Bill Wyman, me and the 1971 Citroën Maserati SM

Updated 30 May 2016

Apart from being a member of the original Rolling Stones, Bill Wyman was a terrific blues bass player as proved on 1971’s ‘London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions’ album, alongside Eric Clapton, Charlie Watts, Ian Stewart (the Stones’ unsung pianist),  Stevie Winwood and, of course, Howlin’ Wolf
himself.

The Howlin’ Wolf Sessions LP. A bit blurry but you get the gist

Others on the album included Phillip Upchurch, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voormann and a host of other famous names. They truly were blues super-groups who took part in those recordings. Even more importantly, the presence of Howlin’ Wolf made the sessions a unique link with the Delta blues pioneer Charlie Patton and those members of the British 1960s blues invasion backing him on the album. (Back in 1930, the young giant, Chester Burnett, as Wolf was known back then, was befriended by the tiny jockey-sized Patton who taught Wolf much what of he’d learnt from his own teacher, Henry Sloan.) In fact, those sessions actually link the first known Delta bluesman from the 1890s (Sloan) with blues musicians still playing today. But I digress.

 

That hairy creature in the SM’s driver’s seat is me in 1971

In 1971, I was road-testing in London, for some magazine or other, the only Citroën Maserati SM in Britain. It was an incredible car. Motoring writers raved about a combination of comfort, sharp handling and braking not available in any other car at the time. Only last year, the upmarket ‘Classic Driver’ magazine called it the most beautiful Maserati ever made.

Little did I know, in the South of France, Bill Wyman was having the same driving experience as I was; the only difference being I had the car on a short-term loan while Bill would own his outright for another 43 years. And, since the Citroën Maserati SM cost almost as much as a Ferrari Daytona, that’s how the situation was always going to stay.

 

Bill in 1975

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then and now, aged 78, Bill Wyman is selling the car he’s owned for 44 years at the Goodwood Festival of Speed Sale near Chichester, England, on 26 June 2015. (See bottom of page for sale result.)

Bill told Bonhams, who are auctioning the car, “The minute I saw the (Citroën) Maserati, I thought, this is it! It looked so beautiful. They showed me that incredible engine and the double headlights, and I thought, incredible! I fell in love with it.

“From 1971 to 1982, I was living in the South of France and I frequently drove the Maserati from my new home in Venice to Paris, where we recorded the albums ‘Some Girls’, ‘Emotional Rescue’ and ‘Tattoo You’. I’d drive it to Keith Richards’ place, miles away in Cap Ferrat, to record the Exile on Main Street album, and I’d drive to Paris and back, an eight-hour journey each way.”

As is well known, Bill hated flying with a passion. I suspect it was one of the reasons he left the Rolling Stones.

“It was so easy to drive,” Bill continued. “I became great friends with Marc Chagall, Cesar, and James Baldwin over the years, and I’d drive over to their homes on the Côte d’Azur. I’d also drive to Monte Carlo to hang out with Ringo and Spiros and Philip Niarchos of the Greek shipping family. I drove it to Spain too. And to Marseilles, Portofino in Italy, and back to England a few times. Oh, and of course to Switzerland. I went there twice to play at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The first time was with Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and Pinetop Perkins. Then three years later I again drove there to play with Muddy Waters again.”

 

Bill Wyman with his SM
Bill is also selling a 1966 Mercedes-Benz 250 S in June. (Sale price at bottom of page.) “I am sorry to say goodbye to these two cars, but having enjoyed them so much over the years and having kept them both in pristine condition, I feel they should now go to people who will love and take care of them as much as I have.”

As much as the Citroën Maserati SM was lauded by Bill and the world’s motoring critics, the 1973 oil crisis and resultant recession helped Citroën go broke. As well as Bill Wyman, the Citroën Maserati SM had many other famous owners. Fellow Stone Charlie Watts and Carlos Santana had one, Cheech and Chong had one each, not to mention heads of state such as the USSR’s Leonid Brezhnev, Ethiopia’s Haile Selassie and the Shah of Iran. Uganda’s Idi Amin had six.

S T O P   P R E S S      30 JUNE 2015
Bill sold his 1971 Citroën Maserati SM for £66,980 (US$95,117) at Bonham’s auction on 26 June while his 1966 Mercedes Benz 250S fetched £20,700 (US$32,769).

 

“Paul! Thanks for sharing great #Blues info!”
Claire Elizabeth @ClaireAirfy Dallas, USA. 25 May 2015.

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4 comments

  1. Wow what an interesting article Paul … How lucky were you getting to test drive that Citroen Maserati and how crazy that collab is , it reminds me of the Lotus Carlton a collaboration between Lotus and Vauxhall when they made the very rare and very beautiful Lotus Carlton a far smarter car imo and still one of my fave saloons ever made . Cheech and Chong had one of the Citeron Masseratis each ! haha !Its probably because they were so stoned all the time they needed a proper comfy motor … good choice but as expensive as a Ferrari Daytona wow you would have to love one to pay that much….

  2. Thanks for you feedback, Ade. I wasn’t aware of the Lotus Carlton until you enlightened me. I see a 1993 model is worth about £55,000. A true collectors’ car then.

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