On old paint, plastic surgery and digging deep
In the previous part we lauded the Citroën SM. For the sake of brevity we will assume that the beauty of this exceptional vehicle is no longer a point of contention. So now, please allow us to bring some moderation to this story, as to not lose track of reality. Without shunning superficiality, both in the literal and figurative sense, this part will talk about looks. As we already wrote, not all beauty lasts forever and can come to expression on its own: a model can have the right figure, but if he or she is clad in rags it is unlikely to turn any heads. A well-built racing horse with a dull coat will not do well at auction.
For a car, even one as uniquely and beautifully designed as the Citroën SM, it is a no different. The figure might be fine, but the covers require attention as well. It is these two factors that will determine the look of a car: the bodywork and the paint. Especially for a Citroën SM the interaction between the two is of the utmost importance, something which will become clear shortly.
A car’s bodywork can endure quite a lot over the years. Let’s be fair, the Citroën SM is not the easiest car to park. Therefore it is not unthinkable that a previous enthusiast could have made her kiss a pole or two.
Our apologies for this horrid scenario, but do not panic! Such small grievances can always be dealt with, but the way in which this is done is crucial. Whether it is because of a shortage of funds, a tradesman’s lack of expertise or a combination of the two, the sad truth is that many Citroën SMs run into filler. To save costs the dent in question can be masqued, after which a new lick of paint covers the sad ordeal.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is not how you maintain a car’s full glory. A proper bodyworker would, in such a case, work the metal in such a way that the bodywork would regain its original shape. It could be compared to plastic surgery, where one would have good and bad procedures. Most of the time the result speaks for itself. For cars, this isn’t any different.
This brings us to the ‘clothing’. A good design will only truly shine if it has a good, clean and shiny coat of paint. It would be best if the painter in question was not too shy about using a fair amount. Not too much though, because too much paint would cause dripping. Car paint is not too different from botox: the right amount here and there will make everything nice and even, but too much gives bulges in all the wrong places. This new coat should also be given the time to harden. All this will lead to a good-looking and strong layer of paint that will not only give the car a shiny look, but also protect her bodywork from the elements. A good coat of paint reflects like a mirror, even and clear, and feels like a baby’s skin.
But we are talking about a special car, and a special car requires special attention. The spiritual father of the Citroën SM, Robert Opron, was not just any car designer. In a different life, monsieur Opron used to be a sculptor. It was with this background that he designed the Citroën SM’s unique lines. If we look behind the car’s front wheels we will encounter a flat surface. If we follow this surface to the back of the car we will encounter a line that gets increasingly sharper as we near the rear. At the very end this line will be a significant angle in the car’s bodywork.
It is this line that makes both repairing and painting the bodywork of a Citroën SM such a challenge. It is also because of this line that many a car painter was brought the edge of his sanity, because yet another time Nard would come to inspect whether or not the angle had not been blunted. This disappearing line and angle are very important for the overall design and look of the car. All too often the necessary attention is not given and all that remains is a stumped derivative of the sharp angle Opron originally fashioned from clay.
It should come as no surprise that we take this process very seriously. Our car required, as a barn find covered in dust, no small amount of cosmetic procedures to life up to the ideal described here. Many hours were spent digging for the origin.
Armed with a heat gun and paint spatula every layer of paint, every bit of filler was burned and stripped from the bodywork. This did not stop until the source was found: blank, clean steel.
Now, after the contribution of a skilled bodyworker, a taut and empty canvas is waiting. Maybe you are the one that gets to pick its clothes. When this choice is made an experienced painter can add the last layer. You can be sure that we will make sure that every angle and line is retained, so that even when you run into Robert Opron himself he will nod in approval, knowing that his design will conserved for future generations.