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    To be rediscovered urgently! Citroën SM Nobility obliges by Vincent Desmonts. Photos Laurent Villaron.
    She had everything for her: sumptuously innovative lines, unparalleled comfort, uncompromising handling and even an engine to the nobility all Italian. And yet, the SM was a bitter failure for Citroën and, beyond, for the high-end French. Regrets eternal...

    At the turn of the 1970s, France had dreams of grandeur. The laborious reconstruction is coming to an end, and the country is resolutely moving towards a radiant future where technology will triumph. Two dates particularly symbolize this conquering optimism: on 2 March 1969, the supersonic Concorde made its first flight to Toulouse; On 11 March 1970, the Citroën SM was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show.

    In the air and on earth, the domination of engineering tricolor is total. The Concorde as the SM represents a sort of absolute summit of sophistication and push the limits of physics, the first carrying a hundred passengers to Mach 2, the second combining absolute comfort and total road efficiency. Technological perfections, stinging commercial failures. Greatness and decadence. In the absence of being able to take the orders of the late Concorde, let us install ourselves at the wheel of the "Concorde of the road"!

    The car, which is kindly lent to me by Jean-Marc, is an injection model of 1972, one of the first of its kind, the SM initially benefited from a feeding by three carburettors Weber body notoriously complex to regulate. For Jean-Marc, this car has a special flavour: "My father was a great fan of Citroën, he had almost all models ... except the SM! At the time, with two big teenagers and a dog, it was not really the ideal car, so he preferred a CX. "The" citroenism "being a contagious disease, the son will inherit the virus of his papa ... and will eventually acquire the SM that was missing in the dynasty! "I bought it twenty-six years ago. My father thought it was a funny idea to choose this old thing, that I should have taken a youngster's case, like a Peugeot 309 GTI! But I wanted to give him this pleasure. It was my first old car. Jean-Marc immediately attacked a complete renovation project to restore the car in perfect condition. Much more recently, engine and box have been reconditioned. Now, the beautiful starts in a quarter turn, hot and cold. A real beast of burden!


    Should we return to the emblematic lines of the SM? Everything in it fascinates, starting with its proportions: interminable hood, remote cockpit, truncated rear, uneven tracks. And then there are, of course, a host of details that are not to be found anywhere else, as this ramp of headlights (those in the center rotate at the same time as the steering wheel) under a canopy, registration. Or this air intake on the hood, adorned with rafters. Or these very low tail lights and connected by an orange headband ...

    She deserves her surname

    This Citroen leaves no one indifferent: we adore it, we hate it ... or change. Younger, I was baffled by this atypical physique. Today, I am admiring. Incredibly modern in 1970, it remains fascinating almost half a century later. The cockpit is a concentrate of the time, with its curved seats (totally devoid of lateral support!), Steering wheel and oval counters, or its many touches of chrome.

    Behind this apparent frivolity hides a rather rigorous conception. The ergonomics are particularly elaborate, with a driver's seat with multiple adjustments and a steering wheel adjustable in height and depth, a refinement very rare at the time. So the driving position is excellent. There are however some false notes, like the instrumentation little readable, or the famous car radio installed ... between the seats.

    But do not complain too much: the air conditioning was (already) standard! Our trial takes place in the beautiful region of the French Vexin, hilly, wooded and game. A small paradise for lovers of nature, but a real torture for cars seen the state of dilapidation of the secondary network. But the SM has it magical that it seems to hover over the road. Holes, bumps, speed bumps and other nest-drops are literally rubbed out. It is no longer a car, it is an iron! More surprising, despite its balloon tires and its fascinating softness, the SM does not "lay" at the first turn: its hydropneumatic suspensions also act as an anti-roll, so that the lack of maintenance of the seats is no longer really a problem ... at least for the driver.

    In general, beyond her comfort, the SM amply deserves her surname of "Her Majesty". Its track record is

    Incredibly serene, its wide front lanes ensure a great stability in curve and its road behaviour is still perfectly current. Even braking has not (too) aged ... once you get used to this tiny mushroom it is better to brush than to sink. So imagine in 1970! What car could have held such a high pace, so long, in the hands of just about any driver?

    It's simple: none. It is not I who said it, it is José Rosinski, obviously very impressed by the SM Injection during his test for Sport Auto in 1972 (see previous page)! It is necessary to make an aside about the direction, the famous Diravi which caused a lot of ink to flow. This "reminding direction" was the first to offer variable speed-dependent assistance. The system used the hydraulic system pressure and a centrifugal governor connected to the output shaft of the gearbox to adjust the assistance in terms of the appearance: very gentle manoeuvres, firmer highway. On paper, it's great. In fact, it's ... disturbing! The Diravi filters all the sensations that could rise from the front axle, leaving only the centering force, which remains active at all speeds.

    Practical when maneuvers, where it is enough to release the steering wheel so that it returns to the point zero. More disturbing on the road, where the recall is too marked in the great curves. And in the tightest corners, it's the ultimate acceleration (only two turns from stop to stop) that surprises: one tends to overbrack! Some will see intolerable defects, others, simple peculiarities which are just the attraction and originality of the SM.


    What about the block? It is of course a #Maserati-V6 , designed by Giulio Alfieri from an 8-cylinder, which explains its opening at 90° and its idle an irregular strand. But this 2.7-liter engine is quite modern for its time, with a block and alloy cylinder heads (but cast iron liners), four camshafts head and two valves per cylinder. It is lightweight (140 kg) and of remarkable compactness, so that it has been possible to install it very backwards with respect to the front axle for a better distribution of the masses. It offers performances which were certainly not extraordinary, but which are still very correct today. José Rosinski clocked the SM at 30.5 s on the stopped start kilometer, the excellent aerodynamics allowing a maximum speed of more than 220 kmh.

    In terms of character, the Maserati V6 is distinguished more by its roundness than by its sound, finally quite enough. The 5-speed gearbox (installed in front of the engine), with the control well guided, is a pleasure to handle. The commercial failure of DM, which has many reasons, has been widely discussed. First, Citroën dealers were reluctant to take over the costly Porsche or Mercedes from the wealthy clientele attracted by the SM. Then the incredible technical complexity of this auto disarmed the mechanics. As for its high consumption (20 litres - 100 km according to Jean-Marc!), It could no longer fall badly, in full oil shock. Finally, if the American market first welcomed DM, absorbing one third of production, a sudden change in regulation will ban purely and simply hydropneumatic suspension cars. In 1975, Michelin sold Citroën to Peugeot, which quickly disposed of #Maserati (sold to de Tomaso). Sacrificed on the altar of industrial rationalization, the SM will preserve forever a taste of lost paradise.

    True, the Citroen SM is full of defects. Its rear seats are symbolic, its chest is monopolized by the enormous spare wheel, its engine lacked character and its direction has what to baffle the most impassive driver. But his ability to swallow the miles at great speed, serenely and in a princely comfort fascinates forty-seven years after his appearance. She has cast a spell on me: I am in love!

    Technical data #Citroen-SM / #Citroen / #Citroen-SM-2.7IE / #Citroen-SM-ie / #1972

    Engine 6-cylinder #V6 at 90°
    Cylinder capacity 2670cc
    Distribution 4 overhead camshafts, 12-valve
    Maximum power 178bhp at 5500 rpm DIN
    Maximum torque 232 Nm at 4000 rpm DIN
    Power supply #Bosch electronic fuel injection
    Transmission Manual transmission, 5-speed
    Suspension front / rear Independent wheels, Hydropneumatic spheres
    Brakes 4-disc front / rear
    Wheels Front / Rear tires 205 VR 15
    Dimensions 4.89 x 1.84 x 1.32 m
    Weight 1490 kg
    Tank 90 liters
    Price in France 1972 58,200F
    Price EU 2017 18,000 € approximately
    Performance Max speed: 228 kph / 0-62 MPH (0 to 100 kph) 8.9 s
    Fuel consumption average / 29MPG / 11.2 litres 100 km
    THE OPINION OF ... VINCENT DESMONT What Sport Sport said ... August 1972


    Driving a SM remains a source of wonder. It is not that it is perfect, of course, but it retains in some respects - not least - such an advance on everything that is being constructed at present, it demonstrates such a personality, and it dispenses Such satisfactions that it continues to stand quite apart. Undoubtedly, for road use made long journeys, it is difficult to find a competitor in terms of performance-comfort-safety synthesis. Certainly there are cars that are brighter, more manageable, more amusing, but, it seems to us, none that can surpass the SM in the set of qualities that it offers. Criticism, we have always to oppose it: the ratio of external bulkiness / habitability is ridiculous, the visibility towards the front is mediocre, the braking control ensured by the absurd DS type button lack of progressivity, the accelerations are far from The capacity of the luggage compartment is devoured by the voluminous spare wheel which throne there... But, in the end, all this does not count in front of the extraordinary balance of efficiency of road that reaches the SM thanks to Its exceptional steering with progressive assistance and its unparalleled suspension, serving excellent mechanics. It is necessary to have conducted a SM on a secondary national in mediocre state to realize the absolutely astounding level that this efficiency achieves.



    "Like the Concorde, SM represents a sort of absolute summit of sophistication"


    One of the distinguishing features of the SM style is the ventilation grille hitting the rafters on the hood.
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    Year of manufacture #1972
    Recorded mileage 5277km
    Asking price £15,500
    Vendor Legends Automotive, Bourton-on-the-Water, Glos; tel: 01451 821611;

    CAR #Citroen-SM-EFI / #Citroen-SM / #Citroen-SM-US / #1972 / #Citroen-SM-2.7 / #Citroen-SM-2.7IE / #Citroen
    Price £5478
    Max power 178bhp
    Max torque 164lb ft
    0-60mph 9.3 secs
    Top speed 139mph
    Mpg 18-25

    Delivered new to Enrico Ventuali of the SM Club of Italy, this example came to the UK in 2005, just after having a major mechanical overhaul. Within the past two years it has, unfortunately, received a US-style snout rather than rectifying the problems with the factory set-up. Apparently, the going rate to supply and fit a European front end is about £2000. It’s in fairly decent condition, though post-headlight change it has been resprayed in nearly the original shade of gold. There are some bubbles at the front of the bonnet, a couple of small scrapes in the paint further back and there is a little surface rust in both door bottoms. The stainless-steel bumpers are good, although their rubbers are awry.

    It’s all solid underneath, with new stainless exhausts from the manifolds back, but again there’s some surface rust on both sides at the front of the floorpans. It hasn’t gone through but needs attention now. The tyres are decent Michelin XASs, with an older, almost-done Pirelli on the spare. The main hydraulics seem fine, with newish-looking spheres all round, although there’s dampness around the clutch master cylinder that will be investigated. Otherwise it’s all smart and original inside. The facia and dashboard top are perfect, the front leather could do with a colour and feed, plus the rear seats are OK apart from sun damage on the tops. Mechanically, the SM drives nicely with all systems working and no warning lights. Fire it up to enjoy that lovely ‘bank-of-chain-saws’ cackle from the off-kilter Maserati quad-cam 90º V6 and the suspension rises within 20 secs, after which it lifts to full height and kneels on command. The engine, original to the car and with good fuel pipes, is smooth and free-revving, but there’s a minor blow from where the old and new exhaust sections meet. Once pressured up, the steering is as sharp as it should be, plus the Citroën drives and brakes straight and the gearchange works fine – though fifth is a tad obstructive. The temperature gauges sit slap in the middle of the white ‘safe’ sections. Yes, the car sighs and groans to itself, but this is simply the sign of a happy SM. The MoT runs until February.


    EXTERIOR Repainted, with a few flaws
    INTERIOR Original and generally tidy
    MECHANICALS Mostly sorted condition; clutch master to be attended to
    VALUE ★★★★★★✩✩✩✩

    For Drives well; cheaper than best European-fronted examples
    Against Less-attractive US nose


    Fairly priced to use and enjoy. It doesn’t make economic sense to re-do the front at present, but you could consider it at a later date.
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