One of my favorite automotive histories that I haven’t yet really looked into is the nationalist French drive for total Formula One and sports car racing victory in the late 1960s and 1970s. French drivers in French cars using French engines with government backing took outright wins all over the world. I’d love to know more about the context behind the gorgeous propaganda of the time. I feel that this history would give a better understanding of Citroën’s decision to build the SM, the first great French post-war grand tourer since the pre-war greats like Bugatti, Delage, and Talbot-Lagot petered out in the late 1940s.
But let me not relegate the SM to its time – then one would get caught up and entangled in the 1973 Oil Crisis and one might remember this car as a too-thirsty, too expensive addition to the market, defined by product planning and economic conditions of the early 1970s.
If you are looking for a in-depth history of the SM, Ate Up With Motor took the time to produce another great article available here.
However, have never felt I’ve had too much to say about the SM. The moment I saw this car, I was wholly speechless. It’s just not something that one sees – too rare, to temperamental to be anything other than a junkyard heap or a garage queen.
I don’t think that I will try and explain my attraction to old Citroëns, but suffice to say I was both a complete follower of the brand’s cult as well as thoroughly starved of hands-on experience in America. When I was getting ready for my year abroad in Berlin I dreamed that I might see some of the strange European automotive fantasies I’d read about in stolen hours at the public library. The SM represented the pinnacle of these automotive forbidden fruits.
I never imagined that I’d see an SM and I never dreamed that I would see one so soon. It was like Berlin had opened its arms to me in that early August morning. The air couldn’t quite decide if it was hot or cold – crisp and muggy at the same time.
That is my problem, I can only approach the SM, come near it asymptotically, approach it like an event horizon. This Citroën possess too many of the qualities I adore in cars, it is too sweet a design, to rich a fantasy for me to truly engage.
That is one reason why I try to think of it historically. With the SM, a car of fascinating context, this kind of approach is like looking with eyes half-closed, squinting at the sun too bright to really see.