Written and photographed by Shayan Bokaie
Jul 26, 2023
The phone rang. No pleasantries—just a single question: “Do you want to drive from New York City to Amelia Island in a 1971 Citroën SM?” My mind went immediately to the opening sequence of The Gumball Rally, but my attempts to gather more details were met with a terse “This is a yes-or-no question.”
After some badgering, I managed to get one question answered: “Why?”
“To prove how good these cars are. What better way than to go back in time?” How can you argue with that? I was in.
On the other end of the line was Tom Hale, Founding Partner at Morton Street Partners, and a friend who is no stranger to bold automotive adventures. As the plans started shaping up, I realized that we weren’t just going on a road trip — we were going into a time machine. Our final destination was the inaugural Hangar Amelia show, where the Citroën would be on display, but we had some stops to make first. More on that later.
Roadtrip Rule #1: Only 1970s outfits allowed. We weren’t just going, we were going all in. Tom and his co-pilot, Max Cohen, made this a non-negotiable mandate. From head to toe, from luggage to accessories, every detail was to be period correct.
In keeping with this theme, we departed from the iconic midtown disco, Studio 54. In our minds, our characters could have just rolled out of the club, ready to hit the road, after a long night of groovin’.
Ordinarily, New Yorkers are not an easily-distracted bunch. But this car? And these outfits? The humans of New York definitely had time for that. Dozens of people wanted to chat, take pictures, and even dance a bit. Things were off to a great start.
Our first stop: the infamous Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. What’s more 1970s than a hint of political scandal? But put Richard Nixon and his Plumbers aside for a moment: the Watergate is actually an architectural marvel designed by Italian futurist Luigi Moretti, and one of the first construction projects that leveraged computer technology. With Huey helicopter tours taking off and landing in the distance behind the SM, it was truly a time machine moment for us. After a quick photoshoot and checking out the hotel grounds, we were back on the road.
Let me start by saying the Citroën SM is one of the most comfortable cars I have ever been in, full stop. The hydropneumatic suspension has a magic carpet effect, rolling through any bump, big or small, without so much as a flinch. A perfect greenhouse and elegant seat design make the backseat more than tolerable for 10+ hour stints—which is exactly where I was, and what I experienced, for three days of travel.
A midday, mid-week road trip meant that I still had emails that needed answering, projects that needed managing. To my surprise, the backseat of the SM quickly became a comfortable – if attention-getting – mobile office for 72 hours. If you have a mobile hotspot, and don’t easily get car sick, this could be you, too.
Scouting ahead using satellite mode on Google Maps, we kept a keen eye out for tacky roadside attractions – such as the South of the Border Motor Inn (famous for its world-famous Hats from Around the World boutique), the Keystone Antique Truck and Tractor Museum, and an abandoned gas station refreshment center – that had the requisite vintage vibes for when we needed to stretch our legs. It’s always the side quests that really make the trip.
The SM was built to crush continents – or, in our case, multiple states. With three people, accompanying luggage, and other road trip essentials, the car was packed to the brim, but it never skipped a beat, never complained. Say what you will about Citroën maintenance, but the fact that a 51-year-old suspension system can effortlessly accomplish that type of mileage – and not make its passengers miserable in the process – is a feat of design and engineering.
The sum of the SMs eccentric parts - self-leveling suspension, swivel headlights, Diravi self-centering steering, to name just a few - make the SM a truly refreshing way to be in motion.
As the writer Annie Dillard once wrote, “We are here on the planet only once, and might as well get a feel for the place,” and why not get that feel in a car that is itself a flight of fancy and which transforms any trip down I-95 into a beautiful, bespoke memory?
There is no greater testament to a car’s durability than a long distance road trip. There is also no greater testament to the durability of a friendship than a long distance road trip. I’m happy to report nothing but good things on both fronts. So if you can spare an extra day or two on a long weekend, or make your next automotive event a destination, the return on investment isn’t just great memories — it’s great memories with great people. And isn’t that what life is all about?
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