This article intends to document the design changes that Citroën had to make to import the SM into the USA and Canada. It is noted that in the early 1970's, Canadian authorities started ramping up their automotive safety and emission rules. The result was that the first SM's in Canada had some traits akin to the European models, but by 1973, they were nearly identical to USA cars.
Governmental regulations drove many, but not all, of the changes on USA SM's as compared to their Euro counterparts. The first really organized attempt of the US government to regulate cars happened in 1966 when president Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. This act ultimately created the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) and resulted in a set of design standards, called the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). You will see us refer to specific FMVSS sections on this website since they help us explain why certain changes were made to USA Citroëns. These standards were first mandated for all cars manufactured after January 01, 1968. These standards keep evolving, so it is sometimes difficult to find the text of the version of the standard that existed back in the era of the SM.
Canada had their own requirements and laws. The most significant change to Canadian laws appeared to have happened in 1971 when Canada adopted automotive safety rules very similar (but not identical) to the US rules. Canadian rules were called Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS), a name an acronym very similar to the US version.
On DS’s, there was a pretty solid relationship between the car’s production date and the model year. A manufacturing date between September and August represented the model year. For example, a 1972 car could have been manufactured anytime between 01 September 1971, and 31 August 1972. Many design changes, both large and small, tended to be implemented in September to align with the next model year. We suspect that one of the reasons for this August/September change-over was that the factories were largely closed down in August, as per French custom. This allowed the factory to be mostly idle while they prepared for changes to the next year’s models.
The SM tended to follow this same convention, but perhaps with a bit less rigor. There were plenty of mid-year changes as well. As an example, two 1972 SM’s might have a number of visible and invisible differences. Much of this is documented in the parts books or other paperwork. But there are sometimes differences between two SM’s that do not appear to be specified in any documentation that we have access to. Frankly, there seem to be changes from car-to-car that defy any logical explanation. We have therefore relied on several experts to help confirm the configurations. These include (listed alphabetically):
Chris Dubuque, George Dyke, Roland Faragher-Horwell, David Hume, George Klein, Greg Long, Jean-Francois Martin, Charles Morse, Andre Pol, Jim Rice, John Titus, and Dennis Welch. Many thanks to Greg Long for letting us crawl over his many SM's for this article.
We would also like to thank readers who have sent in photos and information to help us improve this website. If any readers see errors or omissions, please let us know.
PRODUCTION VOLUME FOR NORTH AMERICA
Depending on where you look, the number of SM’s sold in the USA and Canada varies a bit. For example, Wikipedia and Citroen-SM.org show slightly different tabulations. Based on our review, the production numbers from the Citroen-SM.org website seem more believable than the numbers from Wikipedia. The Citroen-SM.org numbers are repeated below:
One source indicates that of the ~2107 SM’s sold in North America, Canada received about 396 of them.
A good list of serial numbers on SM's, inlcuding which were sold in North America, can be found HERE.
Below are several photos of an SM from the 1971 Auto Show in Los Angeles, which apparently took place in November of 1970. Notice that the car is a European model (Euro headlights, no side marker lights, etc). We have been advised that USA-specification cars were not available yet, so Citroën displayed a European model.
Incidentally the woman in the photo below is Toni Dirscherl, daughter of Charlie Dirscherl, the owner of the longest running Citroën dealership in North America, Challenger Motors. You can read more about Challenger Motors in the "California" section of this website.