“OH LORD, Won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz,
My friends all drive Porsches
I must make amends…”
…sang the great Janis Joplin in a recording studio just three days before she died in 1970. Already famous before Woodstock, she cemented her spot in rock and roll history by dying young. The song first appeared on her posthumous album ‘Pearl’ released the next year. Ironically, she did drive a Porsche 356 – painted in psychedelic colours. She is the very symbol of the 70s, my preferred era for cars.
My lament goes to a different strain. In synchronicity with my dreams, several years ago my great indulgence arrived, no doubt a direct answer from the heavens to my consistent prayers, along the lines of “Oh Lord won’t you buy me a bucket of trouble….”
The Citroen SM is a magnificent artefact. It rightfully sits on the design pedestal as a marriage of Citroen’s innovation merged with Maserati engineering. It is, along with the Chapron convertible Citroen DS, my all time dream car. What on earth is it that urges an otherwise sensible person to take on the stewardship of a mad mix of Citroen hydraulics and a 1970’s Maserati V6 motor? Why, may you ask, but one drive of this spaceship and I challenge you not to be smitten. I have driven an incredible variety of cars ancient to modern, and there is nothing – nothing – that comes even remotely close.
I love the SM. My car is the right hand drive, 5 speed manual, carburettor model and has the aesthetically more pleasing European six front lights. The US specification cars were compromised by the mandated installation of four round naked headlights instead of the 6 rectangular lights sitting behind a full width glass curved screen.
But, sadly, I must confess my SM has recently been more static display than going concern. Entirely my own fault, I hasten to add. It was a daily driver until it started depositing a green hydraulic fluid puddle eighteen months ago, and I have simply been too slack and distracted to attend to it since. So the battery went flat. Which in most – or pretty much all – cars is not much of a problem.
But the SM tucks its battery behind the headlights, in front of the drivers side front wheel, low down in the guard. Access is achieved through removing a hatch that is part of the inner wheel arch panels, and swearing. Is this the most absurd place for a battery in the history of car design? But it took all afternoon, and was done.
And then a minor catastrophe struck – as I cranked the newly installed battery for the first time, I pressed the accelerator pedal with my hand to fire her up and to make sure all was working. I heard a sharp crack and the pedal went flaccid and floppy. No Viagra jokes...
Closer examination revealed that behind the vertical movement of the accelerator pedal, there is a horizontal tube that transfers the motion through the box sill to the throttle cable, which is hidden inside the wheel arch. The weld connecting the lever at the back of the pedal to the horizontal tube had given up. Forty five years was clearly enough.
Repairing by welding in situ was clearly not an option, deep into the footwell surrounded by plush carpet and delicate electrical cabling. Removing the mechanism would require unbolting the pedal assembly and – wait for it – the entire front right quarter panel. The removal of the guard would itself require dismantling the heater box, the battery tray, regulator and its part of the wiring loom and some of the front valance, along with assorted other bits and pieces. Curses, some more.
My despair spurred me to action. The internet will save me! I searched for a short cut.
Several very clever people in the Citroen community on-line suggested it was at least worth trying metalto-metal epoxy glue before the massive disassembly job otherwise required. So I did.
First time, I mixed some goop and trying to be as neat as I could, carefully laid a trail across the broken weld and waited the 16 hours curing time before prodding gingerly at the pedal. It pumped twice and then on the third push it gave way. More curses.
I thought there were signs of hope and it was worth a second attempt before the great disassembly, and this time applied generous lashings of goop. With some masking tape creating a box, I generously ladled on the goop with abandon. Sixteen hours curing, and heart in mouth…. I can report so far – fingers crossed – it is holding. A packet of “JB Weld” cost less than $20 and I reckon it has saved me several thousands of dollars if I had paid someone to remove and weld and then reinstall the pedal assembly instead. Hooray. The Woodstock generation should be proud.