Well now, this is exciting. The iconic Citroën SM turns forty years old today. First introduced at the Geneva Motor Show on March 11, 1970, the SM was incredibly advanced for its time. In fact, there are those who would argue that it's still way ahead of the curve.
A couple of basics, if you will. SM stands for Sports Maserati (though some argue it stands for Sa Majesté in reference to the DS – i.e. Goddess, i.e. La déesse'). While probably not the wisest financial decision of all time, Citroën purchased Maserati in 1968. As such, they were able to use the new 90-degree V6 Maserati had developed. Essentially a V8 with two-cylinders lopped off, the SM's V6 (also shared with the Maserati Merak) is one of the most fantastically complex engines ever conceived. How does three timing chains strike you?
But the SM was much more than a powerful (for the time) engine in a sleek and sexy, Robert Opron designed aircraft grade aluminum body. The SM featured the world's first variable-assist power steering system (known as DIRAVI) which is so insanely complicated that we can't even begin to describe it to you (it involves heart shaped cams). Also, the SM featured one-turn to lock. Needless to say, the DIRAVI was tied into the SM's oleopneumatic system. What's oleopneumatic? A fancy French way of saying an oil-based hydropneumatic system.
Besides the steering the suspension, headlights, brakes and transmission were all run off the SM's hydraulic system. Headlights? Yup. The SM featured six headlights behind a beautiful glass cover, two of which turned with the steering wheel, and six could pivot up and down depending on rear ride height. In other words, if the rear of the car was loaded down, the lights would automatically adjust to point straight ahead so as not to blind oncoming motorists.
Back in 1970, not only was the SM the fastest front-wheel drive car in the world (the factory claimed 137 mph, but many took the cars up to 145 mph), it had the shortest stopping distance of any car, period. Credit the dual-channel hydro-brakes and the fact that the front rotors are inboard. In fact, rumor has it that until the Porsche 959 showed its face in 1986, the SM was the production deceleration king. One last little tidbit. As far as we know, the Citroën SM is the only car ever designed specifically to seat two men up front and two women in the back. Amazing, no? Happy birthday SM! Maybe in another forty years the world will be ready to embrace you. Read the press release after the jump.