Story and Photos Mike Spicer
The first time I ever saw a Citroën SM Coupé was in the opening scene of the 1974 film The Longest Yard with Burt Reynolds. He steals one and is chased by police in dramatic fashion, ending with the car going into the river. Now that this car was in my memory banks I would always gravitate toward them at car shows or on the street to check them out.
The Citroën SM high-performance Coupé only had a five year run from 1970 to 1975 and took full advantage of the 1968 acquisition of Maserati to have the car fitted with a Maserati engine. A perfect marriage of dramatic styling with proven power.
It was on the forefront of progressive technology at the time with a very low drag coefficient, self-leveling suspension, front wheel drive, 146 mph, and variable assist power steering. U.S. markets mandated sealed beam uncovered headlamps while other markets had covered headlamps that moved with the direction of the steering. All of these innovative features helped make it a symbol of the future.
While walking around a Citroën SM Coupé you can’t help but be sucked in by the design styling, partially because it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen and partially because the lines flow so well. Once you get past the smooth exterior you’re confronted with the elegance of the interior and start to notice the details.
A few things factored into the demise of the Citroën SM Coupé. The European GT market was pretty small so most of the cars were made for the U.S. market. With its variable height suspension, the 1974 U.S. bumper regulation doomed compliance and its ability to be sold in the U.S. Along with the 1974 bankruptcy of Citroën, Peugeot purchased the company and deemed sales too low to continue building the car as well as selling off Maserati. And as a knock out punch there was an oil crisis going on!
Next time you’re around a Citroën SM Coupé it’s worth stopping and taking notice. I feel the bold styling has stood the test of time and incorporates a fascinating mixture of technology and art.