Welcome to Used Car Face Off, where we find two similar or similarly priced used cars and ask you which one you would buy. Choose wisely!
A couple weeks ago, I focused on some coupes from the 2000s that were relatively cheap and one was relatively rare. Neither of them were particularly special, however, which is a quality you want from a car that will cause endless moments of inconvenience when transporting more than one other person. Coupes should look and feel special, yet few of them do today. Time to go back to the 1970s and '80s, I guess.
So many carmakers play it safe now that it's necessary to dig up some interesting creations from a time of fewer regulations and smaller manufacturers and importers who could afford to lose some money. This week, I've assembled some ambitious attempts that were otherwise massive failures. But ones that are reasonably sought after today.
The Citroen name sounds weird in the U.S., but only because you haven't been able to buy a new one here since the Nixon Administration. The SM, however, will always be weird, even by Citroen standards. That's fine, because weird usually means beautiful with this French company. This 1973 SM in brown is very, very beautiful. And it's one-owner. Fantastic.
Fantastic also describes the interior. It's brown in here, too. The gear lever for the five-speed manual operates in a funny way. The radio is mounted in traditional Citroen fashion: on the console where you can't see or use it. Useable? No. Inviting? Absolutely.
Power comes from a 3.0-liter V6, but the amazing thing about opening a Citroen's hood is seeing the Hydropneumatic suspension balls. Smooth engine, great ride, amazing looks – how could it have failed? Well, complexity for one. But you have to continue to applaud the ambition with the SM and even though the $24,500 price is high and you'll kill yourself looking for parts, shouldn't everyone own one? On second thought... no, not everyone should own an SM.
Citroen is still an established carmaker in Europe, and the SM was officially sold here in 1972 and 1973, so it's almost a mainstream choice when compared to this: the Bitter SC. What's a Bitter? It isn't a Ferrari 400, even though it looks like one. It's an Opel with a totally different body sold through Buick dealers that no one bought in the '80s. Another failed GM attempt to topple the imports? Actually, yes. That makes this 1985 Bitter SC very, very odd.
The exterior is actually pretty nice to look at. The inside, however, not so much. Thirty years shows the kind of progress we've made as a society regarding leather-upholstered dashboards. The color is the problem – too much cream.
Like the Citroen, it's a 3.0-liter six here. Unfortunately, I believe the automatic tied to this car is a three-speed unit. The fact it looks like a Ferrari doesn't win it any favors when people think you're going to go very quickly from a light. This is much cheaper than a Ferrari – or the Citroen for that matter – at $10,400. And it's probably much, more easy to fix. Maybe.
Would I be brave and take the Bitter? No, but not because it isn't without its charms or the fact you'd have the long explanation of its existence. It just doesn't come close to the marvel of the SM. And if I'm going to by a headache-inducing car, you want to hear people go "Wow" on a regular basis.