Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Sa Majesté conduit par technologie ! - Citroen SM

If ever there was an automobile manufacturer that highlighted how conservative the automobile industry is, it would be Citroen, who during their years of ownership by Michelin really pushed the envelope with some out of the box thinking in terms of approach, technical innovation and design to their automotive solutions.

Top of the list of Citroens innovative vehicles I would put the UFO like Citroen SM launched in 1970. This GT car was born in part out of Citroens ownership of the Maserati brand. Note the inner pair of headlights turned with the steering wheel to help drivers see around corners, an innovation carried over from the Citroen DS.

Powered by a 178hp 2.7 litre / 164.7 cui (US 180 hp 3 litre / 183 cui) 90 degree V6 as used in the Maserati Merak, the SM was the most powerful front wheel drive vehicle of its time. The car featured not only self levelling suspension capable of running on just three wheels but also innovative variable assist power steering with just one turn from lock to lock, that was also self centering.

Just as the DS became known as 'La déesse' - 'The Goddess' the SM became known as 'Sa Majesté' - 'Her Majesty', though the S probably stems from 'Project S' which started the SM ball rolling and M unsurprisingly probably comes from Maserati.

Styling by Robert Opron reflected his American influenced tastes including these stainless steel fins in the rear bumper design.

The SM had an exceptionally low drag co efficient of 0.26, does anyone remember the fuss Audi made in 1982 when their C3 100, 200, 5000 series came out with a drag co efficient of 0.30 ?

Amazingly when Citroen decided to prove the SM's prowess in motor sport they chose to debut the car not on the race track but on the hard core African 1971 Rallye du Maroc which it promptly won. Later a 'bread van' version was also used in rally events.

In 1987 Jerry Hathaway turbocharged an SM and his wife Sylvia took a production class land speed record at 202 mph at Bonneville that still stands. Jerry also built a cool matching SM tow truck and trailer rig on which to transport the LSR SM.

Hope you enjoyed today's edition of Gettin' a lil' psycho on tyres, don't forget to come back now !


  1. It's all French to me!
    Ha, no, it's another good lesson, Art! You are a walking encyclopedia of car facts!!

  2. Like some Citroens, did the suspension this model cause the car to "hunker down" when parked, and then rise to the occasion when upon ignition?

  3. Indeed Steve the SM like the DS before and GS, BX, Xantia, C5, CX, XM and C6 models that followed all had a hydropneumatic self levelling suspension system, which 'hunkers' down when parked.

    Although from memory of driving a BX many years ago I believe it is possible to lock the suspension in a 'raised' mode so as to change punctured tyres.

    Rolls Royce / Bentley and Mercedes took out licenses to use similar systems on the Silver Shadow/T, Silver Spur/Mulsanne and W116 450 SEL 6.9 models respectively. These latter vehicles used conventional springs to prevent them from hunkering down.

  4. But it is still a butt-ugly car...

  5. Pah ! You conservatives, no imagination ! What else can I say :-)

  6. Erratum: in response to a question about the Citroen SM suspension above on October 20th I stated that 'Rolls Royce / Bentley took out licenses to use similar (Citroen hydropneumatic self levelling) systems on the Silver Shadow/T, Silver Spur/Mulsanne' in fact the Rolls Royce Silver Spirit/Spur Bentley Mulsanne and have a Girling automatic hydraulic ride height control system riding on gas charged shock absorbers. Apologies for any confusion that arose.