Fancy something radically different? Then slide behind the wheel of something French, such as a Citroën. Or, for an utterly unique experience, one with a Maserati engine under the bonnet, as in Citroën’s SM. This futuristic coupé was once the pride of the French brand following a tie-up with Maserati. And it is as radical to drive as it looks, thanks to its use of wafting-on-air hydro-pneumatic suspension, variable ride height, ultra-sharp steering and a race-derived quad-cam V6.
Never heard of it? Well SM stands for Série Maserati and the link came about after the French carmaker bought Maserati in the late 1960s. By then France’s once-illustrious reputation for exotic GTs was waning, with Facel Vega about to fizzle out and luxury brands such as Talbot-Lago, Voisin and Bugatti mere names in history books. Citroën was on a roll after shredding the rulebook with its pioneering DS saloon and felt it could make its mark with a sophisticated Continental-crossing GT.
But the marque’s management wasn’t keen on an evolution of the curvaceous DS. Instead, it called on aeronautics designer Robert Opron to pen the company’s path into the angular 1970s. What’s more, the new model needed to offer a step-change in performance from the marque’s four-cylinder mainstay that had evolved from the Traction-Avant. Cue the benefits of its purchase of Maserati, which allowed Citroën to tap into the marque’s band of talented engineers led by Giulio Alfieri.