A top car to drive before you die!
The Car That Thought It Was An Aircraft
Why was it labelled SM? Citroen intended it to be a marriage between a sports version of their very successful DS with its revolutionary hydraulically powered suspension, and a high-powered Maserati engine. It sas subsequently known as the Sports Maserati; or SM for Short. It's swept, streamlined shape caused many people to compare it to an aircraft without wings; this was not surprising. The chief designer at the time was a gentleman called Robert Opron, who had worked on aircraft design in America for many years. He created a shape with an extremely low drag coefficient, which was far lower than similar cars of that era.
How did it perform?
For French legal reasons the engine size was limited. However, it did not only look good, but it performed extremely well, too. Although the engine size was relatively small for such a large car, at 2.7 litres, it still put out 170 brake horsepower, and it could propel the car up 140 miles an hour. When it first came on the market it was reputed to be the fastest road car with front wheel drive in the world. Acceleration however , was adequate rather than scintillating, but on the plus side the road holding, steering and braking systems were very efficient. The best part of the DS were retained, including the self levelling suspension, and self levelling lights, which turned as the steering wheel turned! Although many drivers saw this as a boon it was illegal in the USA, and the cars meant for this market were built with a standard headlamp system.
The braking system was highly praised; under hard braking the whole car would dip, rather than go nose down.
Were there drawbacks to it?
The hydraulic power assisted steering system caused problems for a number of drivers who were not familiar with the vehicle. At its simplest; the amount of power provided by the power steering varied according to the speed of the vehicle. The advantage of this was that the steering was fairly light, regardless of it's speed, but many motorists, more accustomed to a heavier feel at higher speeds, felt that it was oversensitive, resulting in over-correcting. It therefore took some time for new owners to feel fully comfortable with it.
Was it successful?
At the time of its launch, there was little demand in Europe for larger and more comfortable luxury cars; high petrol prices and a generally depressed economy created a poor environment for the Citroen SM, despite it's advanced design features. A better market was found in the United States. However, the hydraulic levelling system made it impossible for the car to comply with new laws there, relating to bumper heights and potential impact damage to lights in the event of a collision. This made the car illegal overnight, and destroyed the US market for them completely. After a European fuel crisis in 1973 sales in that market, already depressed, fell even further and production was discontinued.