Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Citroën SM

The New York Times is being a little unfair to the Citroën SM. Sure it's a strange car. So was the DS. "SM stood for Systeme Maserati, not sado-masochist, although that is an apt description of anyone who buys a less-than-perfect SM," said the Times. The car was a Citroën (French) with a Maserati (Italian) engine.

It was known for its extremely complex hydraulic systems, and, writes Rob Sass, "While the ride was remarkably smooth, the steering and brakes could be terrifying. The brakes, actuated by a pressure-sensitive 'magic mushroom' button on the floor, were incredibly touchy; the steering was so direct that a sneeze could send you into the next lane."

Apparently a Californian named Jerry Hathaway got a modified SM (he turned it into a pick-up, Chevy El Camino-style) to go over 200 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Looking at the so-called "SMamino," one commenter on the auto blog Jalopnik quipped: "So I was recently wondering what Serge Gainsbourg would drive if he moved to rural Nevada and opened a brothel/ostrich farm. Now I know."

Stranger still was the poetry that some inspired French/Italian marketing team created for the car back in the 70's, poetry the Times calls "unintentionally hysterical" and almost "soft-core pornography." Here it is:
Trust the SM.

You’d be surprised

What a machine can do

When it knows

You believe in it.

Easy on the steering wheel

Handle it gently

Don’t overwhelm the SM

It will do what you want it to.

The Citroën Maserati is happiest,

Will do its best for you

When it’s trusted.

A love affair with the SM

Is something that happens in the open

With everyone watching

And talking

Such pleasure;

It feels almost sinful

Relaxed by a suspension of air and oil

Caressed by the sleek interior

Seduced by the safe swiftness of the ride

You never want to go home.
Do not trifle with the SM. The SM knows what you're thinking, and it doesn't think you're funny.

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