Maserati-Powered: 1973 Citroen SM Project

Any person who attempts to compile a list of the greatest cars of the 20th Century is sure to spark spirited debate. Some people will argue why a particular vehicle should be excluded, while others will provide sound arguments as to why others should be included. For me, the Citroën SM is a car that should make that list. This was a ground-breaking car in so many ways. While its styling might not be to everyone’s taste, there is no denying the fact that it is distinctive. This 1973 SM has been sitting for quite some time, and it will require a particular individual if it is to be returned to active duty once again. It is located in Pomona, California, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding currently sits at $2,275, and the reserve has been met.

The owner of the Citroën isn’t exactly forthcoming with information on the vehicle. We only receive a single photo of the vehicle’s exterior and no information on whether there are any rust problems. Reassuringly, the SM was not a car that was particularly prone to rust issues, and if it has spent the majority of its life in California, then that augers well. It appears that the driver’s side front fender has been unbolted at some point, but what can be seen of the rest of the body seems to be intact. The paint is looking quite oxidized, but it would be interesting to see how it would respond to some work with a high-quality polish. Thankfully, all of the tinted glass appears to be intact. It is all still available if needed, but various pieces can be quite expensive. The exterior styling of the SM could best be described as dramatic. It appeared in an era when cars were generally more “boxy” in shape. The teardrop shape of the Citroën allowed it to be aerodynamically efficient. Where many manufacturers struggled to reach a drag coefficient of 0.30, the SM managed to achieve an extraordinary 0.26. That meant that it required less engine power to achieve any given speed than its rivals. It also provided significant benefits in terms of fuel consumption.

The Citroën would have rolled off the production line equipped with a Maserati-developed 2,965cc V6 engine, which was coupled to a 5-speed manual transmission. This V6 would have been capable of allowing the SM to cover the ¼ mile in 16.5 seconds, and winding out to a top speed of 140mph. For such a relatively small engine, those figures are quite impressive. However, it appears that this car has received a transplant at some point. There is now a 4-cylinder engine occupying the space under the hood. The V6 could be prone to several issues if they weren’t maintained correctly. The most significant was the fact that the camshaft was chain-driven. The chain would stretch over time and required manual adjustment. If this work wasn’t performed, there was a real possibility that the V6 would produce some loud crunching noises as pistons and valves became intimately acquainted. I would suspect that this may have happened here. Hence, the transplant. It isn’t all doom and gloom, because a replacement V6 is included in the sale. It isn’t clear what sort of condition this is in, so an inspection will be required. If the buyer intends to slot this engine into the Citroën, there is one useful upgrade that they should probably make. There is a kit available that equips the timing chain with an automatic tensioner. If this engine isn’t fitted with one, then I would be rectifying it pretty quickly. The SM was also heavily loaded with technical innovations, and this is the main reason why I would advocate for it being included in a Top 100 list. The suspension was an upgraded form of the hydro-pneumatic, self-leveling suspension that was initially fitted to the DS model. This provides a motoring experience that can feel quite alien to the uninitiated. Tip the car into a corner at any speed, and it sits flat and firm, with bags of grip. However, that same taught suspension does an incredible job of absorbing lumps and bumps if the going gets tough. It also features variable-assist power steering. This not only isolates the wheel from the jiggling that would be experienced over rough roads but provides a situation where the V6’s 190hp can be fed through the front wheels with zero torque-steer. The steering is also extraordinarily direct and does take some adjusting to.

The interior of the Citroën is quite dirty, but it does appear to be free from significant problems. I can’t see any tears or appreciable wear on the leather seats, while the dash seems to be in good condition. The quirky touches continue inside the SM. After all, there aren’t that many cars that feature the radio mounted vertically next to the elbows of both front seat occupants. That makes it easy to reach but makes reading the radio dial reasonably awkward. It appears that the vehicle came equipped with air conditioning, but it isn’t clear whether the system has survived the engine transplant. Beyond the A/C, it comes equipped with the factory radio, along with power windows.

The Citroën SM is a car that isn’t to everybody’s taste. However, it is an engineering masterpiece. Like any masterpiece, it can command a pretty price when offered for sale. Pristine examples are capable of reaching $60,000 in the market today. This one has a long way to go to reach that sort of level. It is also an unknown quantity due to the lack of photos and information that the seller provides. One thing is for sure; Only 1,150 examples of the SM were sold in the US during 1973. That means that if you bought this car, it would be likely to be the only one in your street. Is that rarity enough to tempt you to follow-up on this classic?

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Comments

  1. ken tilly UK

    if it doesn’t have the V 6 engine then it’s just another Citroen.

    Like 3
  2. james malone

    Semi-famous for Burt Reynold’s answer to why he drove one of these into a river: “I couldn’t find a car wash!” :)

    Like 1
  3. Vance

    Anyone who reads BF regularly, knows my name because its unusual and different like this car. They also know that I have no use for French automobiles. This car looks like someone designed the front half, died, and another finished the other half. I have always liked my name and I will never like French automobiles. This would be my usual answer, boat anchor.

    • MikeH

      If you have no use for French cars then stop reading about them and commenting on them.

      Like 16
    • Azmat

      The design, the tech , the ride of an SM gives me chills whenever I see one.
      Its like having a high maintanance woman in your life that you cant resist.

  4. Sam61

    How about an EV conversion and bag all four corners?

    Like 1
  5. Vance

    I wouldn’t even think about stopping simply because of people like yourself.
    It makes it all worth while. it goes to prove the old adage, you can’t polish a turd.

  6. Elanguy

    Up to $3900 with 7 hours to go. Definitely worth it for parts if nothing else. However it’s hard to say what the high bidder’s bid might be, he’s been on top since July 31.

    Maybe the worst photos I have seen in a listing. So it’s pretty hard to tell what’s there.

    The seller also has a nice looking Ami 8, a very quirky little beast.

    It’s fun to speculate about re-powering it with a more modern and more powerful V6, but that probably would be a bad investment.

  7. CJinSD

    This looks like a random collection of parts left after an SM specialist went out of business and everything remotely desirable had been claimed. When I used to drive down to Encinitas, there was a much better looking SM visible from the highway in a TJ junkyard.

  8. gerardfrederick

    Whoever buys this former beauty hopefully has bushels full of 100$ bills. It´s kind of like buying a wooden boat which is akin to a hole in the water swalloing up all your money. When new, this car was utterly gorgeous. Good luck to the brave guy who´ll be the new owner. As far as french cars go, I drove my brother´s Citroen DS 21 all over Europe and can attest to their tremendous comfort level.

    Like 2
  9. Kenn

    Yup Vance, you’re proof of that old adage.

    Like 3
  10. Louis Chen

    My parents had one of the DS21 and It was great car…very smooth ride. I liked it because, we had a tire blow out and due to the Citroen’ suspension it automatically corrected the height of the blown tire side. The French had pretty good engineers when they designed their cars from the mechanical stand point. In those days it was done mechanically-hydraulic, the fore runner of electronically height control. When the SM came here, I was fortunate enough to have driven it, loved it as much as my parent’s DS. The unique of the SM was headlight steers with the steering wheel-great for night time driving! This concept was later copied by Lexus. From the look of this specimen, I’d stay away from it unless you need one for parts.

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