Citroën SM

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The Citroën SM was a high performance coupé produced by the French manufacturer Citroën from 1970-1975. The SM placed third in the 1971 European Car of the Year contest, trailing its stablemate Citroën GS, and won the 1972 Motor Trend Car of the Year award in the U.S. in 1972.

Contents

History

In 1961, Citroën began work on 'Project S' — a sports variant of the revolutionary Citroën DS. As was customary for the firm, many running concept vehicles were developed, increasingly complex and upmarket from the DS. Citroën purchased Maserati in 1968 with the intention of harnessing Maserati's high performance engine technology to produce a true Gran Turismo car, combining the sophisticated Citroën suspension with a Maserati V6 engine.

The result was the Citroën SM first shown at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1970. It finally went on sale in France in September of that year. All produced were left-hand-drive, although three official RHD conversions were done in the UK, and recently also Australia.

The origin of the model name 'SM' is not clear. The 'S' likely derives from the Project 'S' designation, the aim of which was to produce what is essentially a sports variant of the Citroën DS, and the 'M' perhaps refers to Maserati, hence SM is often assumed to stand for 'Sports Maserati', but others have suggested it is short for 'Sa Majesté' (Her Majesty in French), which aligns with the common DS model's nickname 'La déesse' (The Goddess).

The SM was Citroën's flagship vehicle, competing with other high performance GTs of the time from manufacturers such as Jaguar, Lotus, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo and Porsche. It was also Citroën's way of demonstrating just how much power and performance could be accommodated in a front-wheel drive design.

The SM introduced a new type of variable assist power steering that has since spread throughout the vehicle population. DIRAVI as it was called, allowed great assistance to the motorist while parking, but little assistance at motorway speeds. The steering actually had the same "assist" at all speeds — the steering was hydraulically locked against steering movement of the wheels from the road ("feedback") up to the capacity of the unit. Hitting a pothole at high speed would not turn the steering wheel in the driver's hands. The reduction in 'assist' was achieved by a piston/roller pushing on a heart shaped cam geared to the steering shaft (hence the one turn to full lock), which was fed with system pressure so that as its pressure rose with increasing road speed, the steering assistance seemingly reduced and the steering centering effort rose. However, full steering wheel turning was available at all speeds, though considerable force was necessary to turn the steering wheel at high road speed. Enough pressure was admitted to the centering unit to return the wheels to the straight ahead position when the car was not moving. The centering pressure was regulated by a flyweight centrifugal governor driven by the pinion (secondary) shaft of the manual gearbox and by a proportioning valve connected to the fluid pressure in the automatic gearbox, which pressure was proportional to the speed of the output shaft. The pressure increased all the way to 120 mph (190 km/h), and a subsidiary function of this feed was to turn off the air conditioning fans above 50 km/h (31 mph).

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