As Citroën’s SM turns 50, we trace an unlikely inspiration.
During a cocktail party at the French consulate in Detroit in 1960 – it is not known if any Ferrero Rochers were served – Citroën president Pierre Bercot met a man by the name of Henry de Ségur Lauve. Present as an interpreter because of his excellent command of both French and English, de Ségur Lauve was soon engaged in animated conversation with Bercot as the Citroën boss discovered that the Franco-American had considerable previous experience in car design.
Another stylistic dud from the pen of Marcello Gandini, the technically advanced 1974 Maserati Quattroporte expired at birth. We chart its brief life.
When the Maserati Quattroporte was introduced in 1963 it became the first Modenese four door super-berlina, offering well-heeled customers the space and practicality of a sedan with the dynamism and vivid performance of a grand turismo. In 1969 however, production of the model ceased, with close to 800 built – a commercial success by Casa del Tridente standards.
A significant cultural shift was taking place at Viale Ciro Menotti by this time – Automobiles Citroën having acquired control of the Modenese carmaker the previous year. With work quickly progressing on a new sub-3.0 litre V6 engine for the double chevron’s forthcoming grand turismo, Maserati engineering chief, Ing. Giulio Alfieri seemingly took a long hard look at Quai de Javel technology, in particular Citroën’s decision to Continue reading “Porte de Javel”
What you want from your car? Function, Frivolity or why not both?
Is driving an event for you? By which I don’t mean do you enjoy driving, but do you enjoy the whole ritual? Do you have driving gloves, or driving shoes, or a driving hat? Do you have a mental checklist of things that you do when you go to your car? If so, do you do them for safety’s sake (checking tyres, etc) or because it’s part of the game (adjusting a rear-view that’s already adjusted)? I’ve been driving so long that, often, I’m half way down the road before I’ve really registered I’m driving. Don’t worry, you’re safe. Continue reading “A Sense of Occasion”
When compared to the human body, even a small, light car is a powerful and relentless device. Once under way, momentum builds up and, as anyone who has been in or just considered any car accident at a speed of more than single figures knows, a car deserves great respect. So, it’s maybe understandable that some people treat driving a car as they would wrestling with a bear. For them, the car is a beast to be tamed, and each turn is a matter of hauling on the steering wheel, maybe with an inverted hand inside the rim for extra leverage. The wheel is clenched, the car lurches round and the sweat finally recedes from their brow as another herculean task is completed – just in time for the next bend. Continue reading “Theme : Economy – Effort”
From a time when Citroën led the way – and, of course, nobody followed
The standard wheels for the Citroen SM were heavy steel items, clad with hubcaps. These are made from stamped stainless steel, held firmly to the wheel by a centre bolt. The centre section is painted satin black and the sections between the outer fins are painted in satin silver-grey. There are holes in the hubcaps that allow the actual wheel bolts to show.
On the subject of tail lamp units, an cursory glance might suggest to the uninitiated that the Maserati Kyalami sported a pair of these – not exactly the wildest assumption given their superficial similarity to those fitted to the SM. Both Citroën and 130 are from very much the same era, so one can safely assume their respective designers were thinking along broadly similar lines. But regardless of whether or not these were also borrowed for use elsewhere, they definitely set a template for the 1970s, as did the 130 Coupe itself. Continue reading “Zoom Lens”
It’s always the way. You wait ages, then two incidences of Citroën SM’s tail lamp units crop up on the same week – on two vastly different cars.
Firstly (as we saw earlier) on Maserati’s 1976 Kyalami, and now here on Frua’s 1977 Rolls Royce Phantom VI Drophead. Of course the common strand here is Frua themselves who plainly had a job lot of SM lens units knocking about. Regardless of the merits (or otherwise) of this vast open tourer’s aesthetics, it’s interesting to see how adaptable a humble lens unit such as this can be. I can’t help feeling I’ve seen the SM tail lamp elsewhere. Any thoughts? Continue reading “Rooting in the Parts Bins – Again…”
When Citroën showed the way but the industry was too dull to follow.
For all-out minimalism, the TPV prototype of the Citroën 2CV is hard to beat but, since then, Citroën have produced some of the most adventurous dashboards.
Throughout its twenty year life, the DS dashboard went through various iterations but, in its first instance, it was as modern as the outside. The least successful DS dash was the length of plywood fitted to the fascia of some of the upper range Slough built UK cars, on the assumption that Brits must Continue reading “Theme : Dashboards – Citroën, a Dash of Style”
It’s hard to explain this to people who view cars as polluting, selfish devices, that kill, maim and generally mess up lives. And it’s equally hard to explain it to people who see cars as pure, powerful pieces of engineering, that mainly offer them control and prestige. But the car is a flawed but hugely romantic device, and that has been its true enduring strength.
What defines a car? For some it’s outright speed, or acceleration. For some status. For some it’s sheer practicality, for others it’s individuality. For some it’s handling, steering feel, lightness of touch, whilst others want weight, bling and intimidation. There are so many criteria for what makes a good car and, if you are trying to explain why you like a car to someone else, it’s tricky. Watch their eyes glaze as you lasciviously trace the curve as the C pillar kinks round the inset vent to join the rear wing. See them shuffle with embarrassment as you present one fisherman’s yarn too many about lifting the front wheel in Tesco’s car park. Risk them questioning your manhood as you mime the ingenious folding mechanism of the rear seats in your MPV.