Citroen SM Buyers Guide
The following buyers guides are based on Rudy Heilig's experience in 25 years
of buying, selling, inspecting and repairing Citroens. This guide should
NOT be exclusively used to evaluate a vehicle and should not be used instead
of a thorough inspection by a professional mechanic and/or appraiser. The
values listed are based on his sales experience in Southern California
- automobile prices can be very regional and therefor these values should
only be used as a guide.
E-mail us at email@example.com
if you feel we overlooked something that should be added to our buyers'
Less than 13,000 SMs were sold by Citroen in the early seventies. That
small amount by mass production standards - but, unfortunately, a considerable
amount as a "supercar." Although the SM can certainly claim a
supercar heritage, its production figures deny it access to the supercar
price range. For example: 1635 Maserati Meraks were built over a seven
year period. These Maseratis use virtually all the SM's mechanicals, brake
system and even the dash on the earlier models. A Merak now sells in the
$25,000 to $45,000 range by virtue of its rarity. This puts the SM in a
much lower price range than similar Maseratis/Ferraris while requiring similar
servicing. As a result, it is not uncommon to find a SM that has fallen
the wrong hands. This SM will suffer mechanically and will be passed along
once its owner realizes that the "big bill" can't be put off any
longer. Therefor the maxim "Let the buyer beware" is all the more
valid with the SM.
To help you to identify a good SM from a bad one, we have created the
following buying guide. We won't cover any aspects that are apparent at
first glance, like the condition of the body, paint, interior, bumpers,
1. Check the compression. It should be fairly even in the 125 to 140
2. Check for back pressure through the blow-back hose from the oil pan.
It is located on the driver's side of the engine and connects to the bottom
of the Carb cover. Excessive pressure, smoke or oil emitting from that hose
could mean a problem with the piston rings or valves.
3. Check the balance of the engine's tuning. An easy way to check if
the engine runs evenly is to disconnect one of the coil wires while the
car is idling. If the car is properly tuned, it will still run on three
cylinders. Check both sides.
4. Check each cylinder separately. Turn the car off. Remove the spark
covers and push back the small dustboots on each spark plug wire. Run the
car and ground out each spark plug, one at a time, with a screwdriver. If
the tuning and carburation is correct, the rpm should drop an identical
amount for each plug. No rpm drop at all on any one plug may indicate a
problem with the tuning, carburation, or even the valves.
5. If possible, remove the valve covers and check the cam chains. The
chains should be fairly tight. Also check the arnount of travel left on
the manual tensioners. The tensioners push the chains up from underneath.
If the tensioners are at their maximum height, the chains need to be replaced.
As a general rule, these chains need to be tightened every 6,000 miles and
replaced every 25,000 to 30,000 miles.
6. It is difficult to check the play on the rear chain. Ask the seller
for work orders covering engine work. The back chain usually has to be replaced
every 50,000 to 60,000 miles. Expect to spend up to a $1,300 if it hasn't
been replaced in that time.
l. Check that the clutch functions properly. Also check the amount of
adjustment still left on the adjustment screw. The screw is located at the
end of the fork at the top of the transmission bell housing. If the screw
is turned out about 1 1/2 inches or more, you can expect a clutch replacement.
2. Drive the car and shift it through all the gears. Make sure the trans
smoothly. Any grinding indicates a synchro problem, which is expensive to
3. While driving the car, listen to any high-pitched whining that changes
the speed of the car. The whining could indicate a crown/pinion problem,
which is also expensive to fix.
1. Drive the car and make sure it shifts up and down
through the gears smoothly (the trans should upshift at 4,000 to 4,500 rpm).
2. Put the transmission in reverse and drive backwards, accelerating
to about 10-15 mph. If the trans shudders, there iseither a fluid pressure
or a kickdown problem.
3. Check around the transmission for leaks, especially around the differential.
4. Check the fluid levels in both the transmission and the differential.
reading in the transmission and a high reading in the differential could
indicate an internal leak. The differential oil should be thick and heavy.
A thinner, red-tinted oil may be another indication of an internal leak.
1. Open the hood and check the thicknessof the brake discs (minimum 11mm).
The brake discs are located underneath the steering on either side of the
transmission. Also, if there are noticeable ridges on the discs, the discs
will need to be replaced.
2. If possible, drive the car in an empty parking lot and test the brakes
semi-emergency stop. If the brakes shudder, the front brake discs are either
glazed and will need to be machined or the brake calipers are worn and need
to be welded and machined to remove wear.
3. To properly check the rear brakes, the rear wheels need to be removed.
The 1972 rear brakes don't have a warning wire and are frequently allowed
to wear down until they damage the discs. Check the discs for scorching
marks and the pads for thickness.
1. Check the fluid type in the hydraulic system. It should only contain
original Citroen LHM fluid. If the oil is red in color, Dextron II is in
the system. If this is the case, expect. hydraulic problems later on.
2. Check the suspension by pushing down on the front and the rear of
the car. If there is no give in the suspension, the spheres need to be replaced.
3. Check the hydraulic recycling time. With the car idling in the normal
suspension height, the hydraulic pump should activate every 30 seconds or
more. When the pump does activate, it makes a short burping sound. If this
sound is continuous or occurs every few seconds, there is either an internal
leak in the hydraulics or the pressure regulator/ accumulator needs to be
4. To check the steering for an internal leak, idle the car (as above)
normal suspension height. Turn the steering from lock to lock. If, while
turning the steering, you can hear the pump continually cutting in, the
steering has an internal leak.
1. Listen for any exhaust leaks near the engine by the manifolds. US manifolds,
which are equipped for smog, will frequently crack and are expensive to
fix or replace.
2. Check that the exhaust is properly clamped together. Welded connections
eventually make it more expensive to replace the exhaust.
1. Check for rust on the bottom of the front fenders where water collects.
Reach under the fender directly in front of the doors and feel for rust
2. Check for rust underneath the doors.
3. Check for rust in the lower corners of the rear window.
4. Check for rust by the rear wheel skirts and directly underneath the
rear sidelights. Mud and water collects in both areas.
5. Check underneath the car along the sides of the frame for rust and
attempts to repair any rust. Also check near therear suspension where rust
creeps out from between the frame welds.
6. Underneath the hood, check the front frame for signs of damage. An
improperly repaired or misaligned frame will badly affect the handling of
1. Check that the warning lights (hydraulic, oil pressure, and charging
system) on the dash light up when the ignition is turned on. If one of the
three doesn't light up, it could be something as simple as a blown bulb
or a disconnected wire. However, it could also be the seller trying to hide
a problem by disconnecting the warning light.
2. Check the proper operation of the power windows. We found one case
where a window was propped up with a piece of wood and the door contained
3. Check the front seats for frame damage. A crack in the seat's frame
will make it sag to one side. Also, check that all the adjustments work
4. Check the cooling system for any leaks especially near the rear of
the engine where a leak could indicate a problem with the water pump.
5. Check near the bottom of the oil cooler (mounted behind the left headlights)
for any oil leaks. Also check the condition of the oil cooler lines (if
one of these lines bursts you would lose all your oil in a matter of seconds).
6. Check the condition of the grille underneath the front bumper. The
plastic grille breaks easily. They are no longer available new and good
used ones go for as much as $400.00.
7. If possible check the balljoints by driving the car on a bumpy road.
A knocking noise means they need adjusting or replacing.
8. Listen for creaking from the front suspension which might indicate
cracked welds on the suspension-arm assembly nuts. These cracks could also
cause the car to shimmy at highway speeds. The entire drivetrain has to
be removed to properly fix this problem.
Now that you have a. pretty good idea on what to look out for, let's
try to determine your SM's worth. We tried to make the following chart as
accurate as we could. However, prices are always difficult to pin down and
those listed here should only be used as a general guide.
We use the following rating system to figure out in which category your
'Parts Car' Not running,
incomplete, and unrestorable due to rust.
doesn't run but car is complete and can be restored.
'Fair' Car is
complete and runnable but needs a lot of work.
'Good' Car is
regularly maintained but could use some upgrading.
is in near-showroom condition.
| 1972 SM 5-speed
|| $500 to
| $2,500 to
| $6,000 to
| $14,000 to
| $20,000 to
| 1973 SM 5-speed
|| $500 to
| $3,000 to
| $7,000 to
| $15,000 to
| $24,000 to|
| 1972 SM Automatic
|| $300 to
| $2,000 to
| $4,500 to
| $11,500 to
| $18,000 to|
| 1973 SM Automatic
|| $500 to
| $2,500 to
| $5,500 to
| $13,000 to
| $20,000 to|
Sunroof $1,000 to $2,500
$4K to $7K
| Feul Injection
$2,000 to $3,500
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Note: The above
should only be used as a guide - the 'Excellent' range does not cover restored
or low-mileage exceptional cars as they could be priced exceptionally
© 1999 Citroën Concours of America