Italy and France each have beautiful and robust cultures with diverse offerings and unique perspectives. And while each is unique in their approach, the French share a great deal of their artistic passion with Italian culture. Great art, beautiful opera, fantastic cuisine, and a way of life that celebrates passionate expressions inclusive of romantic language, poetry, as well as artful if not quirky cinema. Ettore Bugatti and his family left Italy and set up shop in France to be free from the fascist government that ruled Italy at that time. Though not the last Italian-French partnership, Bugatti did a great deal to enhance the value of multinational partnerships and the importance of artistic exchange within each culture. When Citroën and Maserati joined forces, the resultant Citroën SM delivered the powerful one-two punch of Italian artistry backed by the audacity of French engineering.
The Citroën SM is rightfully regarded as one of most breathtaking automobiles ever conceived. The original design, now more than 50 years old, continues to impress generations of viewers who are fortunate to stumble across one at a car show or better still find one hovering across the highway as though it had just arrived from another planet. By 1970 Citroën had already established themselves as progressive Avante Gardiers of design, but they had further distinguished themselves with significant mechanical prowess with the Traction Avant and the economical and painfully endearing 2CV.
By any standard of excellence, however, all their previous achievements paled in comparison with the introduction of the incomparable DS. Packed with numerous automotive firsts including the use of mass production disc brakes and adjustable height oleopneumatic suspension, one could easily begin to believe there was simply no way to top such a fantastic car. But all that changed at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show when Citroën delivered what is still regarded as one of the most impressive motorcars of the 20th century; the unmistakable Citroën SM.
With the benefit of their purchase of the financially ailing Maserati, Citroën tapped their internal engineering team to develop a six-cylinder engine that would serve as the power plant for both the Maserati Merak, and the new Citroën. Though a seemingly challenging pairing, the pasta and escargot somehow worked. The 90-degree, quad-cam V6 delivered remarkably smooth power with a level of performance efficiency that served both the sporting Merak and the more Grand Touring SM. The visually arresting body design was very aerodynamically efficient, employing a tall Kamm tail, smooth roofline, and expansive glass including an impossibly expensive rear glass hatch that itself was a feat of engineering.