2008 Smart Fortwo
When it comes to being different, nothing grabs more attention than the Smart car. "One day I pulled up next to a Ferrari with our yellow Smart. Everybody on the sidewalk pointed at my car, some even yelled compliments to me. The Ferrari owner sat there with a `what the hell' expression on his face. These cars are true head-turners and absolutely fun to drive," said Boris Tilim of Smart Madness.
If you missed our initial review and test-drive of the Smart Fortwo in et 2/08, don't fret because the article can be found online at www.eurotuner.com But to quickly remind you, the Smart is designed and built in Europe. The Smart brand started in '93 as a joint venture between Mercedes-Benz and Swatch. Using the expert automotive engineering of Mercedes with the design influences of the Swatch watch company, the idea was to make the perfect city car. The result was a two-seat coupe shaped to fit in any parking space and maneuver around Europe's tight city streets. Fuel economy also excelled and the latest model flaunts 33/41mpg. Sales of the first Smart began in '98 across Europe, and the company continued to expand by introducing several concepts and a second-generation model in '06 (which finally hit US shores in 2008).
Of the trio featured here, two of them show off the tuning capabilities of the newer-generation Smart Fortwo available to North America. The pair belongs to Smart Madness, (www.smartmadness.com) a company dedicated to personalizing Smart Cars. They've quickly become a source of Smart parts across the US and, if you're local in SoCal, its shop offers full service with parts installation, paint and bodywork, maintenance and engine upgrades as well.
The third of the tiny trio is an anomaly. Sean Alinaghian owns this first-generation '02 coupe, which was imported from Europe years ago and was passed around among a group of friends. With no parts readily available in the US, Sean fought adversity to build the most unique Smart outside of Europe and Asia.
In January '08, hundreds of patient Smart owners rejoiced as their long-awaited cars began arriving. The US model turned up in three different trim levels but was limited to one engine and one transmission. However, the dimensions remained the same, and owners couldn't wait to hop in.
Measuring 5.1x5.1x8.8', some owners even bought two Smarts, since a pair could snugly fit into an average parking space. Priced as low as $11990 for the base model, these cars were selling like hot cakes. But to some owners, it still lacked pizzazz. There weren't many upgrades at the time, even from the dealer. Only available with one engine also meant owners were stuck with the 70hp 1.0 inline-3. Governed to 90mph, the car lacked the power to take on long road trips or even commute on faster highways.
This is where Smart owners like Boris and fiance Rachel Mills come in. Both quickly became owners when the car was released but were frustrated when they couldn't add their personal flavor. After identifying the lack of support, the couple invested in Smart Madness.
The company would be their second home, where they spent Monday-Friday working, holding Smart-meets on weekends and tuning on their personal '08 Fortwos after hours.
The orange coupe should ring a bell since it was featured in the Falken Tire booth at SEMA, while belonging to previous owner, Shane Christman of Mother's Car Wax. Smart Madness bought the car and reworked it into a quicker but reliable coupe.
Exterior-wise, the House of Kolor paint screamed for attention and the 17x7" Volk TE-37 bronze wheels gave the Smart car a motorsport feel. Smart Madness provided the custom adapters to fit the five-lug wheels to the three-lug hubs, but admitted the wheels will change soon to Carlsson rims. The outside featured a Kuhl FX body kit, Smart Madness' own carbon fuel door and air scoop, as well as tow hooks from Smart Performance.
The performance shines the brightest, though, because they added a Speed Force turbo kit, which claims to produce 85-90whp. Using a Garrett GT20 turbo, it boosts 5psi to improve acceleration and speed across the rev range. A Sprint Booster module, along with a center-exit exhaust, improve throttle response and engine noise, while Eibach springs give the coupe its go-kart handling.
Smart Madness didn't overlook the interior, and the seats sported checkered leather with orange and black alcantara inserts. Carbon accents adorned the dash and gauge rings, plus a custom bridge sat in the rear to show off four speakers in the rear. For a complete sound package, Smart Madness installed its hidden subwoofer box, which used an 8" JL Audio sub.
The yellow example is equally cool, but slightly different being a cabriolet. Some similarities include the same body kit and certain accessories. During our photo shoot, the cabrio roared like a lion on the streets, which surprised onlookers as the tiny drop-top pulled up next to them. The grandiose exhaust note and quicker performance stemmed from Smart Madness headers, exhaust, cold-air intake and software.
For the yellow car, lowering springs were designed by Smart Madness to give a lowered ride while not being too bouncy for daily driving, nor too soft for aggressive use.
A more aggressive wheel was then chosen, going with 17x6.5" front and 17x7" rear Lorinser Speedy wheels. To look mean, they were painted satin black and combined with the Kuhl FX kit. Also, a carbon hood and rollbar covers, smoked tail lights and Brabus fuel cover were added.
For more show points, Smart Madness engineered a vertical door kit which doesn't look too obnoxious on the convertible. Interior-wise, almost every panel and trim piece was either replaced in carbon or color-matched to the exterior. Wet Okele seat covers gave the interior its final makeover.
Now that you've seen what's available for the new Smart, step back and see a Smart with enormous ambition from a seasoned Euro enthusiast. Having previously built seven project cars, Sean Alinaghian sold his Mercedes and Infinity project cars for the rare two-seater. "I really didn't want the new generation," he explained. "Nobody can get the gen 1 any more, so it's really rare to find one. I like to stand out from the crowd!"
The '02 model came with a six-speed transmission and 700cc three-cylinder motor. Incredibly small in size, Sean told us it's not such a bad thing since the engine doesn't need to be smog-tested due to its displacement.
With a rare vehicle to work on, nothing would come cheap or easy. So Sean had to enlist several people, tuners and friends to help with the rare build.
The paint stood out the most with its `scratch' black theme. "Everybody thinks it's vinyl but if you look at the paint closely, you see the grey scratches have metallic and the black is flat. There's a lot of detail in the paint." DTM Audobody in El Monte, CA completed the task and fabricated custom rear fenders. The carbon rears were based on the Brabus widebody fenders but were sculpted to be wider. Sean explained the stock rear wheels are typically 5.5" wide, but his new fenders were able to squeeze 8" wide wheels!
While on the subject of wheels, Sean didn't have a long list of options when owning a three-lug car. "Brabus was the official tuner of the first-gen Smart and I didn't want to go with no-name brand. No company had any support or reputation except for Brabus."
So Sean imported a set of four Brabus Monoblocks, which measured 16x5.5" in the front and 17x8" in the rear. Harbor Motorsport refinished the wheels in gloss black with orange pinstripes. This would match the six-piston brake calipers Harbor refinished as well. The calipers clamp onto a set of 305mm rotors in the front from Netherlands-tuner S-Mann. While the paintbrushes were out, Sean had Harbor color the hats gloss black to match the wheels. The rotor bolts flaunt a matching orange pinstripe.
Engine performance wasn't an easy task for the old Smart. Rated at 57hp stock, Sean felt like a little boy driving a golf kart. So he imported a BIG Performance turbo setup from the UK, which included the exhaust manifold, injectors, diverter valve and turbo. Coupled with a Brabus exhaust, plus an S-Mann oil cooler and Brabus air-to-water chargecooler for better cooling, the Smart is in the ballpark of 110hp. Hyevon Motorsports was responsible for the installation.
Completing the Smart's performance was a set of KW Variant 2 coilovers, which had to be personally imported from Europe.
Just as we believed Sean was done telling us about his car, we were surprised to find the interior was even more insane. It has an aggressive pair of Recaro Pro Racer seats and a custom bar built by Unique Fabrications securing Sparco harnesses. The upholstery was also done in alcantara, included the dash, door panels, headliner, pillars and trunk. Certain parts of the upholstery, such as the door panels, used a unique French-stitching design in orange to add contrast and class. In the rear, a custom frame was incorporated to showcase the motor, while a Smart logo was embroidered on its right.
Not yet finished with the interior, Sean sourced rare Brabus parts including a shift knob, e-brake handle, carbon gauge rings and steering wheel. The new wheel added the functionality of paddle shifters. Finally, a Scangauge X gauge displayed the engine vitals such as oil temp, boost, air/fuel and more.
The original Smart came with two 2.5" speakers in the front dash. But for Sean's listening pleasure, he swapped them with a custom soundboard housing two 5.5" Polk speakers controlled by a Pioneer head unit.
Last on Sean's list was the lighting, for which he had to disassemble the head- and foglights to retrofit projector housings with HID bulbs.
Sean's efforts have proven worthy for the car community and he's joined the nationally known Auto Concept Elite. "I wanted to be the first person to go all-out on a Smart car and set the bar high." With plans to do rear big brakes and a carbon widebody front, he's certainly shown the tuner community that big things can come in small packages.