After all the violence of the Carrera RSR Turbo 2.1 and the 935 last Tuesday it’s time to concentrate a bit more on style. And what better brand for that than Citroën? And the most stylish to me is the one they called Majestic. The SM. Sa Majesté. Her Majesty.
Some say though that SM wasn’t for Sa Majesté. As Citroën was the owner of Maserati back then the Italian Sportscar maker was highly involved in development of the SM. Therefor the abbreviation, according to those in doubt, was for Sport Maserati. Or Système Maserati.
The project to create a sporty, high-end car based on the DS (la Déesse, goddess in French) was already made in 1961, long before Maserati joined in the fun though. Of course the name could have changed over the project or it all was one big coincidence. Whatever. Sa Majesté it is to me.
Most facts are well-known: Design by Robert Opron, Maserati V6 in either 2.7 or 3.0, 3 double Webers or Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection, hydro-pneumatic self-leveling suspension and self-leveling lights that swiveled with the steering. Of course those headlights were not for the USA edition, the nose on that one as a result was hideous compared to the “rest of the world”-edition.
But it featured a lot more weird features. It was “unsporty” FWD. The transmission was mounted in front of the engine. The whole concept was mid-engine with that engine way behind the front axle. And it got Citroën’s DIRAVI steering. DIrection à RAppel asserVI. Direction with controlled return. And if one of you ever drove a CX (which had DIRAVI as well): There’s not much control about it...
It means that the steering, the moment you don’t touch the steering wheel, will be centered. Probably within 0.10 seconds. Then again: it is highly assisted. Steering really requires minimal physical exertion. In this SM the steering wheel can be turned lock-to-lock (two revolutions) with one finger when the car is standing still.
One thing the DIRAVI didn’t provide though was “feeling” or feedback in that steering. There was another new feature with the DIRAVI: the force of assist wasn’t based on RPMs as it was usual back then, the strength of assistance was totally based on speed. A novelty back then.
All kinds of celebrities acknowledged the class and style of the SM. Brezhnev had an SM. Jay Leno still has one (obviously). Rolling Stone Bill Wyman just sold his, band member Charlie Watts had one as well, without even having a driver’s license. Idi Amin had seven, while the Shah of Iran had only one. Johan Cruyff got one on a cheap lease from Citroën Netherlands in his Ajax days but as soon as the lease ended he bought one himself. Mike “the Bike” Hailwood cruised one from Euro Grand Prix to Euro Grand Prix. And if Commander Adama (Lorne Greene) drove one you know it’s good for at least warp speed.
Of course the SM ended up in several Frech/Belgian comics as well. I know Willy Vandersteen’s Lambik drove one in an episode of Suske en Wiske (Spike and Suzy in England, Willy and Wanda in USA, Bob et Bobette en France). I just can’t find any picture of that. Tintin’s Hergé used it in promotional items for Citroën, too bad it didn’t end up in an actual Tintin episode.
With 12.920 units produced in 6 years (1970-1975) and the quality reputation of Citroën you instantly know not many are to be seen on the roads. I expect the survival rate to be decent as it was an instant classic but still. Last of the SMs were produced at Ligier’s, the last two years very few were made. The US-market was left due to NHTSA-regulations regarding bumper height and maintenance was a disaster as you needed both a specialist in hydraulics and Maserati engines. It proved to be a terrible businesscase.
The model is a 1/43 from... I have no idea! This one is one of my loose casts so no box. The undercarriage just states “Citroën SM”. And “1/43". It doesn’t feel terribly cheap, although I’m sure it was. The SM is one of the cars I might end up having a bigger scale of. Otto has an amazing Proto Michelin “Breadvan” that’s been hunting my dreams for quite some time now.
Not as refined, stylish, a bit (!) brutal. But that’s it for today’s French Friday, which isn’t even started by me today! So this will turn out to be an awesome French Friday. Vive la France, vive Sa Majesté, vive LaLD!