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Rare Rides: There’s a 2004 Smart Roadster in Brooklyn but It’s Mostly Useless

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By on December 29, 2017

 

What has three cylinders, a removable roof, and is technically illegal to own in the United States? Why, it’s the Smart Roadster, of course.

Come have a look at all the illegal plastic you can get for twenty grand.

 

Image: 2004 Smart RoadsterLet’s have some background before we get to how illegal all of this is. The Smart brand has made three basic models throughout its history, with electric and specialty versions of each. North America received the Fortwo, while other locales received the Forfour and the Roadster you see here.

Image: 2004 Smart RoadsterAfter the initial success of their initial model, the Fortwo (then called City Coupe), owner Mercedes-Benz sought to increase the model offerings for the brand and decided a sporty coupe was the place to start. (The Mercedes badges are not original to the car.)

Image: 2004 Smart RoadsterShown first at the Paris Motor Show in 2000, the roadster sat on an extended-length version of the Fortwo’s platform. It shared the same engine as the Fortwo: A turbocharged 3-cylinder residing at the rear and producing 80 horsepower.

Image: 2004 Smart RoadsterThe Roadster received initial critical acclaim and sales success, and even won Top Gear’s Fun Car of the Year award in 2005.

Image: 2004 Smart RoadsterPlastic construction and a diminutive size kept the weight down (1,742 pounds) and made the Roadster tossable driving fun. Unfortunately that plastic construction wasn’t very good at keeping out things like water.

Image: 2004 Smart RoadsterWarranty claims skyrocketed due to the water leakage, and would often end in repairs costing thousands of dollars. This damaged both the Roadster’s reputation and the willingness of Smart to continue manufacturing the vehicle. By 2006, Smart was ready to call it quits on the Roadster. After four years of production, a little over 43,000 rolled off the line.

Image: 2004 Smart RoadsterThis Roadster for sale in Brooklyn is a 2004 model, and features the solid removable roof panel and optional paddle shifters on the wheel. Imported into California in 2009, it has about 5,000 miles and a clear Florida title. Additionally, the seller exclaims via all caps that it’s all stock and original, but also has a Sawyer tuning chip to bump the horsepower to 100. Along with that clear Florida title, the seller warns that the Roadster is “For off-road [sic] use only, but do what you want.” It’s not a vehicle you can legally title in America, and won’t be eligible for the 25-year rule for a long time. Someone has played some importation games here.

$20,000 is a lot of money for a Mercedes-Benz go-kart, but maybe it’s worth holding onto until… 2029.

If you need a laugh, you can read more in the hilariously biased, poorly written, and unprofessional Wikipedia article for the Roadster.

 

 

Rare Rides: There's a 2004 Smart Roadster in Brooklyn but It's Mostly Useless

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ztvdx1.jpg

Aha! Now I finally know what the adorable cars were in the movie Knight and Day. They were Smart Roasters. I should have known a car that cute could only be a Smart. I'm glad to hear this interesting background for this car. Thanks for the post! 

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Posted (edited) · Report post

20 gees? Hes having a giraffe.  Pick one up in the UK or Europe for £1500, import it for another $1500, and then ask the gullible public for 20 big ones? Wish I had some of what he's smoking.

 

As an aside, the model pictured is the Roadster Coupe.  A touch slower than the regular Raodster due to the extra weight, but more practical and much nicer looking.

Edited by Chopper

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I’m baffled as to why Mercedes had such issues with water ingress on the 450 and Roadster. It’s not that hard keeping water out, is it? 

 

If if it weren’t for the water issues, the Roadster would seemingly be a fantastic platform for an EV conversion. 

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EV....HA...!

I was thinking the opposite, BUSA....lol

Maybe i was still juiced from the PlunKett's thread...lol.

But just think of the power to weight ratio of what does a BUSA kick out...?   Sorry to the EV crowd...lol.....what would the battery pack weight?  I do not know to allow the EV to run for long enough to make it useable? Not being funny this time just asking..?  Would that added weight be too much for the framework of the car to deal with destroying all handling capabilities?  I thought batteries were heavy or am I still in the "D cell" days of thinking?

 

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smarts with the bike engine are virtually undriveable because of the ridiculous noise inside and the lack of a reverse gear.  Fun on a dragstrip, dire everywhere else.

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Noise is removable with enough sound proofing but the lack of a reverse has always been the thought deadening issue for me, but you can buy reverse boxes if I recall correctly, Or starter powered reverse options....when you think of it, you do not normally travel far in reverse for this option to not be a candidate.  I was a hair away from building a Lotus 7 two decades ago......just couldn't sit in one at that time due to my neck.....now thinking of it again.  But the thrill of having a highly powered street legal smart that is dry in wet conditions unlike any two seat roaster such as a Lotus 7....well I must be getting older...lol.  The complete lack of all the electrical that cripple our cars certainly is appealing, if you were to do it. Simply start from scratch. Use the shell and work it out.  I was surprised to see how much or lack of engine really stuck up into the passenger compartment in that Smart-Busa...I expected it to be a much less compact machine. 
But common sense stops all these ideas after a few weeks of dreaming of them.....it all depends upon what side of the coin you come from doesn't it, the keep things original side or the lets see what we can do with this side no matter what...lol.  I come from the latter.  Stock isn't fun, you must be a purist for that to work or the vehicle must hold a special place in your heart for that to work in my eyes.   There is far better technologies out there now to make the classics far more enjoyable to own.  OK, as I said, many classics are untouchable, it just depends upon who you are to which those classics are for you. I  love the E-type, just  perfection in looks as far as I'm concerned but I also love the Cobra 427.....which you can build yourself if you wanted, both sides of that coin.

 

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Mike..... get in touch with James (ETHICAL BEEF), the owner of the Busa that was in London last night.

He got over a year’s worth of experience in the car’s driveability.

No reverse is a major downside and, ya, he said it’s noisy as hell when he puts his foot in it.

He mentioned handling was OK, until you let the dogs out.  Then it becomes squirly due to excess power.

He lives near Bayfield, so almost all his travel is on 2 lane highways.  

He’s also had a number of other Smart cars for years, so he’s got good comparative experience.

 

 

 

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Smarts were designed from the ground up with electric propulsion in mind. I don't know if the roadster is built the same way as the 450 and 451 with the dual-floor layout, but that's where the batteries were designed to go from the beginning. Right in the bottom of the frame between the inside floor and the belly pan.

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The roadster is too low to have the double floor. 

 

And any 'bike engine in any smart would be WAY to frenetic for me and my wife.  We like our comfort: quiet cars, comfortable suspensions, good seats.  The smart diesel is about as hardcore for noise and discomfort as we will ever get.  Speed doesn't matter on the public roads; a remapped smart diesel is plenty.

 

It's funny, some modern Mercedes and BMWs (AMG and M but others too) are in many ways like the '68 Mustang my friend had in high school: ugly, with super noisy induction roar (sometimes artificially amplified by the car's sound system), super loud exhaust, painful suspensions.  Is everyone buying this overpriced garbage really enjoying this crap?  haha!

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Posted (edited) · Report post

You already answered your own question, you and your misses like creature comforts over speed and excitement....My head works on the lets see what it can do and where it can go menatlity.....the only thing that limits me is my neck pain now a days.....or I'd already have bought that engine amd be well on my way of driving it.  That and the fact I'd still be into all the other redneck activities, ATVing, OFF-ROADing etc etc.....Gater wrestling....you know good'ol boy crap.    lol..lol.
I can't leave anything in it's stock form....I must try and make it better, from where I see it...that is. May not be from where you sit, but maybe from my seat.  If there weren't folks like me, the world would never have expanded or advanced past the wheel!  lol

 

Edited by Willys

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A motorcycle engine installed in a smart doesn't have to be noisy or extremely powerful.  A dead stock 1,000cc bike engine with descent muffling will run quietly and VERY reliably with a wide range of available and usable power without making it into a drag strip queen.  If a dead stock engine isn't your thing, there are  many things that can be done to beef-up an engine and still keep it reliable and quiet.

As James was leaving Plunketts last night, he DID peg it when he got off the property..  We could hear him all the way at the back of the estate.  The car can be driven quietly for just puttering around town.. The way James's car seems to set up is that if driven sensibly, it has a  nice low growl.......nothing annoying.

 

The only real downside to doing the conversion, in my eyes, is the lack of reverse, but a little creative parking will solve most of those issues.

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Matt Bosch and Sinister Sand Sports (James' car) converted smarts have reverse gearing.

Edited by Huronlad
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13 hours ago, LooseLugNuts said:

id rather have a nice little twin cam toyota engine in there

I'll tell you if a Toyota Echo engine would fit, that would light a fire under the Smart for sure and give you everything you would ever want from it....I am about to scrap ours and keep thinking, should I...?   It still rips the tires off the Echo if asked and doesn't burn a drop so to speak between changes, but does have 560,000kms on her now and the clutch just finally said enough and is in need of changing.  I was going to build a Lotus 7 and use this engine in that, rear or mid engine design......and thought that would be a killer....but. I just do not have a complete build left in me...health wise.

But my mind keeps on motoring on.....building between the ears...lol

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