Parked For 25 Years: 1973 Citroen SM

The Citroen SM is one of those vintage cars that are both tempting and terrifying at the same time. They are striking vehicles (the looks are a subjective matter, of course) with exotic drivetrains and over-the-top engineering. When preserved or running in excellent condition – usually as a result of being restored – they are phenomenal cars. However, restoration costs are significant given the high-tech features and the Maserati-sourced powerplant. Strangely, this Citroen had its engine rebuilt 10 years ago, but it was never installed. The SM has been sitting for 25 years and is listed here on eBay with bids to just over $3,000 with no reserve.

At the end of the day, any high end car that is left to sit for decades is going to suffer more deeply than a basic econobox left to rot. The SM featured self-leveling suspension, front wheel drive, and a trick power steering system that isolated road abrasions and other impediments from the driver. The SM also came with leather seating surfaces and a space age-like cockpit that was like nothing else on the road. While you could spec an SM with the manual gearbox, many were automatics, such as this car. The interior may need a deep cleaning, but it doesn’t look as bad as you might expect for having sat for 25 years. I don’t see any dash cracks, either.

Fortunately, the bodywork appears reasonably sound. These can rust out with surprising ferocity if not kept indoors or at least out of the snow. Hopefully, the one upside to the decades of indoor storage is that the car hasn’t been routinely exposed to adverse weather conditions. Given its location in South Carolina, this seems likely. The seller does vaguely reference the presence of rust on the “…door and panels,” but doesn’t provide specifics or photographs. The glass all looks to be in sound condition, and despite the sagging suspension, you can just make out what appears to be factory wheels. The seller also references “surface rust” but doesn’t elaborate.

The rebuilt engine still sitting quietly in the garage, awaiting the chance to fire up again, is an odd sight. Once you’ve gone through the expense and hassle of having an engine rebuilt, dropping it back into the car as quickly as possible is usually the first thing on any owner’s mind. The seller notes in the time the engine has been left parked on a stand, the carburetors went missing, and the flywheel and catalytic converter are also MIA. Mileage on the chassis, at least, is listed as being a tick over 56,000. While still a formidable project, having a (supposedly) fresh engine to drop in really does wonders for convincing oneself that it’d be possible to finish this project for reasonable money and time. What do you think – can this South Carolina SM come back to life?

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  1. sparkster

    First “The Longest Yard” movie with Burt Reynolds’s drove one of these, lol. Then sent into the water. Great movie.

    • George

      “Why did you drive her car into the Bay??”

  2. CJinSD

    I just saw another one listed on Los Angeles craigslist for $5,700 yesterday. They are the most ambitious projects.

  3. Bruce

    You have to ride in one to truly understand. We were doing 70 MPH when we hit the rail road tracks and I heard the noise but I never felt the bumps that the suspension adsorbed. Strange feeling to be going down a twisting road and it feels like you are sitting still and the world is moving around you.
    The engines had problems with timing chains and were built during a time when lower power was acceptable. Acceleration is not great but not bad and top speed I saw was over 130 from the owners assistant who had the radar gun. That also checked out with the speedometer very closely. The driver was the Maserati Dealer in my area of the Midwest.

    Smooth, sleek, sophisticated, elegant, are just a few of the words that fit this car. I would worry about the wheels I believe some were not made of metal but a light weight composite if memory serves. Like all French cars that I have been around the upkeep required is greater than even English cars but if you drive one of these you will understand why in the day it was worth the effort and even today it is a remarkable ride.

    • RayT Member

      The “composite” wheels were very rare, not installed on production SMs, and are very easy to spot. I’ve seen them only in photographs, though I’m certain there must be a collector or two who has a set.

      You’re correct that these are brilliant to drive. Comfortable, smooth and fast Grand Tourers. I found the steering’s sensitivity to be worrisome at first, but after that it was all good.

      If I were to drag this one home — and I wouldn’t because I’m allergic to automatic transmissions — I’d expect to first have to go through the hydraulics completely. If they don’t work properly, you won’t have suspension, steering or brakes. The “rust” could be a problem as well. I believe the timing-chain issues were resolved at some point, so would want to see if this engine has had that attended to.

      This one’s not for the faint of heart. Or wallet. Which is unfortunate, because every enthusiast needs to experience the pleasure of traveling in an SM.

  4. JoeNYWF64

    If this also came as a 4 door, it looks like Citroen used the same front door from the 4 door on the 2 door! If no 4 door, then the doors are still too short.

    • Derek

      There was a 4-door; the SM Presidentielle. I think they were bodied by Chapron, and are accordingly rare…

    • Doug Plumer

      Citroen also produced a 4 door concept (Opera) which would have been produced, but for the world wide “crisis de essence” in 73. Damed OPEC!

  5. luke arnott Member

    I believe to change the battery it was necssary to remove the right hand front wing(fender).

    • Pagodaman

      No, it is not necessary to remove fenders to change the battery.

  6. SourPwr Member

    Citroen is French for “Lemon” or “ugly duckling”

    • Dave

      That’s “le mon”, mon cheri, or is that Don Cherry?

  7. Robert Pellow

    Better learn how to spell, Sour. The word is citron if you want a lemon. Citroen if you want one of the finest cars ever built.

  8. Arthur Brown

    Engine is the V6 used in the Mazarati Merak. Based on the Bora, the V8 was replaced with the V6. Merak also used Citroen suspension and braking systems

  9. Maestro1 Member

    Yes, Bruce, elegant sophisticated cars, very complicated and unless you devote many hours with manuals and trying to figure things out the best way to buy these is to be close to a mechanic who knows these cars. Then they
    are an endless delight.

  10. peter r

    The SM never came as anything except a two door.
    I bought one after paying a so called knowledgeable garage to do a PPI. When the car got here, the local Citroen repair garage quoted almost $15k in mostly obvious repairs. The PPI inspection was worthless. I’m not a mehanic but even I could tell some of the required repairs such as brakes. I felt conned by both the seller and the garage. But they are beautriful cars and fortunately mine is rust free. And their suspension is amazing – you simply don’t feel the bumps. But it is expensive to repair. As isw often said “Buy the best you can afford”. These in good condition sell for $30-60K so cheap ones are usually only good as parts cars.

    • CJinSD

      The Maserati Quattroporte II was essentially a four-door Citroen SM. Maserati built about a dozen of them over a period of years.

  11. Vance

    Thank the French for wine, women, food, perfume/cologne, fashion and culture. Automotive engineering and design, not so much. German workmanship, Japanese determination, Italian elegance, and American ability to make what the masses want and a lot of it buries the French. Maybe being well fed, drunk, horny, and well dressed was more important than automotive excellence. It sure wasn’t military prowess, the Germans are always right next door. I think Citroen means boat anchor in English.

  12. Dave

    Looks like the ideal candidate for a Hover Conversion. These looked like a space movie shuttlecraft when they were new. With all of the advances made in the past half century I wonder if the technology has caught up with the design.

  13. Bill McCoskey

    The SM was properly named.
    You might be a sadist to buy one, and a Masochist to keep it running.

  14. Arthur

    Given that FCA and PSA are planning to merge, this Citroen SM would benefit from a Hellcat engine swap, especially if it had an Art Morrison chassis, Tremec T-56 Magnum, and Michelin PS2 tires fitted to Forgeline GA3C wheels.

  15. Stephen Canney

    We SOLD it gentlemen and was a candidate for complete restoration to the $50-60k range.We found the carburetors tucked up in the engine, without any velocity stacks,they were hard to see.This car sat inside and other projects got put in front of it,mostly American muscle cars,waiting for the value to come up on the Dragon.Stay safe and good luck with your next project.

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