Car enthusiasts must tread a fine line with badges. Nobody is being fooled into thinking your otherwise debadged 318d is an M-car just because you’ve affixed a few little M logos and painted some of the grille vanes, for instance, but factory badging can be just as bad; you have to spend thousands on carbon fibre for the average Panamera these days just to offset the weight of the Turbo S E-Hybrid script hanging off most of the panels.
So you’d be forgiven for treating the Toyota badge perched on top of the factory logo on this Smart ForTwo with extreme caution, like somebody just found it on a shelf in the garage and had some superglue handy. That is, until lift and drop Smart’s split tailgate to find a Toyota 3S-GTE four-cylinder chilling out in the back.
It represents a fair old upgrade on the usual three-cylinder, that’s for sure, and according to the advert on eBay, it’s making around 220bhp, or around four times that of a standard first-gen Smart. A car that Mercedes-Benz designed to navigate cities has instead been rebuilt to climb hills, specifically ones with names like Shelsley Walsh.
It’s impressive how standard the car looks on the outside, as underneath it’s very different indeed. The rear seems to be mostly Toyota MR2, the source of that engine, while the front suspension is from the Brabus version of the Fortwo, and the bit in between, where you sit, is all custom-made.
There’s a big transmission tunnel, something the original Smart doesn’t have, to accommodate the manual gearshift, also something Smarts of the era didn’t have. It’s all somewhat rustic, though you do at least get a bulkhead between the engine and cabin. Even so, it must get a bit toasty – in the shot with the bulkhead removed, you can see the Toyota’s exhaust manifold and turbo are right up against it, mere inches from the back of the seat.
It is exceedingly not-road-legal, but then a road-legal Smart doesn’t pop small wheelies and can’t be coerced around a sprint course or up a hillclimb quicker than, say, Subaru Imprezas and Honda S2000s.
This Smart is not some recent concoction either, as there are videos of it on YouTube going back more than a decade. It’s clearly well-developed and no doubt has a few more scalps to take with the right driver. Given it’s currently being auctioned on eBay, that driver could now be you. You’ll need to trailer it away, but don’t bother with a screwdriver – that Toyota badge can stay right where it is.