Street-Spotted: Citroën SM

Jackson Wheeler
6 Min Read

Citroën’s last cameo appearance in the US was in the early 1990s, when about two dozen XM sedans (as well as a couple of station wagons) were imported by CXA Automotive. The spacious and space ship-style sedan was strictly for the marque faithful, and took some trouble to federalize, with the final price rivaling the German executive cars of the time.

But Citroën’s last model to be officially sold in the US was a space ship of its own, albeit with two fewer doors. The SM coupe, with Maserati’s V6 under the long hood, tempted a slightly different crowd in the first half of the 1970s, from 1971 to 1973 to be precise. And it also required plenty of federalization work.

But before we get to that, it’s useful to recall just what the SM, or Sport Maserati, promised buyers fifty years ago.

Styled by Robert Opron, the SM was in part a product of Citroën’s purchase of Maserati. The French marque obtained engines that were perhaps too decadent for most French car buyers, but were just right for a low-volume coupe that could serve as a halo car, while also offering Citroen’s trademark oleo-pneumatic suspension.

Debuting at the Geneva motor show in 1970, the SM was the first French grand tourer in quite some time, and easily the most decadent when it came to interior accommodations. The long hood bought plenty of space for 2.7- and 3.0-liter Maserati engines, as well as Citroën’s little green grenades that made for a supernaturally smooth ride, one that’s never quite been replicated by other automakers.

a white car parked in front of a fence

Despite the high number of federalized examples that were sold in North America, quite a few SMs now wear retrofitted or original European glasses.


When it came to US sales, the SM took some trouble for the automaker to conform to our extensive requirements. The swiveling headlights that turned inside the glass greenhouse had to, replaced by four round sealed beams fixed into place. The glass veneer was removed as well, while the coupe gained some length via revised front bumpers.

The result was, well, certainly different and perhaps less futuristic, but the profile of the long coupe assured that it wouldn’t be confused for anything else on the road. The entire model run was quite modest, with just under 13000 produced over a five-year period.

But as this example we spotted in New York City demonstrates, not all SMs that are now stateside have the federalized front end. This particular one features a retrofitted front design, as it still retains the DOT-style amber side markers in the front wings and front bumper.

Despite the expense, the US became one of the major export markets for the SM, with the US absorbing about one-fifth of the entire production run over the course of just two model years.

The SM was available solely as a coupe, which perhaps limited its market appeal somewhat, and as if to underscore that point coachbuilders Heuliez and Chapron built a small number of spectacular cabriolets and sedans.

The automaker’s own production CX sedan soon picked up the baton when it came to design but not when it came to engines, with Citroën opting for more sensible powerplants for what was effectively the volume model of this stylistic direction starting in 1974. The CX sedan and station wagon remained in production until 1991, enjoying quite a long run from the mid-1970s.

A decade and a half ago the SM coupe still remained somewhat overlooked by collectors, with a relatively small number of concours-grade examples to be seen around the world.

But things began to change as the SM suddenly climbed in value, with concours-level restorations having started to make financial sense. In the late 2000s it was still possible to source a very clean example on a budget of $25,000, but in just a few short years that number became $85,000, with plenty of restored examples commanding well over $100,000 at auction.

The SM certainly received that second look, with a relatively fixed number of roadgoing examples helping preserve collectability.

Headshot of Jay Ramey

Jay Ramey grew up around very strange European cars, and instead of seeking out something reliable and comfortable for his own personal use he has been drawn to the more adventurous side of the dependability spectrum. Despite being followed around by French cars for the past decade, he has somehow been able to avoid Citroën ownership, judging them too commonplace, and is currently looking at cars from the former Czechoslovakia. Jay has been with Autoweek since 2013. 

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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