I was about 10 years old, and playing Hot Wheels on the porch of our suburban South Jersey home, when I saw a UFO glide down the street.

I ran into the house to tell my mom about this FANTASTIC gold car I just saw, however she naturally thought I was talking about my miniature die-cast cars and paid me no mind.

I went back outside, hoping the unidentified car might still be on my street, but alas it was gone.

A few weeks later, I was riding my bike with a few friends, when I saw the mysterious gold car again, about a block away. I raced after it, leaving my friends to wonder WTF I was doing. Unfortunately, I lost sight of the car as it pulled out of our neighborhood.

Determined to find out what exactly this sleek car was, the like of which had never before seen in my bologna-and-cheese-on-Wonder-Bread-suburban-New Jersey eyes, I decided to seek it out.

I found a map of my town in the library and painstakingly copied it by hand, noting exactly where my boundaries lay - a couple of heavily trafficked main roads, east and south, a small river to the north and a strip of woods to the west - which if crossed, would land me in trouble with my parents if they found out.

For the next two weeks, I conducted a grid search of my neighborhood, riding my bike up and down streets looking for my quarry. (My aunt called me “Ahab” when I told her what I was doing; it took me 15 years to get that joke.)

Finally, one afternoon, THERE IT WAS!!! A sculpture of glass and steel and rubber that looked like it was from another world!! I stood about 20 feet away from it for a minute or two, mouth (probably) agape, trying to take it all in.

Finally, I laid my bike down on the curb and walked close enough to read the nameplate on the full-width tail-light:


I spent at least five minutes looking all around the car, getting almost close enough to touch it, but not quite, until I noticed one of the neighbors staring at me from across the street.

I rode home repeating the letters C-I-T-R-O-E-N to my self over and over so I wouldn’t forget. When I got home, I wrote the letters down in my notebook, preserving them for posterity I suppose.

When my father got home, I asked him “What kind of car is a ‘cy-TRO-en?” He had no idea what I was talking about.

During our next trip to the library, I attempted to find “CITROEN” in the card catalog, to no avail. The World Book Encyclopedia was equally useless. Finally, out of earshot of my mother who had growen weary of my obsession with this “Cy-tro-en” of mine, I asked the librarian, who pointed me to the periodical desk. The clerk there went into a back room and returned with a magical tome, emblazoned with the words MOTOR TREND CARS OF THE YEAR. (insert angelic singing here.)

I flipped through the magazine until I found a small black-and-white photo of the “Cy-tro-en” in profile. I read the article two or three times, then spent most of my 25 cents a week allowance making photocopies of it.

Over the last few weeks of summer vacation, I rode past the house where I had seen the “Cy-tro-en” hoping to get another look at it. Finally, the car and its owner re-appeared one Sunday and I spent probably a half-hour pestering him with questions as he showed off the features of the car, including the little lever inside the driver’s footwell that raised and lowered the suspension.

I learned the proper pronunciation of “Citroën” as well that day.

Subsequent trips to the library turned up no additional information on the Citroen (the days before the internet were dark times....) until I had the brilliant idea (for a 10 year old) to look in the phone book. There I found a Citroen dealer in Atlantic City NJ. I wrote down the number and secreted it in my pocket.

The next day, I called the Citroen dealer, and trying to sound mature, asked for any information they had on the car. (I think I claimed i was working on a school project even though it was mid-August and school didn’t start until after Labor Day.) Finally, I got ahold of a woman who took me semi-seriously, or at least wanted to get this damn kid off the phone. She took down my name and address and promised to send me something in the mail.

A few days later, a big envelope appeared in the mail with my name on it. It contained a full brochure of the Citroen SM, along with some smaller pamphlets and a business card from one of the salesmen. My parents were astonished that my “Cy-tro-en” actually existed, and I remember my father actually reading through the literature with some interest.

Alas, my dreams of becoming the coolest kid on the block soon crumbled as my arguments to persuade my parents to trade in our 1970 Plymouth Duster for a Citroen SM fell on deaf ears.

A week later, the phone bill came in. There was an unexplained 14 minute toll-call to Atlantic City on the bill that cost nearly THREE WHOLE DOLLARS! It didn’t take long for my parents to put two-and-two together and ground me for the last week of summer vacation -AND- prohibitted me from swimming in my grandparents’ pool on Labor Day weekend.

Even more tragically, my Citroen literature confiscated and destroyed before my eyes. I’m pretty sure I cried.

I still have a penchant for Citroens and other weird cars to this day, but the SM is at the top of my bucket list. Unfortunately, they are quickly approaching complete unobtainability in terms of both my financial means and mechanical abilities.

They still remind me of a spaceship though....