1972 Citroen SM
Citroen is one of the world’s most iconic and innovative automobile manufacturers. Founded by André-Gustave Citroen in 1919, the company produced its first motor vehicle, the Citroen Type A, immediately following the First World War. Prior to this and during the War, Citroen supported France by manufacturing armaments from its then modern factory. Throughout the War, Citroen realised that he had to plan for the future and decided he would start manufacturing motor vehicles once peace returned to Europe.
In the early years Citroen’s plans were to bring mass production to Europe using the principles developed by Henry Ford. In 1934 Citroen introduced the 7CV or Traction Avant which today is recognised as one of the most important automobiles ever built. The Traction Avant pioneered unitary body construction (with no separate chassis), four wheel independent suspension and front wheel drive. The early 1930’s were tough times for Citroen and the company ultimately filed for bankruptcy in December 1934. Andre Citroen passed away in July 1935 after losing his battle with cancer at the relatively young age of 57. Michelin subsequently took over Citroen and the company went on to become a power house of French industry.
The Citroen brand is synonymous with innovation, however, their cars were also well built and very reliable. Other key milestones in Citroen’s history were the introduction of the Deux Chevaux or 2CV in 1948 and the Goddess DS Series cars in 1955 (which featured a hydro pneumatic self-levelling suspension system, a high-pressure hydraulic system, disc brakes and later, swivelling headlights). What is often overlooked is that Citroen has a rich motorsport pedigree, particularly in rallying, where it has won many events and championships over the years, including the Paris-Dakar rally.
Citroen always had a vision to build a sporting version of their iconic DS series cars. The missing piece of the puzzle was found following Citroen’s acquisition of Maserati in 1968. Citroen decided to use a Maserati engine to power their new sports saloon.
The result was the Citroen SM, first shown at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1970. It went on sale in France in September of that year. Citroen only built left hand drive SM’s, although right hand drive conversions were done in the UK and Australia. The SM was a success for Citroen with 12,920 examples built from 1970 through until 1975. The majority of the cars were built in 1971 and 1972. The oil crisis in 1973 and Citroen’s bankruptcy in 1974 ultimately led to the demise of the SM.
Oldtimer Australia is delighted to offer for sale a rare and unique Citroen SM.
This particular car was built in May 1972 and it is understood to have been sold new in Canada. This ‘Euro spec’ 6 headlight car has the ‘SB’ chassis number prefix which designates the car has the 2.7 litre engine (with carburettors) and it has the desirable five speed manual gearbox. Interestingly, this combination offers far greater performance than the 3.0 litre engine with automatic gearbox. The car is finished in ‘gris nacré’ (AC095) with a black interior.
Not much is known about the early days of its life in Canada. In 1986 the car was sold to Andrew Lonseth from Alberta and at that time an appraisal was done by Little Lot Appraisals in Edmonton, Alberta. The appraisal mentions the car had recently been repainted and the odometer was 75,253 km which was believed to be the actual mileage for the car. Photos on file from when the appraisal was done shows the car was ‘glacier blue’ at that time.
Lonseth owned the car for about 16 years. During that time, he moved from Canada to Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA and he took the car with him. The US title on file shows the car was registered as 400 GPL. Unfortunately, swivelling headlights are illegal in the US and it is understood they were disconnected at that time. In 2002 Lonseth sold the car to Mark McKibbin from Warrabul, Victoria, Australia. At that time the odometer was c98,000 km. Before the car was shipped to Australia it was given a major service, all the fluids were replaced and a new rotary air conditioning assembly was installed. This work was completed by Chris Middleton in Seattle.
In 2010 the car was given a mechanical overhaul and the engine was rebuilt. At that time the mileage was around 100,000 miles. The job to rebuild the engine was given to Spyder Automobiles from Warragul in Victoria. The car changed hands in 2011/12 and headed to its new owner in Brisbane, Queensland. The car was regularly maintained throughout his ownership. A new clutch was installed in 2014 and a new gearbox was installed in 2018.
The current owner purchased the car in 2018 and at that time the odometer read 110,256 km. During his ownership he has continued to improve the car. The interior was given a refresh, the carburettors where rebuilt and some cosmetic work undertaken.
Today this car presents really well and it is ‘just fabulous’ to drive. Driving a Citroen SM is a unique experience and this car certainly doesn’t disappoint. Not surprisingly, the starting procedure for the SM is basically the same as the Maserati Merak. Turn the key to energise the fuel pumps and get fuel into the carburettors, pull out the choke, three pumps on the throttle and then turn the key. This SM starts easily from cold and soon settles into a smooth idle. The hydraulic system charges quickly and the car raises itself to the correct ride height. It’s quirky, but very cool! Oldtimer Australia has had the pleasure to handle the sale of a number of Citroen SM’s and this car is perhaps the best driving example we’ve had. As you’d expect given the relatively recent rebuild, the engine feels strong and the manual gearbox is smooth. The suspension on these Citroens is unlike anything you will find on any other car. This car just glides along the road. The suspension absorbs just about anything the road surface can throw up without any noticeable change in the ride. You can even drive over a speed bump without slowing down and hardly notice a change in the ride. One can only imagine what it would be like to ride a magic carpet . . . perhaps as smooth as driving a Citroen SM!
The steering on a Citroen SM is another unique and interesting feature. All SMs have the DIRAVI system installed. DIRAVI stands for ‘direction à rappel asservi’ which means ‘steering with controlled return’ or more generally ‘power steering with power assisted return’. The advantages of the system are that an irregular road surface will not affect the steering, minimal physical exertion is required to turn the steering wheel, it’s very fast and it only takes two turns from lock to lock. The directness of the steering and the power assisted return do take a little bit of getting used to, as do the sensitive ‘stop/go’ brakes. That said, you get the hang of it quickly and the self-centring steering is actually really good. After a few miles you think to yourself . . . ‘I really get this car’! The ride and drive on this car is difficult to fault. The V6 Maserati engine has enough power on tap to push you back in the seat under acceleration and the brakes are more than capable of pulling the car up quickly and in a straight line. The car has some creature comforts, including an air conditioning system that blows cold air and a brand new Alpine stereo with Bluetooth capability and a Kenwood subwoofer.
The car presents well and medium grey (gris nacre) is a perfect colour for an SM. The paintwork on this car is in good condition for its age. There are few minor blemishes and stone chips here and there, consistent with a car that is used as its makers intended . . . and that is to be driven! The external trim is in good condition, though there is some very light pitting in some of the chrome and there is a nick in the front (rubber) bumper. The glass is crisp and clear though the front windscreen appears to have had a stone chip repair at some stage.
The interior presents well, with the slightest amount of patina. The front seats, which were recently reupholstered, are firm and the leather is in excellent condition. The rear seats show some light wear, but there are no splits or tears. The carpets were also recently replaced and are in excellent condition. You will often see a cracked dash on a Citroen SM, however, the dash in this car is in very good condition. All instruments appear to be in good working order.
Under the bonnet it is clean, neat and tidy. The boot, which was also recently recarpeted is in very good condition. There is a spare wheel and tool kit present.
The car has all its ID tags in place, including the body number tag, chassis number tag and body paint code tag which reads AC095, confirming the car was originally painted in ‘gris nacré’ .
Accompanying this car is a thick history file dating back to the mid 1980’s (including an original Washington title), historical documentation and a factory owners’ manual.
The car is really an engineering masterpiece. It looks like nothing else (except a Citroen!), it is technologically brilliant and is perhaps best described as a ‘sporting Rolls-Royce’.
Driving an SM is a unique experience and owning one should be on everyone’s bucket list!
Today the odometer reads 15,489 km.
- Desirable Euro spec version with 5 speed manual gearbox.
- Well documented service history.
- Hydraulic system is in good working order.
- Almost $25,000 spent on the car by the current owner.
- Well presented in a stunning colour combination.
- Mechanically sorted and ready for its next owner to use and enjoy.
- Citroen SM
- 15,489 km