Well, I've finally achieved my goal of building my ideal smart car. I started with a bone stock 2008 cabrio that I bought used in 2010 in Portland, Oregon. I loved the way it drove in the twisty roads of the Oregon coast, but it wasn't nearly sporty enough.
My first move was to upgrade the shocks and springs to the Brabus Sport Suspension package, then add wheels and tires: I opted for the OZ X2 wheels
, specially designed for the smart fortwo, that bumped the tire sizes to 175/55R-15 front and 195/50R-15 rear with ContiProContacts (great tires for Pacific Northwest rain!).
Next came two products from Smarts4YouRacing Limited
in the U.K. The first was a complete set of performance suspension bushings
(front wishbones, rear beam center, rear track arms, steering rack mount, and front anti-roll bar mount. Smarts4YouRacing offers three levels of bushing compound - I opted for the orange "mid-range" ones. The bushing upgrade made a significant improvement in the car feeling absolutely planted in the turns.
The second upgrade from Smarts4YouRacing was a four-wheel disc upgrade consisting of their 280mm Front Brake Kit
and their Rear Disc Conversion
. The brakes are amazing, though I have had some difficulty getting the integrated parking brake to work as well as stock.
The final piece of the puzzle was a turbo kit from SpeedForce Racing
that went on this past winter. This was by far the most technically challenging DIY car project I had attempted. Up to this point I had installed the shocks and springs myself, had a local garage do the brakes, and had Mercedes of Portland do the bushings. I opted for the Stage II kit with air-to-air intercooler running 8lbs boost, but after experiencing more heat soak at the beginning of summer, I ordered the air-to-water intercooler upgrade (that is yet to arrive). I also installed a Bosch mechanical boost gauge - the location isn't ideal, but the more I drive the turbo the less I look at the gauge.
The addition of the turbo literally blew my mind. The pulling power of that little engine, even with 150k on the clock, is amazing. I have not dyno'ed it yet, but SFR claims 115hp, putting the power-to-weight very close to that of a Mini Cooper S. The car has great mechanical grip and I've been surprising quite a few Audi and BMW drivers lately, especially since my car looks totally stock when seen in their rear view mirror. I'm not trying to be the fastest guy on the road, just happy staying with cars that should be totally out of the smart car's league.
The "spyder" logo was an idea of mine that I took to a local vinyl decal shop, one for the rear and one for the dash. I'm quite pleased how the car has turned out. This is my daily driver over the Coast range from Lincoln City to Salem four days a week. It's a car I plan to keep as long as it puts a giant grin on my face, likely quite a while yet!
Thanks for listening!