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One of 267: 1970 Citroen M35 Rotary Development Prototype

September 15, 2018

This 1970 Citroen M35 served as a testbed for a variety of experimental technology in its day, and is quite a rare find as none were officially sold to customers, with most of the 267 made destroyed by Citroen upon return from their lend/lease periods. Powered by an NSU/Citroen co-developed Comotor single-rotor 995cc Wankel and built on a heavily modified Ami 8 platform fitted with the oleopneumatic suspension from more upscale Citroen products, these cars were hand-assembled by Cerizay-based coachbuilder Heuliez, and each wore a decal on the rear window reading “Ce prototype Citroën ‘M35’ à moteur à piston rotatif est en essai de longue curée entre les mains d’un client Citroën,” translating to something like This prototype Citroën ‘M35’ with rotary piston engine is in long-term test in the hands of a Citroën customer. This example has reportedly remained with a marque dealer from new, and looks very nice throughout. Though claimed to remain all original, the seller does recommend a thorough going through prior to driving, as the car sounds to have been dormant for some time now. Find it here at Leclere who will oversee its auction in Hérimoncourt, France on September 16th, 2018. Pre-sale estimates range between 15k to 20k euros (~$17k to $23k USD today). Special thanks to BaT reader Kyle K. for this submission.

Rare to find in any shape, it seems most M35s left the factory in the simple gray displayed here. Trim and lighting appear complete all around, and the body seems to be in good order excluding a few minor dents and some imperfect panel alignment. Equipped with a form of the marque’s signature hydropneumatic suspension, the car looks to be sitting quite low as if the system has not been recently cycled–this makes sense as we gather it isn’t currently running. Wheels are factory, and wear correct hubcaps.

We wouldn’t call it a pretty car, but it definitely looks as interesting as its underlying mechanicals, and shows some very cool late Mid-Century Modernism influence in the tapered rear and crisp, uncluttered lines.

Conceived and used exclusively as a test platform, all M35s were fitted with the banner shown below, still retained on this example. Again, it translates to “This prototype Citroën ‘M35’ with rotary piston engine is in long-term test in the hands of a Citroën customer.”

The interior is pure Kubrick space station waiting lounge, especially the seats which are very similar to those seen in the Maserati-engined Citroen SM. Note also the single-spoke wheel, another Citroen signature, and the use of more upscale materials like leather, shiny metal trim, and wood veneers–things normally reserved for the marque’s larger, more luxurious cars like the DS.

Under the hood is what resembles the factory 995cc Wankel. The product of a joint venture between Citroen and Wankel pioneer NSU called Comotor, output was rated at 50 hp with 50 lb. ft. of torque. Although long-term durability of early Wankel engines wasn’t great, the M35 program proved enough of a success for the Citroen GS Birotor to use a similar, albeit twin-rotor design–under 1,000 were made. Using the Ami 8 upon which it was loosely based as a benchmark, M35 acceleration and performance were both improved greatly with a top speed of 90 mph, up from 75 or so in the boxer-twin powered car. Like Mazda, Citroen fitted an audible alarm that would sound as the engine neared its 7000 rpm redline, made necessary by the turbine-like smoothness inherent in non-reciprocating Wankel engines.

Details are limited, but the it sounds like the car hasn’t seen regular use in some time, and the seller warns that it will need to be gone through prior to running again. Hopefully someone gets it back to tip-top shape soon–there are plenty of big French car meets in Europe, each of which could provide an ideal opportunity to exercise and show off this fascinating rarity.



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