Citroën design flair married to Maserati power – what could possibly go wrong? Plenty, as it turned out, but a good one today remains utterly beguiling. Here’s what makes it so special
If you want every single outing to be a stimulus to your driving skills, and a rapid GT that’s absolutely stunning from every angle, you simply must get yourself a Citroën SM. For that – assuming you don’t want a wreck whose restoration will be awesomely convoluted – you’ll shell out between £45,000 and £75,000 today, such is the SM’s classic ascendancy. From some 13,000 built, just 327 were sold in Britain, and they’re all left-hand drive. Ergo, SM ownership isn’t to be entered into lightly.
DS specialists reckon that you need a week-to-ten days’ driving, not once returning to a ‘normal’ car in that time, to be converted. It’d be the same for the SM. Once you’ve re-learnt your driving style, anything else feels positively crude.
It’s a beguiling mix of supercar responses from its 2.7-litre Maserati V6 (later enlarged to 3.0), and nervous reactions from Citroën’s hydropneumatic, multi-level suspension. It’s interlinked with fourwheel disc brakes and power steering, which is designed to self-centre.
Getting to grips with this lot, while stirring the five-speed manual (autos in a few later cars) gearbox takes practice. So does navigating the wide nose, and tackling poor rearward visibility. Once you get the feel for the car, though, and realise how little input the over-sensitive controls actually require, you’re off. And that means really enjoying the 170bhp urge from the engine, pushed out to the front wheels – at 135mph, this was the world’s fastest front-wheel drive car in 1970.
Citroën bought Maserati to secure the compact, 90-deg engines (derived from its legendary V8) for its flagship, and the whole venture cost a fortune; when Peugeot acquired Citroën in 1974, it immediately shut down the SM (for Special Maserati) production line.
This car positively bristles with unusual touches, from headights that swivel with the steering to ribbed seats and oval instruments that Stanley Kubrick could have included in 2001: A Space
Odyssey. In trained hands, it’s swift and wonderfully smooth and refined on long trips, lapping up fast, twisty roads. The only thing you might get bored of is talking to open-mouthed admirers, because no car ever looked anything like it, before or since, from its single-spoke steering wheel to its glazed, tapered beetle-back. SPECIFICATIONS ENGINE 2670cc/V6/ QOHC POWER 170bhp@5500rpm TORQUE 172lb ft@4000rpm TOP SPEED 135mph 0-60MPH 8.3sec FUEL CONS’N 19-26mpg TRANSMISSION FWD, five-speed manual
WHAT TO PAY // CONCOURS £75K // EXCELLENT £55K // USABLE £36K // PROJECT £12.5K