What is it with the French and their magnificent market failures? This is the Citroën SM Opéra, a galactic market failure which makes galactic market failures like the Renault Avantime (total made: 8,557) look positively submicroscopic. For this, to be specific, is one of the eight Citroën SM Opéras ever made.

If you’re reading this, you need no introduction to the SM. That’s precisely what’s so maddening about the Opéra. The SM has a heart of Maserati, and Maserati could make the idea of a sedan based on a grand tourer work, even if it took them five iterations: the Maserati Quattroporte has been a success in every way for seven years.

Photo Credit: Asphalte.ch

Not the Opéra. The car was based on a French government commission for two SM-based long-wheelbase convertible limousines to serve as President Georges Pompidou’s official cars. The order left coachbuilder Henri Chapron, who’d converted the SM’s into Pompidou’s Citroën One’s, with the tooling for future four-door SM’s. The Opéra was first shown at the 1972 Paris Motor Show, and it tanked even faster than most gas-happy exotics introduced immediately before the 1973 oil crisis. Eight cars were made between 1972 and 1974. That’s eight, as in the number of non-thumb digits on a pair of human hands that don’t belong to careless woodsmen.

Photo by Peter Orosz

Which is a shame. The Opéra is lovely in the flesh (pictured here with jasmine blooms reflected off its plum paintjob), an SM with room for children, dogs, friends, bags of gourmet food, cages full of parakeets. The only consolation is that its spirit more or less lives on in the Citroën C6, a soporific French lounge sedan with a big V6. I once rode in a black one in October. It took about three minutes, tops, to fall into very heavy sleep.

Photo by Peter Orosz