‘Assistant editor Keith Adams was tempted but bailed out and suddenly it seemed crazy not to buy it'
CAR: David Lillywhite Editor American beauty?
I sometimes wonder if we unwittingly try to out-idiot each other on car magazines. I was chatting to another editor recently and he said I've just bought two Jensen Interceptors for £1000'. I was impressed, but was able to counter with I've just bought a Citroen SM project unseen in the States'. From the embarrassed silence around the table, it seemed I'd won. It was all assistant editor Keith Adams' fault. He'd been chatting with SM guru Andrew Brodie about how good it would be for one of the Drive-My team to own an SM. Before we knew it. Andrew had sourced a project car and was metaphorically dangling it in front of us. Keith was tempted but bailed out, the others just smiled politely, and suddenly it seemed crazy not to buy it.
The car was one of several project SMs owned by classic Citroen specialist land ice racing champion) Dave Burnham in New York state, an old friend of Andrew's. In fact, Andrew had already bought it from Dave for a few thousand dollars, without knowing what he was going to do with it - at least until I agreed to buy it at cost. Admittedly, I'd loudly proclaimed that I was never going to buy another rusty classic ever again, and I had a £15,000 budget to spend on, well, something. It was going to be a 911, but after spending months looking I had to admit that I can't afford a decent pre-1973 and that I don't really like the later cars enough. And there's no room for my increasingly lanky daughter to sit in the back. An SM for £15,000 might be OK or it might need an engine overhaul, new suspension spheres, a transmission rebuild, body repairs... You get the idea. So I've convinced myself that yet another project is the way to get the car I want. The car I've bought has a dented rear wheelarch, scruffy paint, a few patches of light surface rust, but no serious corrosion except in the boot.
The gearbox is good, the suspension has already been overhauled, the seats are presentable except for a couple of areas of loose stitching and there's nothing missing. The engine runs well - there's a video on the Drive-My website - but to be safe it needs to be stripped and rebuilt, which Andrew has offered to do for a fixed price. He also has a European front end available, to replace the ugly US-spec headlights, and an uncracked dashboard top. The body, minus engine, will go off to the local paintshop who painted the MGB (twice, after its fall from a workshop's ramps). We reckon that the project will cost around £15,000, including shipping from the US. And while it's on the boat I'm going to try and get the MGB finished (the blown engine is being rebuilt) and the historic race kart back together II relented and had the chassis blast-cleaned, and it's now resplendent in sparkling red). An idiotic plan? Maybe.
Above One scruffy Citroen SM, waiting for shipment to the UK; interior is as wacky as the overall driving experience.