Two Words: Air Suspension

April 11, 2013 at 12:00 am

Sometimes project cars are laughable. As in, this is a car that will bankrupt you faster than a jaded ex-wife who didn’t like you that much when things were good. A 1973 Citroen SM is not just something you stumble upon. No, there’s always a good story with anyone who has a mid-level exotic with de-tuned Ferrari internals sitting in their backyard. The spoils of an illicit poker game? A gift bequeathed to its owner from a long-lost eccentric Canadian uncle? All of it is about as believable as Joe Six Pack picking up a vintage Citroen for the price of a Vespa.


Although I’m not normally drawn vehicles of the front-wheel drive variety, the SM is an exception. It’s a big, heavy, exotic cruiser, chock full of innovation only seen in re-runs of the Jetsons when it was first introduced. Self-leveling suspension – well, I’m a sucker for it. At a young age, I watched a British family disembark from their Range Rover Country only after the air suspension had fully settled; from that point on, this sophisticated method of exiting and entering a car has been burned into my brain. Of course, repairing a hydraulic suspension will make your first mortgage look like a tip at Burger King, but let’s not dwell on the negatives.

Low-mileage is normally a plus, but when you’re talking about Italian/French hybrid exotics sitting in a backyard in Connecticut, it’s probably more an indication of when it last turned a wheel then an attempt at preservation. This is clearly an American model, thanks to its ugly US DOT-approved single-round headlights instead of the killer plexi-glass encased six-lens European variety. Our traffic safety officials are unforgiving-ly lame, as these are the same people who sealed the car’s fate on our shores by declaring it in violation of federal safety standards due to the varying height of its adjustable suspension. Bastards.

This is a project car of significant proportions. To do it correctly, you will likely lose your friends, house, job and any semblance of a relationship with your spouse. But they weren’t there when those smarmy Brits stepped mere inches onto the hot blacktop from their once-lofty perch, and they sneered – oh, they sneered – when they saw you extend your legs full-length to exit the rental-car Civic. Someday, you thought, as your flip-flop fell off from trying to exit the perilously-tall crapbox, you would own a car that could bring you down to earth while putting you above the rest.

That day is today.