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Citroen SM Group, owners, foto, test drive, engine, body and other CITROËN SM MORE THAN A DS IN DRAG In its day th...
Citroen SM Group, owners, foto, test drive, engine, body and other

CITROËN SM MORE THAN A DS IN DRAG

In its day the Maserati-powered Citroën SM was one of the greatest GTs around and the choice of numerous GP drivers, such as the late, great Mike Hailwood, because of their speed and comfort. But, like the DS on which it is broadly based, you either love or hate the idiosyncratic SM and if you’re the former expect to pay £30,000 (actual model and year makes little difference) for a cracker, although you can buy one for a third of this, especially in France. And like our XJ-S, you largely get what you pay for with a cheap ‘bargain’.
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  •   BimmerPost reacted to this post about 8 months ago
    On track in SM - sadly not mine... #1973-Citroen-SM / #1973 / #Citroen-SM / #Citroen

    1973 CITROEN SM

    DAVID LILLYWHITE @Drive-My David

    The Caterham has been returned to the factory, now the Academy season is over. The MGB and Saab are reunited in a barn down the road. And the SM is back, awaiting my attentions after BL Autos made such a nice job of realigning the front chassis legs, repairing a previously hidden rust spot further back on the engine bay chassis members, and refitting engine, gearbox, brakes, steering and suspension.

    In case you’ve missed a couple of episodes, I had done all that before the chassis problems were spotted, so I asked BL Autos to strip and rebuild the engine bay. It cost me £1000 but I really couldn’t face doing all that work again.
    Inevitably, my enthusiasm for the project was beginning to wane, roughly in parallel with the emptying of my bank account. But along came SM guru Andrew Brodie with his well-campaigned SM, fresh from a fourth place on the Mini Britannia, to the Drive-My track day at Goodwood, and he let me out to play in it.

    On a wet and shockingly slippery track, the long, heavy Citroen appeared to have no grip at the rear, slipping and sliding this way and that. But as the track began to dry, the SM demonstrated handling and poise worthy of much smaller, sportier cars. It rolled about, the rear wheels skittered; but when it did let go it was easy to catch, and it just flew round the track, prompting smiles, amazement and perhaps just a little fear from other drivers.

    I loved it. Balancing the weight of the big SM on its hydropneumatic suspension was as satisfying (perhaps more so) as driving a more obviously track-orientated car around the fast Goodwood circuit. I went home feeling inspired. It’s SM time again!
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  •   time2000 reacted to this post about 11 months ago
    Not one but two CITROEN SM PRESIDENTIELLE were build in 1972 for the President of the French Republic, Mr. Pompidou. The first official ride was with Elizabeth II. The CITROEN SM PRESIDENTIELLE comes with a #V6 MASERATI engine 2,7 L and a 5 speeds manual gearbox with a low 1st speed to drive slowly for a long period avoiding heating issues.

    / #1972 / #Citroen-SM-Presidentielle-2.7L / #Citroen-SM-Presidentielle / #Citroen-SM / #Citroen / #Maserati-V6
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  •   David Lillywhite reacted to this post about 1 year ago
    SM provides sniff of affordability / #Citroen-SM / #Citroen / #1971-Citroen-SM / #1971 / #Citroen-Maserati / #Citroen-Maserati-SM / #Maserati-V6

    There seems to have been a recent easing of Citroën SM values, which has to be excellent news for those of us who still harbour semi-realistic dreams of owning one some day in the future. Classified asking prices have yet to budge, but several have struggled at auction lately on both sides of the Channel.

    Most significant was the #French-registered car recently sold by #Historics-at-Brooklands . Billed as one of the best SM’s available, it looked indecently good in a Flat grey with an even Finish and good panel it, and came with an encouragingly full history folder. Our guide price supported Historics’ £38,000-£44,000 estimate, but the bidding only made it to £34,000 – an amount the seller proved willing to take.

    Keep an eye on these – there are limited numbers of good ones about and it is hard to imagine them ever looking other than futuristic.
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  •   otren9 reacted to this post about 2 years ago
    An SM shines in Paris, Market indicators

    / #1972-Citroen-SM £100,212 / #1972 / #Citroen-SM / #Citroen /

    Artcurial, Paris, February 9 This was an exceptional result for an SM, even given this was an exceptional example. With only 4000km covered since a €150,000 restoration in 2014 this still looked like a new car, in the stunning colour combo of Orient Blue with blue leather interior. Even then, it raised eyebrows with the bullish upper end of its £53,000- £80,000 estimate, but you can’t argue with this kind of quality. We’ll be watching SMs carefully.
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  •   otren9 reacted to this post about 2 years ago
    ‘Assistant editor Keith Adams was tempted but bailed out and suddenly it seemed crazy not to buy it'

    CAR: #1973-Citroen-SM / #1973 / #Citroen-SM / #Citroen /

    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.
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  •   Russ Smith reacted to this post about 2 years ago
    Spot the difference…

    CAR: #1973-Citroen-SM / #1973 / #Citroen-SM / #Citroen

    OWNER: David Lillywhite

    Progress has been made! I’ve spent several happy evenings in the garage now that temperatures aren’t quite so low (and I’m not feeling quite so lazy), and have moved closer to the point at which we’ll be able to fire up the SM’s Maserati V6 for the first time. When I say ‘we’, I mean myself and friendly guru Andrew Brodie, who has been gently nagging me to get on with things for several weeks now. He’s about to return from holiday, so I’m hoping he’ll be pleasantly surprised, even if the picture below doesn’t look very different from last month’s view.

    I started by cleaning the triple carburettors and bolting them into place, connecting up the linkages and cables. Then it was on to the cooling system, cleaning the hoses, working out how to thread them through the labyrinth of pipes and fittings, and connecting up the repainted radiator. The electrics seem, so far, relatively simple, although I was lucky that BL Autos had kindly wired up the twin Lumenition ignition conversion when the car was in for chassis work. I need to re-bind the engine loom, though.

    The pictures I took on stripdown have bailed me out of a world of pain: just working out how to route the oil cooler hoses, determining which way round a hose fits, and so much more would have been impossible without them. My laptop is looking a bit shabby after all the hours it has spent in the garage, but that’s a small price to pay for access to hundreds of images.
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  •   Russ Smith reacted to this post about 2 years ago
    Double the work?

    CAR: #1973-Citroen-SM / #1973 / #Citroen-SM / #Citroen

    OWNER: David Lillywhite

    One of the golden rules of restoration has to be not to lose momentum. Of course I’ve broken that rule many, many times over the years, and most recently with the Citron SM.

    It all started well over a year ago when the semi-complete SM had to be dismantled to fix a bent chassis leg and fractured suspension mount that had gone unnoticed. A little bit of enthusiasm died temporarily, a few new projects (a house restoration, Caterham racing, MGB tweaks, the usual nonsense) gained priority, and suddenly the Citroen project had slipped a few months.

    SM super-guru Andrew Brodie and the guys at BL Autos came to the rescue, and we got the rebuilt engine reinstalled and running. I was so proud I even posted a video of the first start-up on YouTube - but that was last spring! Since then, with more house upheaval, an effort to attend even more classic events, and an apparent acceleration of the space-time continuum, I don’t seem to have made much progress over the last few months.

    I think what really stalled me was my attempt to fit the mechanisms of the swivelling and tilting front lights. My car had a fixed-light US-spec front end. Andrew found me a European front end and all the crazy mechanical and hydraulic linkages that go with it. But can I work out how they fit? No I can’t - and that's where I left off.

    Now, of course, I've got several hours of work ahead of me just trying to fathom out what I was up to when I abandoned ship. Why is the steering column binnacle stripped down, when I clearly remember assembling it last year? How far did I get rebinding the engine bay wiring harness? What the hell are all these bits of rubber trim doing everywhere! I feel like I’ve doubled the amount of work needed.

    I know it sounds like a nightmare but actually it’s all part of the fun. I enjoy the total immersion of fiddling around with what was one of the most complicated cars in its day, and the highs of discovering how something bolts together. I love how good the car is beginning to look and the stunned expressions it prompts from friends and neighbours - six-year-old Connor next door has apparently memorised SM specifications. That I’m a full year behind schedule isn’t worth worrying about because this is a hobby, it’s meant to be fun and, when it stops being fun, it’s only sensible to drop it for a while.

    Now, though, it’s time to get back on it, and I’m making a list of what's left to be done. In many ways the car looks much worse than it is, because in less than half-an-hour the wings and bonnet will bolt back into place and it will look complete.

    So, first job is to route the tilting light mechanism control system from the rear suspension, along the passenger side inner sill, to the front end. Then the swivelling lights need to connect to the steering rack, which I’m still confused about, but Andrew has promised to enlighten me.

    The thin alloy outer sills need straightening and repainting and the lower front valance needs to be fitted. At the other end, the repaired stainless steel rear bumper has to be picked up from BL Autos in Welwyn Garden City and refitted.

    The interior is more or less finished but one electric window switch has packed up, and one window motor is a bit slow and needs a rebuild. The refurbished (now complete with iPod connection) original radio needs to go in, while the brand new footwell carpet needs to be unstuck to access the overlooked interior light switch wires, which are currently lost somewhere in the A-pillars.

    In the boot, I need to cut some more carpet, retrim the parcel shelf and somehow remake the rear window interior trim surround.

    And that's it. If I say it quickly, it seems like nothing at all.
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  •   Quentin Willson reacted to this post about 2 years ago
    Taking stock – and moving forward #1973 / #Citroen-SM David Lillywhite / #Citroen /


    When I was a kid, the Citroën SM was reckoned to be the most complicated car in production. I knew that, and I’m sure that should have stopped me from wanting to restore one. But it didn’t.

    Every now and again, though, I hit panic mode. The bulk of the restoration is now complete, but it’s the detail that takes so much time. Which way a cable routes through the engine bay. Which screw in the bag of 20 that I so conscientiously marked up over a year ago is the right one for a particular fitting. What the hell the smudged label says on the bag of unidentifiable brackets.

    And then there’s the mess I seem to make, and the lack of space in my double garage, especially when at least half of the available space was taken up by parts removed from the car. At least that situation is improving as I refit more bits.

    Anyway, what I’m building up to is that this project was temporarily overwhelming me. A visit from deputy editor Mark Dixon helped; we pushed the car out of the garage to give it a good look over, and I made a full list of all the jobs that need doing.

    Some of the jobs on the list are ridiculous. Fitting the fuel filler flap! And the badges on the C-pillars! They should be easy to cross off the list, and that will make the last stretch a lot less daunting. Others will be tougher to achieve.

    The next big step is still to start the engine, for which I need the expertise of SM man Andrew Brodie. First there’s Octane deadline week to get through, and then I’m hoping I can drag him here to help.

    Meantime, I’m still to finish the engine bay wiring, and then I’m going to concentrate on clearing space in the garage. If I make the final adjustments to the door window frames, then I can fit the interior door trims and handles. If I climb inside the boot to fit the small lever that’s part of the self-levelling headlight mechanism onto the rear suspension then I’ll be able to refit the many sections of boot carpet, which I’ve freshened up with black aerosol paint.

    That leaves the European-spec nosecone, which I need to dismantle, clean up and paint in Citroën Gris Nacré silver, which Autopaint Rochdale (www.autopaintrochdale. com) mixed up for me a while back. I’ll carry on crossing bits off the list...
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  •   David Lillywhite reacted to this post about 2 years ago
    The JET setters

    Cultured coupés #Jaguar XJ-S VS #Citroen #SM . One a collector’s piece almost before production ceased – the other a British GT that took years to be appreciated on its own merits. Savoir faire v bulldog determination, what 2+2 is for you?

    With the Citroën SM or the Jaguar XJS, you enter not the 1970s but the uber-1970s – Mayfair casinos, fi ne dining and three gallons of Hai Karate aftershave. But will FWD Franco-Italian engineering win over British traditionalism?

    WHICH ONE TO BUY?
    CONTROVERSIAL COUPÉS

    The SM is, quite simply a car of sublime appearance, bestowing upon its owner the air of an International Chap or Chappess of Mystery. Its origins date to the mid-1960s when Citroen’s chief engineer Jacques Né urged the company to build a new flagship model.

    The demise of the #Facel-Vega marque in #1964 meant that there was no French car in the Grand Rouitier class but in January #1968 , Citroën acquired a controlling interest in Maserati. In a six month period the Italian firm created a lightweight 2.7-litre (a larger size would have fallen foul of French tax laws) V6 engine for the SM – or Special Maserati – Coupé.

    Transmission choices were fivespeed manual or three-speed automatic and much of the other running gear was taken from the DS. The coachwork was from Robert Opron, the famed designer of the much underrated GS.

    The SM débuted at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show where it caused an utter sensation, from its six headlamps to its Kamm tail. For 1973 the original engine was augmented by a larger 3.0-litre unit that was not available in the US whilst the 2.7 litre plant gained Bosch fuel injection. The price for the UK model was a steep £5200 – or the price of two XJ6s – and Citroën never offered a RHD conversion (although three were made) – but the main challenge with the SM was not so much its cost as its unreliable engine with its complex timing chains. Worse still, the #1973 Fuel Crisis had a devastating effect on the sales of nearly every prestige car and Citroën was facing bankruptcy after years of overambitious expansion. Negotiations for a take-over by Peugeot commenced in #1974 and the following year the SM was gone. Just as the last #SM was leaving the Vichy works (production was now turned over to Ligier), Jaguar was preparing to launch its first Grand Touring car since the pre-war SS models.

    The XJ coupé was handsome but the XJS, which had been under development for seven years, was flamboyant, down to the flying buttress rear pillars that actually improved stability. The coachwork was largely dictated by fears that Jaguar’s crucial US export markets were going to outlaw convertibles on safety grounds and so the XJS was sold in coupé only form until #1983 .

    Transmission were three-speed #Borg-Warner Model 12 automatic – replaced by #GM-Hydramatic in #1977 – or a fourspeed manual albeit only available until #1979 . Initially only the E-type-derived V12 was offered, albeit in fuel injected form, but by the mid 1980s six-cylinder ‘AJ’ engines became almost the default choice due to their good performance and economy. After the curious-looking SC cabriolet enjoyed a short day in the sun, proper convertibles came on stream in 1988 , three years before the entire range was cleverly facelifted which saw out the range until it was replaced by the XK8.

    Logically speaking the Jag has to be the better buy by dint of their weight in numbers and the choice of body styles and engines.

    But #Jaguar-XJ-S are perhaps all too common and still don’t shout ‘classic’ like they should considering the car is 40 years old. When did you last see an SM Ultra rare sights, they are not cars you’d forget easily although a beauty was at the recent NEC show.

    WHAT’S THE BEST TO DRIVE?
    CHALK AND CHEESE BUT SAME END RESULT


    As you’d half expect given that it’s essentially a more delectable DS, the key to the SM is its effortlessness, which is why they were such a hit with well known racing drivers who needed a fast but easy car to thrash across the Continent to the next Grand Prix meet! The ultra-light #DIRAVI power steering offers very little feedback.

    Similarly the special high pressure hydraulic brakes can also be initially disconcerting – the ‘pedal’ is the supersensitive rubber ‘mushroom’ pad taken from the DS. All of which makes the SM not exactly a car you can instantly jump into and be comfortable with, more so if you don’t particularly like left-hand drivers. That said the Citroën belies its considerable size but the remoteness of the steering and brakes means that care and attention must be paid at all times and it’s hardly a classic you can let friends simply ‘have a go’ in.

    But on the right roads the SM is peerless. The 0-60 time of 8.5 seconds remains respectable enough while the 140mph top speed a testament to the coachwork’s aerodynamic properties, rather than its 170bhp (178bhp on post 1971 fuel injected cars) power, but the SM is at its best insulating the occupants from the cares of the outside world. The headroom is generous, although it helps if rear seat passengers are short, the hatchback is practical (a word not often applied to the SM) and it is difficult to resist a car equipped with rain sensitive windscreen wipers or that typically quirky Citroën dashboard with a speedometer that also indicates stopping distances!

    Meanwhile, an early XJS reminds you that Simon Templar had exceptionally good taste. It would have been too easy for Jaguar to have created a pastiche of ‘good taste’ with overuse of walnut veneer but in fact the cabin (pre-1980 anyway) is low-key in the manner of an aircraft cockpit. As with the Citroën, it helps if the rear seat passengers are Ronnie Corbett rather than John Cleese-sized although as a suave 2+2 the Jaguar has few equals in terms of feelgood factor.

    While opinions will rage about the Jag’s looks and character (insofar it was never the #E-type replacement many thought it would be), few can argue how a good an #XJS still feels. The shortened #XJ12 platform was hugely acclaimed in its day for its prowess and refinement and so long as the suspension is in good order (bushes and IRS wear negates a lot of the above) the Jag still feels a remarkably cosseting coupé. Given the pace of the AJ engines, especially in later 4-litre form, unless you yearn for a V12 you’d be silly to actively seek out one. Apart from performance that doesn’t lag the V12 too much, these six-cylinder engines can return surprisingly good economy – almost 30mpg on a run some owners claim – while the novel J-gate selector design on the automatics provides manual-like control so there’s really no need to seek out a five-speed shift-it-yourself ’box unless you really detest automatics. Overall, the XJS is the better driver than the SM for the vast majority of enthusiasts, although Citroën devotees will love the feel of this sportier #DS with its superb composure that shames many moderns. Once they have attuned themselves to the car and let it flow rather than the usual ‘scruff of the neck’ hard driving, that is.

    OWNING AND RUNNING
    RULE BRITANNIA

    It stands to reason that an XJS is going to be easier to run and own, given its larger club and specialist support and we wager somewhat cheaper than any SM. Also, due to their lack of popularity, XJSs remain incredible value still with only the very best models broaching £20,000 – reckon on half this or less for most reasonable examples. Superb SMs now sell for £30,000 (the actual model and year makes little difference), but like the Jag, you can buy one for a third of this, especially in France. But like the XJS, you largely get what you pay for. Andrew Brodie Engineering is the mainstay for this model and other Citroëns, and says the car’s complex and unreliable reputation is quite unjustified if it is looked after. Spares aren’t a major problem at all it adds (Citroën continued to make SM transmissions for the Lotus Esprit up to the 1990s), but the Maserati engine snapping its sodium filled exhaust valves has become a recent phenomenon, perhaps due to general ageing. Brodie advises all SM owners old and new to the car to have them replaced with reliable solid alternatives (which it stocks) asap. However, the company admits that the £2500 preventative maintenance bill puts most off, especially if the engine appears to be running fi ne. Risk it – but a full rebuild can cost £6500!

    Boss Stuart Ager says most SMs need on average ten grand spent on them to make them good and reliable. Officially 327 UK cars are listed but many have been imported – and exported again. The official owners’ club, Se Manics, reckons there are less than around 200 now.

    WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
    The leading SM expert in the UK is Andrew Brodie, which is now run by Stuart Ager, who – after owning the last one ever made – is writing a special feature on this unique car. Apart from running and repairing them over the years, Stuart has also owned the Citroën’s main rivals such as the #Porsche-928 , #Alfa-Montreal and two XJSs. So speaks from experience when he claims the SM tops them all, care of its superior ultra high speed cruising abilities and long distance comfort, although admits that they need acclimatising to and will never be everybody’s cup of tea. In fact, says Stuart, many are still owned and run as daily drivers by owners who aren’t ‘into’ classics! A good SM is a gem but many aren’t warns Stuart and he can’t stress enough the importance of having the engine’s valves replaced as a matter of urgency...


    AND THE WINNER IS…
    You tell us! About the only things this pair have in common are odd styling and the ability to shrink long journeys. The XJS does it in a traditional way whereas the SM was the most advanced car around when launched 45 years ago and it can still match many moderns as a result. In the end, the choice largely comes down to personal taste and your personal character. If you are an individualist who likes off-the-wall things then nothing does it quite like an SM. It’s a thinking man’s classic and one Car rightly hailed “A car so good the mind boggles”.
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