DS Automobiles Celebrates the SM’s Jubilee At Retromobile
February 3rd, 2020
The avant-gardism of the DS and SM behind DS Automobiles
The DS was already a legend when Project ‘S’ was launched in the 1960s. The aim was to take advantage of the DS's technological lead and image to produce a sports vehicle that would be in the same vein. Jacques Né, the engineer in charge of the project, initially had the 24 Hours of Le Mans in his sights, but Managing Director Pierre Bercot quickly redirected his research towards a prestige car, one to be placed above the DS, which was still in production at the time.
Sharing components was essential during development. The new creation was to be based on the chassis of a DS and assembled on the same assembly lines at the Quai de Javel, in Paris.
Under the direction of Robert Opron, a team led by Jean Giret and Jacques Charreton finalised the design of what would become the SM. A 1:1 scale model was produced in the Rue du Théâtre workshops. The arrival of Maserati in Citroën's fold opened up new prospects and an Italian workshop launched a study into a small, modern V6...
Introduced at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show, the SM emerged as the worthy heir to the DS. The Grand Tourisme had many strengths: a line that was as fluid as it was aggressive, a chassis based on the famous hydraulic suspension, a futuristic interior with egg-shaped dials and a Maserati V6 engine. The DS's DNA was amplified.
Under the long bonnet, the 90° V6 acquired two overhead camshafts per cylinder bank. The cylinder capacity was deliberately limited to 2,670cc to remain under the very penalising barrier in France of 16 fiscal horsepower. Particularly compact (31 cm in length) and very light (140 kgs), the alloy block is initially fed by three dual-body Weber carburettors for 170 hp at 5,500rpm before receiving electronic fuel injection developed with Bosch to increase the power to 178hp while gaining flexibility of use.
The SM took over the central hydraulic system that made the DS a success. Green LHM fluid fed and supported some of the main functions: suspension, braking (controlled by a mushroom-shaped pedal), steering and vertical adjustment of the headlights. Special attention was paid to studying the suspension to give the SM the fastest traction in the world with a notable difference compared to the DS - a tie-rod front axle.
Steering was just one of the SM's great innovations. Called DIRAVI, for DIrection à RAppel asserVI (memory power-assisted steering), it had the special feature that it hardens with speed, thanks to a hydraulic governor mounted at the end of the gearbox. This steering was particularly light and direct in town and more stable at high speeds.
A new dimension was added to automatic headlight correction. Like the DS, the SM benefited from two rotating external long-range headlights. The six halogen headlights, designed by Cibié behind their Saint-Gobain shop front, also acquired plates that automatically adjusted height according to the car's attitude.
The stamping and fitting of the bodies was performed in the Chausson de Gennevilliers factory. Everything was then transported by lorry to the Quai de Javel for final assembly on the same assembly lines as the DS.
Fifty years on, and the SM is a symbol. Comfort and road handling make it a very modern car. Its lines, both inside and out, remain at the forefront with its mushroom pedal, the whispering hydraulic system and variable assisted steering. And although popular thinking credits the end of its marketing to the sudden increase in petrol prices with the oil crisis, the SM remains one of the most efficient GTs of the era. DS Automobiles was born out of the same desire to bring avant-gardism, refinement and advanced technologies to its contemporary creations.
Georges Pompidou, President of the French Republic at the time of its launch, but also Leonid Brezhnev, the Shah of Iran, Haïlé Sélassié, Burt Reynolds, John Williams, Johan Cruyff, Bernard Pivot, Line Renaud or Jay Leno had or still have an SM. And Daniel Craig admits that it has always been the car of his dreams...
An annual meet-up for car enthusiasts, Rétromobile, will once again this year spread over 72,000 m² at Paris Expo, Porte de Versailles. The Show will be open to the public from Wednesday 5 February to Sunday 9 February from 10am to 7pm (Wednesday and Friday evenings until 10pm).
Did you know?
- Jacques Né's first ‘S’ project was to devise a vehicle that could be entered in the 24-Hour Le Mans race.
- The first new model from the Robert Opron era after the death of Flaminio Bertoni, the SM was also the last creation designed at the Rue du Théâtre in Paris, before the style department moved to Vélizy.
- At the time of marketing in June 1970, the price for the SM was 46,000 FF (French Francs equivalent to €46,400 today). The SM Injection was sold for 84,000 FF in April 1975 (equivalent to €54,000 today).
- The colour Brun scarabée (Beetle Brown) was the best-selling shade. Feuille dorée (Gold Leaf) and Sable métallisé (Metallic Sand) also marked the beginning of the SM's career.
- 12,920 cars were produced at the Quai de Javel plant in Paris between 1970 and 1975.
- Henri Chapron Bodywork built seven Mylords (convertible), two Elysées (convertible for official ceremonies) and seven Operas (four-door). Heuliez designed two SM Espaces.
A car that is as ‘light as a feather’ and as ‘silent as a breeze’, forged by its creators’ vision, for people who are passionate about cars. Imagining a dream car for 2035 led DS Automobiles to create an asymmetric, three-seat concept founded on a unique association of two vehicles in one that allows owners to select the driving mode that matches their need at any given moment.
Due to new technology, the vehicle body is capable of recovering its original form after an impact, while the configuration of the front grille and DS X E-TENSE’s cooling capacity adapt to the driver’s impulses. Owing to DS LIGHT VEIL light curtains, the lights brightness is controlled by a function to adjust based the requirements of the occupants, the car and its surroundings.
Located within the front wheels, the two motors selected as the source of the all-electric DS X E-TENSE’s power provide unrivalled response. For road use, peak power stands at 400kW (540hp), a figure that rises to 1,000kW (1,360hp) in ‘circuit’ mode which allows the driver to savour the exquisite performance of the suspension engineered by DS Performance, the technical team behind DS’s Formula E programme. The carbon fibre chassis sits on innovative springs and torsion bars, while traction, grip and deceleration is controlled by an advanced active system conceived to optimise performance, whatever the road surface.
The cockpit is accessed by an Elytre (scissor) door that is trimmed with a carbon fibre/leather weave. Inevitably, the eyes are drawn to the pyramidal architecture of the single seat, which adapts perfectly to the driver’s build like the fitted seats seen in motor racing. The steering wheel, meanwhile, in keeping with the symbol it has always represented vis-à-vis the passion for automobiles, is an enticing combination of leather, wood and metal.
The two-tone Millennium Blue and Navy Blue Aniline leather is finished with DS’s trademark pearl topstitch pattern. These appointments alone contribute to the promise of a unique experience once installed inside the cockpit and provide the driver with an adrenalin rush even before they pull away.
Climb into the cocoon part of the interior via the gullwing door and the driver, alone or accompanied, becomes a passenger. This asymmetric layout frees up a different type of space underneath the clear glass canopy, with the passenger enclosed in a sensuous capsule, snug in a ventilated, massaging seat that stretches back like a deployed bird’s wing, with a feather star motif crowning the top of the back. Travelling with the autonomous mode engaged is an exceptional experience as other senses than touch come into play. The interior space is an immersive acoustic bubble dedicated to the pleasure of listening, signed FOCAL. The dashboard reinvents itself into a generator of musical flow: sound beams adjusted in real time follow the listener by adapting to each of his movements.