Home » The Idea Of A Car: Cold Start

The Idea Of A Car: Cold Start

Brochure 1973 Du Page 11
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Jason’s kid has a new bus stop, so he keeps missing his ride to school; hence, Jason is now driving Otto. In case these things came up, he was asking if any of us had a burning desire to do a Cold Start, in the Torch tradition of showing car literature from years past. I am surprised to see that he’s never fully delved into what must be the Greatest Car Brochure Of All Time.

Recently Noel Gallagher mentioned in a documentary that “album covers were the poor man’s art collection.” Today, the digital age has reduced that iconic artwork to a simple square on the screen of your streaming app. The same holds true for car sales material; as a GenX automobile enthusiast, back in the day nothing could beat your personal assemblage of car brochures. To walk your ten-year-old self out of a Porsche dealership with that glossy printed prize in your grasp was a feeling of elation you couldn’t quite describe. Every brochure made a car look far more glamorous than they likely were in real life, but the literature for luxury machines elevated them to near-mythical status in our young minds. To me, the brochure that ranks as the GOAT is easily the one for the 1973 Citroen-Maserati SM.

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I’ve heard marketing people say that they aren’t selling a car; they’re selling the idea of a car. I can’t think of anything that better defines “the idea” of a car than this fifty-year-old car brochure. The SM will forever rank as one of my favorite machines, and part of the appeal is the mystery. Just the idea of an exotic Italian engine in a hydro pneumatically braked, steered, and suspended car is almost too exotic to bear, and you would imagine that anyone owning one of these things would likely lead quite an exciting but challenging life.

The SM brochure seems more like snippets from some foreign language film where the car being sold just happens to appear in it. The film, or brochure, of whatever it is, begins with the shot above of an SM being lifted by crane off of a cargo ship in a manner similar to the heroin-filled Lincoln in The French Connection.

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This scene from the brochure was copied almost verbatim for the opening of the 1988 movie Rain Man, where the Citroen is replaced by one of the Lamborghinis that spell the end of Tom Cruise’s character’s grey market car business.

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A few pages later, we see a beautiful woman riding with what must be The Most Interesting Man In The World. Despite having snagged a guy with an SM, she seems quite sad, lonely, and partially aware of his nefarious activities.

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She might even be yelling at him in one of these shots. “WHAT IS GOING ON, STEFAN??” she screams. “All is fine, darling, nothing to fear” he responds without even taking is eyes off of the road.

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Later images in the brochure make it look as Michelle is right; Interpol is indeed aware that something is up as well and watching her man, as these espionage-style shots track his movement. Is this a car brochure?

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I don’t know what’s happening in this picture book, but the life the people in the brochure are leading seems both exciting and terrifying, which is EXACTLY how I would imagine ownership of a Citroen-Maserati SM would be.

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You do get a standard front/side/back later in subsequent pages, but it’s almost unnecessary.

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Nobody considering the purchase of an SM wanted to check legroom data to compare it to a Mercedes or miles per gallon versus a Jaguar, and if they did this wasn’t a choice for them in the first place.

Marketing people of today need to take note; THIS is how you sell a car.

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Cold Start: The Spaceship You Use To Get Groceries – The Autopian

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Marlin May
Marlin May
7 months ago

Regarding the surveillance photos. He’s clearly a Cary Grant-esque high class thief. The woman in black haute-streetstyle and the pedigreed pooch? She’s picking up the little something he just yoinked from Boucheron. The open trunk? He’s not careless, he’s taunting the Gendarmerie. Michelle is finding out she hasn’t quite convinced him to abandon his old ways.

Last edited 7 months ago by Marlin May
Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
7 months ago

A joy to read. Thought of the Parisian scenes in Sorcerer when I read it 🙂

Chronometric
Chronometric
7 months ago

I’m waiting for Citroen SM, the motion picture.

Autonerdery
Autonerdery
7 months ago

This is fantastic. I love it when the brochure was clearly shot with only one car, maybe two, on hand, whether by necessity or design. Another brilliant one worth checking out in this vein is the 1968 launch brochure for the Jaguar XJ6, which pairs a single burgundy 4.2-litre sedan with a glamorously bored-looking gal with a shellacked beehive and a fur-trimmed wool suit throughout. As a bonus, the text is presented in English, French, and German.

Highland Green Miata
Highland Green Miata
7 months ago

This predicts the extended-form car-commercial-mini-movie by decades. To to this in 1973 they would have had to include an 8mm film projector reel with the brochure (which, given the aesthetic of the brochure, would have looked damn good too).

Turbeaux
Turbeaux
7 months ago

School buses are not what they used to be. I’ve been driving my kid to school all year and trying to get him a bus assignment. Last week they finally sent a letter with his bus stop info. Pickup at 5:26 AM. Looks like I’ll keep bringing him to school.

Echo Stellar
Echo Stellar
7 months ago
Reply to  Turbeaux

Yep, chaos everywhere due to extreme lack in certain labor pools. With 10k boomers reaching retirement age everyday, we just don’t have the bodies to backfill. The new normal!

Data
Data
7 months ago
Reply to  Echo Stellar

Once again the Boomers are screwing over the younger generations. /s

Ottomottopean
Ottomottopean
7 months ago

Bishop (or David), as much as I enjoy your design explorations you need to do more of this. Very well done.

Data
Data
7 months ago

This fan fiction was better than some movies I have seen.
Looking at this car, it occurs to me they could have taken it and plopped it down in Blade Runner/Blade Runner 2049 and it would have looked completely at home. Instead of the Peugot Spinner in 2049 they could have had a Citroen.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
7 months ago
Reply to  Data

I came to the same conclusion while looking at the ad pictures. My money says Denis Villeneuve has a copy of this brochure on his coffee table…

10001010
10001010
7 months ago

“album covers were the poor man’s art collection.”

Looks around the room at all my Iron Maiden and Faith No More posters, shrugs, yeah that sounds right to me.

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
7 months ago
Reply to  10001010

Iron Maiden had the coolest posters!

10001010
10001010
7 months ago
Reply to  Balloondoggle

Derek Riggs has permanently skewed my sense of what makes quality art. Every time I visit an actual art museum I find myself struggling to find any meaning in the paintings in front of me and longing for a Somewhere In Time or Seventh Son poster instead.

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
7 months ago
Reply to  10001010

Ace’s High was my favorite, as it played into my fascination with aviation in general and WWII aircraft in particular.

10001010
10001010
7 months ago
Reply to  Balloondoggle

I had that back patch on my jean jacket back in the 80s. Wish I still had that jacket.

10001010
10001010
7 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

I’ll keep an eye out for that!

Toecutter
Toecutter
7 months ago

That Italian engine was inefficient and destroyed this car’s immense potential for fuel economy.

What this car really needed was a 3L 5-cylinder turbodiesel from Mercedes. This could have been a 50 mpg halo car during the fuel crisis. It wouldn’t have needed much power to hold 140 mph on the Autobahn and with taller gearing, would have been able to do so with that power-starved Mercedes diesel. It is a timeless design that not only holds up well today, but the car itself is more aerodynamically slippery than almost everything sold 50 years later. 0.25 drag coefficient.

Last edited 7 months ago by Toecutter
Toecutter
Toecutter
7 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Chains are a much superior solution. If you see chains instead of belts, that tends to be a good indicator that the engine was built to last. The renown 3800 V6 from GM used a timing chain instead of a timing belt for a reason. In contrast, try changing out a timing belt on a late 90s/early 00s VW 4-cylinder…

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
7 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

*Honda enters the chat*

Seriously though, belts are fine if you change them. Definitely add more maintenance though.

MiniDave
MiniDave
7 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

No, the Maserati V-6 used chains, not on the ends of the cams but in the middle, between the cylinders

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
7 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

The Maserati engine fitted to SM didn’t have timing chain tensioners, which practically killed the engine if the owners weren’t as meticulous with the maintenance as they ought to do.

Toyec
Toyec
7 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Hello Toecutter, I noted that you are often overly optimistic with the drag coefficient of old cars. By example, the SM had probably the best Cx of any car in 1971, but any source I can find says between 0.32 and 0.34, far from 0.25. Which is still excellent, compared notably to the famous Citroën… CX which had a Cx of 0.37.

But I digress, what I primarily wanted to say is that the dream of a more reliable, sober SM, with a mecanic that matches it’s roadholding, one man had it. His name is Georges Regembeau, he was a genius of mecanic, and here is his story :

Postwar “big” Citroëns, the Traction and the HY van, had outdated gearboxes. RG made a name for himself designing a 4-speed gearbox for them. He later worked on the DS’s gearbox, with his job recognized enough so that Citroën itself tasked him with providing gearboxes for the London-Sydney Rallye-Raid !
But his master opus was the SM. First, he fiabilized the V6, then pushed it to 300hp. Then, to make it more compliant with high energy prices, he designed a Diesel engine (the block being probably close to the DS’s 2.3 liter inline-four at the beginning). The first version had an atmo 2.4L making 88hp. The last ones had a 2.65L turboDiesel claiming 165 hp. All of these were coupled to a Regembeau-designed 6-speed manual gearbox, at a time when 4-speed was normal, 3-speed not yet dead and 5-speed was considered top-notch. Apparently, the 165 hp “SM RG Regembeau” were as fast as the stock V6s, but far more sober and reliable. It is said he modified 450 SMs approximately, of which 250 are Diesel powered. Now, if that isn’t a Holy Grail, I don’t know what is.

Toyec
Toyec
7 months ago
Reply to  Toyec

If you want to know more I have this article
https://www.carjager.com/blog/article/sm-rg-regembeau-la-meilleure-des-sm.html
And even here a test drive !
https://newsdanciennes.com/essai-dune-citroen-sm-diesel-regembeau-heresie-originale/
(All in French, but DeepL or Google trad are your friends)
By the way, according to the test drive there is one good and one bad news :
The good one is that the Regembeau garage still exists, owned by Georges’ son.
The bad one is that the Diesel transformation would be closer to 50 examples than 250 and some were converted back so… Holy Holy Grail !

Last edited 7 months ago by Toyec
Toecutter
Toecutter
7 months ago
Reply to  Toyec

Thank you for that info! And the links. 6L/100km is the equivalent of 40 mpg US, which is great for the time period.

Drag coefficients vary depending on where and who is doing the testing. Here’s some articles claiming 0.25-0.26 Cd:

https://www.evo.co.uk/citroen/10852/birth-of-an-icon-1970-citroen-sm

https://www.classicdriver.com/en/article/cars/over-engineered-affordable-classics-episode-1-citroen-sm

https://hymanltd.com/vehicles/5618-1972-citroen-sm-coupe/

https://www.indieauto.org/2020/12/04/citroen-sm-a-surprisingly-conventional-next-step/

https://www.hemmings.com/stories/article/driving-the-future-1972-citron-sm

Either way, the fuel economy figures and claimed 112 mph top speed on 90 horsepower published in the article you provided suggest it would have been closer to a 0.33 value than 0.25, but even 0.33 is still slippery compared to almost anything else you could buy in the 1970s.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
7 months ago

Brochure as cinema: from the people who brought the world “Breathless.” (The original, not the Gere train wreck.)

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
7 months ago

Is “bust stop” a euphemism for a titty bar? I mean, I’m not going to tell you how to parent your kids, but I feel like that’s a bit much too soon.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
7 months ago
Reply to  Duke of Kent

Either that or a place cops hang out to catch kids selling their Ritalin.

My Goat Ate My Homework
My Goat Ate My Homework
7 months ago
Reply to  Duke of Kent

hehe, hey Bevis, he said bust.

Cool Dave
Cool Dave
7 months ago
Reply to  Duke of Kent

I’m not certain what a ‘bust stop’ is but it explains him missing the bus at least.

Drew
Drew
7 months ago
Reply to  Duke of Kent

It could be a place for things that are like statues, but mostly just the head and shoulders. It might be historical, rather than sexual!

Chronometric
Chronometric
7 months ago
Reply to  Drew

I prefer my infantile infatuations.

kingRidiculous
kingRidiculous
7 months ago

This ad is from back when they sold cars. Now they are selling transportation modules. Not need to get artistic for that.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
7 months ago

Patrick McGoogan’s suave but murderous spy drove one of these in a great ’70s Colombo episode.

Fit his character so well, especially as contrasted with Colombo and his ragged Peugeot 403 – there’s a great scene at a gas station where he pulls up as Colombo is counting out loose change to figure out how much gas he can put in.

Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
7 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

This comment is probably going to send me down a Colombo watching rabbit hole this weekend.

Data
Data
7 months ago

Columbo is getting a Blu-Ray release later this year. I’m absolutely going to be picking that up.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
7 months ago

There are worse ways to spend a weekend.

Proracer211
Proracer211
7 months ago

I need more of this espionage

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
7 months ago

Until that last set of photos, I was getting a strong Mad Max: Fury Road vibe.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
7 months ago

Some marketing people are just too grounded to the ground to understand how to properly sell a car. Then again, they sold a shitload of Camrys. So what do I know?

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
7 months ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

Selling a shitload of Camry’s was easy because Camry’s made sense,

Last edited 7 months ago by Lew Schiller
Turbeaux
Turbeaux
7 months ago
Reply to  Lew Schiller

The Camry ad could just be a close up of a man saying “Toyota. It’s Japanese.” and they would sell a shitload of Camrys.

Chronometric
Chronometric
7 months ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

That’s because they have Toyota Jan.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
7 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

Toyota Jan is an example of good marketing. Especially knocked-up Toyota Jan. I bet that sold a crapton of CR-Vs and Siennas.

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