A recent incident with a Citroën SM in Toronto reveals the caution that needs to be taken when working on any old car, especially an SM.

An original first owner of a 1972 SM decided to sell his car and contacted one of our Club members.  He and another Club member who also owns an SM, went over to the owner’s house to try and start the car and move it to one of the member’s industrial unit to “freshen it up” to assist the owner in selling the car. 

The car had been driven occasionally and serviced about 4 years ago, when it developed a LHM leak in the brake pedal mechanism.  That was repaired and the owner raised up the car to store it for winter, placing blocks under the car.  Covid and other issues resulted in the car not being moved or even run from that period to current.  

The Club members arrived to find the SM backed into a garage which was packed with so much stuff around it that you could barely open the driver’s door to get inside the car.  Firewood was piled up beside the car on the passenger’s side.  The battery was deader than a door-nail.  

After briefly trying to put a boost to the battery from  their car, the two Club members realized they could not get the car to start.  Continuing to try would not be a wise move as an SM should not be excessively cranked as its starter could overheat.  

They left to further consider other options in removing the car from the garage, but not before noticing there was oil on the ground, and oddly there was a fuel pump added on the firewall where the fuel filter would normally reside.  They asked the owner if there was insurance on the car in the event they could get it going and it could be driven over to the industrial unit.  The answer was that he had let the insurance lapse as the car was not being driven.  

The Club members pointed out the value of insuring the SM, roadworthy or not. At some point it would have to be driven and he should definitely put insurance on the car. Classic car insurance was obtained (at a relatively minimal value) and roadside assistance was created which the owner took advantage of the following day in order to try to get the car started.  

After a bit of “tinkering” by the tow-truck fellow (we don’t know what was done other than the battery boost), he got the car to run and the rear raised up but not the front.  The tow-truck driver left at that point.  Coming up with what he thought would be a clever idea, the owner felt that if the back had risen up, it would be possible to just drive the car off the front blocks and onto the driveway.  But of course, the SM is front wheel drive and he did not consider the weight that would rest on the front blocks if the front suspension would not rise.  

He removed the rear blocks and then he got in the car put it in gear and tried to drive forward, but the front wheels just spun.  Eventually he gave up and went back into the house to formulate a new strategy with his wife on how to move it.

Some moments later there was a pounding on their front door and a neighbour told them to get out of the house as the garage was totally on fire. 

Well, the bottom line is that the house nearly burnt down.  The garage, loaded with scrap and wood and the SM, were all totally destroyed.  It will be many months until the house is repaired and livable again.

Thank heaven the fire did not happen when the owner was in the SM as with all the junk around the car, he most likely would not have been able to get out of the SM in time to save himself.  

Luckily for them the insurance company did payout on the policy for the SM, but only for the insured value of the car.  It was certainly worth more and then there was the hassle of dealing with their home insurance company explaining the damage was the result of a burning SM in the garage!          

Let this be a lesson to all that if you are going to work on an SM that has been stored for some time, know what you are doing and take proper procedures.   

Delete one SM from Canada!  

1 comment

  1. I think the first 3 SMs I saw were all wrecks. Usually it was people driving fast and not used to the steering. Made a sudden correction like you would do in an American car and rolled them in a ditch. The burnt one was when I went back to Red Dellinger’s for some service on my D Special. It wasn’t completely burned. Just back to the rear wheels! I asked what happened and all I got was “they turned the key and the car burst into flames and burned back to the trunk.” Makes you think of that scene in “Casino” with DeNiro in the Cadillac. For years I always started my car with the door open just in case.

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