registered (as opposed to club registration). With all the mining cash flooding in, I reckon the US lost a serious chunk of vehicular metal to us. They even (finally) allow T-birds to keep the sequential rear lights. If you wanted to import into the US a euro spec 1971 Porsche, for example, would you be allowed to these days?

    • Dolphin Dolphin Member

      It’s called ‘automotive design by the US Government’.

      They’re all trained engineers who just decided to go into government as a side job, right?

  14. Matt

    You’d do better by lighting your wallet on fire, then tossing the wallet into your bank’s safe deposit vault.

    Even if every cent you had to your name was lost in the fire, you’d still be farther ahead than when you started this Citroen project.

  15. That Guy

    I own an SM, and I love it. The hydraulics and the drivetrain are actually quite reliable; the problems I’ve had are more related to the wiring disintegrating as the car ages. But it’s a great GT car overall.

    Prices are rising for SM’s now, but I don’t see this car being anything but a parts source. It’s too far gone, and there are plenty of good ones out there for still-reasonable money.

  16. Al

    The newest USA SMs are 43 years old. All wiring, flexible tubing, hoses, should be replaced. This means making or having made up new wiring harnesses, as any remaining NOS wiring harnesses, if they were found, are also over 40 years old.
    I dealt with 1969 ID wiring in the late ’70s and early ’80s that was rather…rotten. In the engine compartment, heat had taken its toll on the insulation, rendering some of it brittle. and it was only around 10 years old. I recommend replacing all of it. And, unless it is to be a true concours show car, use modern connectors instead of the original types, even if they are still available.
    A fire source is the return hose from the pressure regulator valve (“click-clack”) up front next to the hydraulic pump. It is molded into a sharp 180° bend. The pulses of fluid each time the valve “clacks” off eventually can crack the hose. Though this is not a high pressure area, the pulses are probably a few hundred PSI. I had a hose much like this one on a DS crack. The fluid, flammable light hydraulic oil, spewed far from the crack. Nothing hot was in its way, so there was no fire danger. not so on the SM. The alternator is nearby and the air rushing out of the back of the radiator will spray a mist of oil all over the engine, including the blazing hot exhaust headers, which are especially hot on the emission controlled cars of the USA, Canada, and I think Sweden.
    I replaced the hose on my SM, which showed small cracks, with a Teflon® lined hose from a hose supply. It was light blue jacketed. I had to grind the nipple barb down some to get the hose over it, as this fire resistant hose would not stretch like the original solid rubber hose.

  17. Al

    The “green orbs” are the suspension “spheres” on either side and the “main accumulator” in the front on the “click-clack” pressure regulator valve. The other green pot thing behind the main accumulator is the high pressure hydraulic pump.
    The original suspension spheres had thick bands around their equators where the two halves screw together with genuine buttress threads, the only ones I have ever seen in metal. They were rebuildable, that is, the top can, with correct equipment, be unscrewed, cleaned out of all rubber chewing gum, a new diaphragm installed and the top screwed back in. As the damper valves (“shock absorbers”) in the base of the later spheres is nonrenewable – they are crimped in – while apart the lower halves should be cleaned thoroughly with a strong solvent that will dissolve any rubber “chewing gum” that may have gotten into the valve.
    If the newer suspension spheres are the brazed together type like in the photo, they cannot be rebuilt. If they are past recharging, the polyurethane (?) diaphragm will have been ruined by being mashed against the protruding filler screw plug and diaphragm retainer inside the top half of the sphere.
    The brake accumulator is hidden under the main reservoir, which must be removed to get the accumulator out for recharging or rebuilding – it is of the same screwed-together design as the original suspension spheres, just smaller, like the old DS main accumulators. If you can find one of those DS old-style main accumulators, it will fit the click-clack valve on the SM and, like all screwed together spheres and accumulators is rebuildable forever as long as someone is supplying the diaphragms.
    If the spheres are recharged before the diaphragms are punctured by low precharge pressure, they will last for a long time.Enthusiast Citroen suppliers are making diaphragms that are better than the original equipment stuff.

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