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You'd still need to keep the fob if you want to drive your car. More electronics in there than just unlock/lock circuitry.
 

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There is a coil beneath the ignition switch that reads the presence of the original key's rfid tag to be certain it is a programmed key before the car is started or the imobilizer shuts everything down.
I suppose the rfid tag is part of the fob.
 

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This is the key I drive with. Stays in the car almost all of the time. When it's locked with the remote in my pocket the immobilizer keeps it from being stolen. Only works if you have a 450 though. :D
 

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There have been previous key discussions revolving around separating the key from the fob. When you open the fob to change the battery, you can see that the metal "key" portion can be removed.
I seem to recall someone (or a few people) talking about leaving the key in place and taking the fob with them since the immobilizer will keep the car from starting if the proper fob unit is not in proximity to the car. In this configuration, you'd have the round fob unit with you and the key portion could be in the ignition ready to start. Click the unlock and enter the car and you can turn the key that is in place and start the car. Take the fob and leave the vicinity of the car and (at least theoretically) the car can't be started.
If you're looking for a cheaper alternative to the pricey smart key, you still have to deal with the fob/immobilizer. The ignition is not just a multi-position electrical switch in the case of the smart.
I used a rental car that had a push-button ignition that gave you the option of inserting the key with immobilizer in a conventional approach or just having the key in your pocket when you got into the car and then pushing the start button. I imagine that could be a future option if MB elected to go that route with the smart.
 

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Changing a 451 over to a conventional style ignition key would probably come under the heading, Bad Idea... Way more than what you would want to alter or get into...Unless your trashing the car out and using it for recreational purposes...
 
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