Citroën SM

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

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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

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