The Citroën SM Is the Greatest GT of All Time, and I'm Selling Mine—Here's Why
This example of the most perfect grand tourer of all time can be yours. And, yes: of course there's a catch.
The SM was Citroën’s high-water mark: an incredibly aerodynamic, front-wheel drive, French-bodied GT powered by a Maserati V6, using the famed self-leveling hydropneumatic suspension and DIRAVI active steering. It was light years ahead of its time when it came out. In many ways, it still is.
Mine is a rare five-speed manual with the three-liter motor, rebuilt in 2014 by retired Citroën mechanic Jaques Brunet. All other service since 2010 was handled by the world-famous SM expert Jerry Hathaway at SM World. Yes, there’s a guy who only works on the SM; call Jerry and you’re one degree of separation from Jay Leno, who won’t go anywhere else with his.
Here’s why the SM is the greatest grand tourer of all time. Let’s start with the definition of a GT, from Wikipedia:
Grand Tourer (or “GT”): a performance and luxury automobile capable of high speed and long-distance driving. The most common format is a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive two-door coupé with either a two-seat or a 2+2 arrangement.
Let's move on to note that Wikipedia is wrong.
A grand tourer is designed to transport two good-looking couples from Paris to Monte Carlo in style and comfort, and also haul their weekend bags. Ideally, even if those people are not good-looking getting in, they will be getting out.
By that standard, every GT since the SM is junk. The Bentley Continental GT is okay, but the ride is stiff by comparison, and the rear comfort is laughable. The Aston Martin DB 11? Also junk. The BMW 6-series? More junk. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe? A gilded brick, and everybody has one. Also, junk. And tacky.
But have you see an SM parked on the street? My god, everything else looks broken next to it.
Performance? The SM will do 140 mph, even if getting there takes a while. Zero to 60 mph? Nobody cares. Have you seen this thing in motion? It looks like a spaceship. The Maserati motor spooling up past 3500? Cool, but also, nobody cares. Put it in 5th gear on the highway and it's quieter than most modern cars.
Nobody cares about handling when you’re going in straight line, which is what the SM was designed to do all day and at high speed. Control inputs/outputs resemble a gondola on wheels. Turn the high-assisted steering even a few degrees off-center and the entire car leans like a sailboat with an outboard. Again, nobody cares. Have you seen this thing? When manufacturers talk about lifestyle, they’re talking about the SM.
The SM has the best ergonomics in the world, despite the fact that it was created before almost anybody knew what "ergonomics" were. It can be steered with one finger. All the gauges are large, clear, and come in groovy ovals. The clock says Jaeger. The shifter doesn’t look gated but feels like it is. The radio is mounted sideways, between the seats. Fix it if you want. I installed a removable Alpine underneath the left side of the dash.
Comfort? You can run over a pothole or speed bump at high speed and barely feel it. Keep a can of LHM hydraulic fluid handy in case you have to refill the system. Mine’s good for now, because I’ve already paid for the heavy lifting. (Did I mention I have all service records for eight years? You don't want an SM without service records. Trust me.) The front seats are so good, you’re likely to fall asleep in them. The rear? With a six-footer in the front, a 5’10” supermodel will fit in the back. It’s a French GT, after all.
Braking? There’s a funny mushroom shaped pedal that performs things resembling braking. Plan in advance. World class when it came out, Motor Trend declared it Car of the Year. Which is great and all, but still, plan in advance.
Style? Look at it. Just look at it. Everything about it. Car designers today should be ashamed.
It’s the best road-going SM that hasn’t been 100 percent restored by SM World. If and when you’re ready, you can spend $20K-$50K with Jerry to turn it into a show car—but why would you, until you have to? It had a $16K engine rebuild in 2014, which means as long as you get it checked out every 2,000 miles, you’ve got a ways to go before needing any major work.
So what’s the catch?
You don’t want to work on this yourself. Unless you’re ready to ship this car to SM World, your alternatives are Dave Burham in New York, or Denis Foley, who sold it to me. It’s a small world if you want this done right.
You may ask why I'm selling it, especially since the list of reasons to keep it is so long I should pull the Bring a Trailer listing right now.
I don’t want to say goodbye to my Citroën SM—my one true love, my only honest relationship, my mechanical wife—but I must. True love isn’t about money. It’s about time. I’ve already bought her all the gifts. Time? Not so much. She lives in SoCal; I in New York City. I don't have room in lower Manhattan to store her, and salt is bad for 1973 cars. Besides, I’ve been dating a Morgan 3-wheeler for the last four years. This can’t go on. My SM wants to go out, and I can’t take her. Thirty-five years after first seeing her, seven years after we first met, it’s time to go our separate ways.
Interested? Here's the listing on Bring a Trailer, with scans of service records and tons of pictures.
Alex Roy, editor-at-large for The Drive, Host of The Autonocast, co-host of /DRIVE on NBC Sports and author of The Driver, has set numerous endurance driving records in Europe & the USA in the internal combustion, EV, 3-wheeler & Semi-Autonomous Classes, including the infamous Cannonball Run record. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.