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Cold Start: The Spaceship You Use To Get Groceries


If you look at a Citroën SM and don’t find some part of your body getting turgid or pulsating a bit more rapidly then I’d suggest that you shouldn’t bother showing up for work, because, buddy, you’ve expired.

What I really love about the SM is that it’s not intimidatingly sleek or elegant; it’s both of those things, but there are still some odd choices throughout the car–proportions of windows, the odd low placement of the taillights, the friendly cocktail party of angles going on–and all of that, somehow, makes it more approachable and friendly, takes the coldness out of what could otherwise be an overly analytical design.

I love it.

Now, for the part of this where I just talk to you readers about what’s going on! Damn, this is a lot of work with a small staff! We have so many great contributors, but the day-to-day is a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and adore writing things for you to read, but before we staff up, oh man, there’s a decent chance David might end up hiring goons to work me over, just to relieve the stress.

That’s okay. I bet it’ll be kind of like a massage.

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39 Responses

  1. Lotto win purchase for me. Then again, if you squint real hard and rationalize your ass off, the Honda Accord 2.0T Sport looks like a CX, which is sort of real close to the SM.

    Oh, never mind.

    P.S. there are no grays!

  2. The SM is one of those cars I really want to own despite the trembling in my gut and wallet at the prospect of care and feeding, I always loved the styling, the spaceship interior, the weird brake button and the fact that it looks like nothing else.

    It has aged gracefully. The US version was a travesty, the front end completely ruined by the regulations than banned the directional lights and the gorgeous curved glass. I have a photo of a convertible in my files ( not entirely successful) but have no idea how to post and image here.

  3. As achingly gorgeous and French and quirky and clever and frustratingly stupid as those things are, I get the feeling that the appellation SM is not coincidental…

    Iain Tyrrell did have a YouTube update on the SM that appeared on The Grand Tour and there were a few unplanned quirks that needed sorting.

    I think if you owned one of these you would probably end up describing it as “the best worst car I’ve ever owned”. To date, my version of that was a 2002 VW Bora V6 4Motion, and I suspect that would be a paragon of sense and reliability compared to an SM.

  4. The quirky brilliance of a Citroen .

    I am sure I am not alone in thanking you, David, and all the staff for working hard to put out a new website and keep content flowing. I did my best to support by buying a Torchinsky designed shirt 🙂 I do have a Torch with Puppies picture if you want it as well.

    If you start having burnout or need articles, maybe interview a reader and/or have them right a post about something automotive in their lives?

  5. As the former owner of a Citroen CX 2000 while living in Germany, I wish to say it was far and away one of the most fantastic machines I’ve ever owned. Fast, quiet, perfect ride, etc. etc.

    It also gave its life saving mine. A truck driver pulled directly into my path when I was doing about 100kmph. The fold under front end design worked as planned. Post crash I found my self sitting above the front end of the car!

    The reason I began this post was to note the similarity of design in the CX and the SM. There couldn’t have been an SM without the CX. If I could post pictures here I would show you what my silver ghost looked like. All things in time.

      1. Yes, the SM was developed and produced before the CX. Aesthetically as well as technically, the CX is the successor of the SM, however unfortunately the CX was never sold with anything else than a 4 cylinder. The turbo was fast for the time, but it wasn’t very refined.
        I think the CX, especially the long wheel base version (CX Prestige), looked fantastic, and the Station Wagon is worth mentioning too.

  6. What a magnificent piece of rolling sculpture the SM is. I would love to own one, but I don’t have deep enough pockets unfortunately. Not that it would be within my price range either, but I’d also love to see Stellantis make a modern version with a Maserati TTV6, assuming they could get the styling right.

  7. On the note of Citroens, I desperately need someone to talk me out of purchasing a C5X when they hit Aussie shores later this year. The combination of quirks, comfort and practicality are just too much for me to ignore

  8. Too many comments above to which I thoroughly agree. Including the Jensen Interceptor one. Brings back memories. My high school band director had one of those. He raced Alfa GTV’s and an Abarth Fiat 850 Racer with a 128 engine sandwiched in the tail at Bridgehampton. Always loved, loved, loved the SM. Incredibly beautiful yet somehow nobody seemingly has tried to duplicate the sensuous (and efficient) shape.

    It’s been said (likely by Autoweek when it was a newspaper-shaped weekly periodical) that the Citroen suspensions were created so incredibly soft and compliant because the French had absolutely terrible toilet paper…..

    1. The suspension is actually a pretty simple system and easy to fix. And it’s probably the most reliable component/system on any Citroen that had it, and also more reliable and cheaper to maintain than other hydraulic or pneumatic systems.
      The biggest problem with the SM is availability of parts. It does share parts with the DS (and maybe the CX), but unlike the DS, they built very few of these, so anything bespoke to this car is going to be hard to find.

  9. This car had a drag coefficient of 0.25, according to its original wind tunnel tests, and weighed in at 3,200 lbs. That is comparable to today’s Toyota Prius, except this car is more than 50 years old. It did have a very inefficient and high-strung 2.7L Maserati V6 like the one in the Maserati Merak, which is why its fuel economy wasn’t so great. Its performance of 0-60 mph in around 7 seconds and a top speed of 140 mph, was comparable to a Jaguar E-Type from the period.

    If they wanted to sell more of them during the fuel crisis, they should have put in a 3L 5-cylinder turbodiesel from a Mercedes 300SD, and tuned it to make more power. This had potential to be a performance car that got 40+ mpg highway, and 30+ mpg city. Had such a thing been done, it might have held up very favorably compared to today’s offerings, and during the 1970s fuel crisis, well-heeled buyers would have been onto it like flies on crap.

  10. I’ve been jonesing for one of these since the 8th grade. I still have a brochure a friend gave me back then. Jerry Hathaway (SM savant, passed away last year) let me drive one in 2010. I would have bought one from him, but the bank wouldn’t finance a car that was going to double in price. Instead they financed a car that lost about 75% of it’s value – a new 2010 Mazda 3 wagon. While the Mazda 3 wagon was a delightful car, it wasn’t an SM. Jerry was going to sell me the SM for $22,000. It was a daily runner. Perfect for me. Showroom SM’s were going for $45,000 at the time. Showroom ones now go for $70-$80,000. Dailies are in the $40-$50,000 range. Banks. It’s always banks.

  11. A couple years ago I saw Jay Leno in his SM with an enormous suitcase in the passenger seat. I like to think that suitcase contained precious cargo that he only trusted to survive the trip through Coldwater Canyon with the smooth ride you can only get from hydropneumatic suspension.

  12. In the Western Development Museum in North Battleford, Sk. there is, somehow, an absolutely impeccable Citroen SM looking like a space ship in the middle of a ton of antiques from the turn of the century. The sign says it was donated by a local doctor, presumably because he couldn’t find parts.

  13. The SM falls into a very narrow class of cars for me that I would buy not running or even having a drivetrain just too park next to my other cars in the garage as a sort of inspirational sculpture.

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