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Citroën M35

© Copyright: J.Cats.

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The M35 is the first car born out of Citroëns interest for rotary engines. The M35 is built to show what is possible and also test the reliability of the engine.

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The engine is built by the Comotor company. Comotor is a joint venture between Citroën and NSU which is started in 1964. NSU has introduced the NSU Wankel Spider the year before. In 1969 Comotor buys a 850 000m3 terrain to built a factory for assembling rotary engines.

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The engine mated to a G series gearbox using special bellhousing similar to the prototype Ami Super with the starter on top of the gearbox as on the 2cv. Front brakes are inboard using early ami 8 calipers. Ami Super driveshafts are used.

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The M35 body is built by Heuliez at Cerizay. Six bodies are built in the autumn of 1969. The project itself doesn't start until January 1970. The six bodies are painted in colors that differ from the main production run.
Here is a list of know prototypes:

Prototype:Body color:Wheel color:
000Pale yellow (jaune pâle)
001Blackwhite (blanc Meije)
002Evaluated by journalist January 1970
003Metallic grey (gris nacré)

All M35 cars have the text " Prototype Citroën M35 no ??? " painted on the front wings.

Technical details:
Type: rotary engine with one rotor
Capacity: 995 cc
Lubrication: oil mixed with the fuel
Power: 49 hp @ 5500 rpm
Body: Ami 8 coupé 2 door
Color: metallic grey (gris nacré)
Interior: black targa
Chassis: specially designed to take hydraulic suspension
Suspension: hydraulic on all 4 wheels
Side windows: electrically operated
Heating: from engine water cooling
Weight: 815 kg
Top speed: 144 km/h

The first cars are driven by professionals over 1 million km within 5 years. These cars have much better performance then later "production" cars. Some have been seen by eyewitnesses doing over 175km/h. Citroën plans to sell 500 cars to people living in France, using the cars for at least 30.000km annually. The cars will be maintained by specialist from the research department. All problems have to be reported directly to this department.

In the end only 267 cars are built. 6 of these are delivered to customers at the end of 1969, 212 during 1970 and the final 49 in 1971.

The first real production Citroën with the rotary engine is the GS birotor, a very underrated car. However, the oil crisis kills of all high fuel consumption cars at Citroën such as the SM and the GS birotor.

Citroën stops the M35 project by giving the owners the option of either keeping their cars or returning them to Citroën. Of course with interesting financial agreements when turning the cars in and buying another citroen. All cars given back to Citroën are destroyed. Quite a few customers stick to their M35, but they have to sign a contract in which Citroën does not have to keep parts for the next 10 years. Most M35 don't keep running for a long time, most get engine or ignition problems and are scrapped or stored.

Although not evident at first, very few parts are interchangeable with other Amis.

  • nose is a completely different shape compared to the ami 8.
  • headlights and indicators are identical to ami 8 ones.
  • grille is a black one as found on the early ami 8 but it has a very special logo in the middle, not the normal chevrons.
  • bonnet has different locks compared to the ami 8.
  • front wings are identical to ami 8 ones.
  • windscreen is unique to the M35, this has driven some M35 owners to despair.
  • front doors are longer then normal ami 8 ones.
  • rear wings are shorter then those on an ami 8 service because on the M35 the doors are longer.
  • boot lid is not the same as the ami 8 berline.
  • the chassis is specially designed for the M35, suspension is specially made for the hydraulic suspension.

The M35 is a very special car in the long range of Citroën a-types. It's the only a-type ever with hydraulic suspension. This special suspension, the luxurious interior and the very silent running engine make it a very comfortable car indeed.

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The hydraulic pump is the single piston pump as found on the GS. It also feeds the brakes using the master cylinder of a GS.

Today there are companies specializing in the rebuilt and modification of rotary engines. The once not so reliable engines can now be made very reliable. Mazda has proven that rotary engines can be very reliable and very powerfull with the rx7. Turbocharching suits the rotary engines very well and has given them a new life as alternative sports car power. Fuel consumption remains a weak point of the engine which is why it hasn't been seen in more common cars.

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