SM - Land Speed Racer
Citröen SM in the USA
The SM enjoyed great success in the USA from the time of its introduction there in April 1972, when it was voted ‘Car of the Year’ by Motor Trend. The USA was the third largest market for the Citroën SM, after France and Italy, and the car was most successful in California. At the end of 1973, the last Citroën SMs were sold in the USA. New rules were scheduled to come into force for 1974, in particular the requirement for ‘impact-resistant’ bumpers, and Citroën was unwilling to make the necessary changes to what was a relatively low-volume model. By the time production ceased some 12,920 SMs had been built, only 2,037 of which were sold in the USA.
SM World Ltd
Fast forward to 1976 and Jerry Hathaway was by then working at another dealership, which was about to drop its Citroën franchise. He contacted Citroën and clinched a deal to take over the local franchise and and was able to buy his employer’s stock of spares and tools at cost price. It was the start of SM World Ltd, which has since gone on to become the USA’s foremost specialist for Citroën SM spares, repairs, and restoration.
One of Jerry’s Hathaway’s customers was John McKibben, a former Bonneville Salt Flats racer, who suggested that the SM’s aerodynamic shape had the potential to make it a speed record car. Jerry had always harboured the ambition to be a drag racer, and when a damaged SM turned up at the workshop, destined to be cannibalized for parts, the project’s wheels were set in motion. The SM was duly restored to concours condition and transformed into an impeccable land speed record contender, retaining the stock hydro-pneumatic suspension and five-speed manual transmission. In the SM record car’s first incarnation the 3.0-litre Maserati V6 engine was left normally aspirated but extensively modified. Equipped with triple 48mm Weber carburettors, ‘hotter’ cams, and high-compression pistons, this engine produced an estimated 250bhp – quite an improvement over the stock 178 horsepower. In its initial configuration the Hathaway SM ran 151.2mph (243,33km/h) at Bonneville in 1979 to set a new F/ALT
class record, which was followed up in 1980 by a new F/GC class record of 148.7mph (239,31km/h). The next stage of development saw the Maserati V6 fitted with a Garrett AiResearch turbocharger giving 20psi boost, and in this guise the SM cracked the magic 200mph (321,86km/h) barrier in 1985, clocking a speed of 200.002mph with Jerry at the wheel. Two years later, in 1987, his wife Sylvia topped that with a speed of 202.31mph (325,58km/h), making the Hathaways only the third married couple to join the exclusive 200mph Club. Between them the Hathaways set the following records: