Encouraged by the success of the DS over the preceding decade, in 1970 Citroën introduced the luxurious SM Coupé: a Gran Turismo automobile in the DS spirit fitted with a powerful Maserati engine, the famous Italian manufacturer having been taken over by Citroën. A bright future seemed assured when the SM was voted ‘Car of the Year’ in the USA in 1972. However, the oil crisis of 1974 seriously affected SM sales and the model was phased out in 1975.
Coachbuilder Henri Chapron had welcomed the new SM Coupé’s arrival in 1970, as he needed a replacement for the ageing DS. The SM’s potential was also appreciated by Georges Pompidou, French President and an avid car enthusiast, who ordered two special SMs for his government, with Chapron sub-contracted for their final construction. Chapron delivered two long-wheelbase convertible limousines in April/May 1972 to Georges Pompidou, who had little time to enjoy their comfort and luxury as he passed away a year later.
Thanks to these government orders, Chapron had acquired all the tooling necessary to construct a longer SM, and his next venture would be a four-door luxury saloon on a 12” (30cm) longer wheelbase. Chapron’s first SM LWB limousine – named ‘Opéra’ – was introduced at the Salon de l’Automobile in Paris in October 1972. The show car was finished in white with black leather interior, and featured a sunroof.
Priced expensively at 165,000 French francs, the Opera did not sell well: only eight examples being built between 1972 and 1974. Four were shipped to Spain and one to Haiti while three remained in France. The extremely limited production of this exceptionally refined model made it one of the most exclusive and desirable of post-war Citroëns.
At thier 2009 Retromobile Auction Bonhams sold chassis 00SC0950 for €194,500 inclusive of buyer’s premium and described the car as “The rare example offered here has been entirely restored by a Citroën and Chapron specialist. It features a two-tone colour scheme: Tholonné beige for the lower body, Scarabée brown for the upper, while the cockerel – Chapron’s emblem – is found on the doors and ‘Chapron’ chromed script on the front wings. The upholstery is in the original Chapron brown leather, which coverers the seats, door panels and steering wheel, which can be adjusted for height and reach.”