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A Small Tribute to the Elegance of Aerodynamics
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A Small Tribute to the Elegance of Aerodynamics

The Citroen SM: a Citroen for the price of a Porsche. If you are familiar with the Citroen DS, a four-door SM relative, you are already wondering how much wine had to be consumed to half the doors and double the price. Hydropneumatic suspension, progressive self-centering power steering, swiveling headlights, rain sensors – most of these and other innovations that then shocked the world were already seen in the DS which started its life fifteen years before the coupe version.

But fifteen years is also the time needed for the DS to reach 62mph. The problem was solved only when Citroen bought Maserati back in 1968. Yes, it all starts to seem a bit like the fifteenth-sixteenth century when the Italians taught the French how to cook and finally eating became a pleasant thing do in France. France had huge taxes for engines over 2.8 liters, therefore a 2.7 liter 168 horse power Italian orchestra was chosen which accelerated the SM from 0 to 62mph in a respectable 8.5 seconds and had a top speed 135mph. At the time it was the fastest front-wheel drive car.

“I still don’t see why someone would pay so much money for it – a French baguette with Italian trouble under the hood. Is it at least economical?” It's true that 19.6 mpg (US) doesn’t sound very impressive but it was a competitive consumption at the time. Some credit for this speed and fuel consumption goes to the sleek bodywork of the car. SM is like a showcase of all the classic automotive aerodynamic principals: the front is profiled to decrease overall drag, rear wheel skirts for wheel turbulence reduction, a kammback to solve pressure drag and an option to minimize ride height is an option to minimize disarray caused by the components underneath.

Although the SM’s body has a lot of similarities with the DS, these bodies were created by different designers. The four-door version was sketched by Flamino Bertoni and aviation engineer André Lefèbvre. And the two-door flagship car was done by Robert Opron with the help of a former Buick designer Henry Lauve. The lucky ones that had a chance to drive this creation said that the car is very stable at illegal speeds and that it takes a lot of time getting used to the unique power steering. I would like to verify this myself but the price of this Citroen is growing faster than mold on Holiday leftovers.

A few facts:

  • USA version did not have the swiveling headlights because it was illegal at the time.
  • Models with fuel injection can ignite with no warning.
  • The drag coefficient claimed by the manufacturer is a very impressive 0.26, but according to newer data it should be closer to 0.32. For comparison: Citroen DS 0.36; 1969 Ferrari Dyno 0.37.
  • “SM World” installed a turbocharger and in 1987 reached a speed of 202.3 mph.
  • In 1971 SM won the Morocco Rally.


Photo Credits: Flickr Creative Commons

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