Someone Else's Problem: One for the other foot? A French Impostor? - 2005 Smart Roadster Coupé

I makesded a cheesy video. Contains squirrel mincing noises but no squirrels were harmed in the making of the video.

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Great video. Reminds me how much of a hoot that thing really is. An MX-5 would have been a far more sensible choice but wouldn't have afforded nearly as many opportunities to break out the spanners.
It's been a dry and warm weekend with no salt on the roads so after getting the other jobs done I wanted to get a run in the Roadster. I didn't want to go a huge distance and wanted to stop and check out a footbridge that was being replaced over a ford I used to drive quite regularly so just winged it and did a loop around some villages on the back roads.

I stopped to grab this picture where I parked up near the ford, even when I'm not in a Land Rover I can't resist going off road. I've still never actually washed this thing, it doesn't seem to pick up dirt but I do need to wash it this year...


It was great to get the roof off and initially I was just in a T-shirt but gave up fairly quickly because it was cold. Then it started raining. Oh well, the roof still stayed down...

Future plans have been going around my head, it needs a service this year as it's been 3 years since the last guy got it serviced, then I need to sort out the niggly little problems that make the car look unsightly. I'm tempted to just buy new rear side windows as any used ones will have the same UV damage and will likely have the same broken fixing points. However, they are expensive at around £240 a side. The hinges need sorting as they're horrible.

I'd also really like to swap these wheels for the 3-spoke 'spikeline' type as not only do I think they look nicer but they also match the 1/18 scale Kyosho model that I plan to get. Other than the model being LHD it would then be identical to mine.

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Cameras were being discussed in the roadtrip chat last week and since it was such a nice weekend I decided to give the GoPro a proper test on a two hour drive. The battery didn't last, unfortunately, so I have a 3m USB-C cable arriving so I can power it from the car. Engine audio is coming from a RØDE Videomicro in the back with the dead cat to reduce wind noise, the roof not entirely folded down and the engine cover sound deadening removed. Mapping software is OsmAnd captured on my iPhone.

Just need to find a set now at a decent price, it would be great if I could exchange my wheels and some cash for a refurbished set as I already have 2 sets of wheels in the garage that I don't use. Also, apparently Smart say they're six spoke. Pff ?.
Not driving the Smart this weekend due to bad weather but I had just enough of a chance to whip out the gauge pod so I can switch the backing from silver to black. The translucent black legend on the silver backing really doesn't let the light from the LEDs through for some reason, the white legend on black is much better. I can't just use the old gauges because the VIN and odometer readings don't match, the odometer blanks out and gives it away. I may be able to get the VIN changed to the correct one on all three computers and have the odometer corrected when it goes in for a service in the spring.

At the same time I polished some of the scratches out of the clear plastic, on both sets it looked like the plastic had been cleaned with a scouring pad.


I've tested it but not refitted it yet, currently the fuel gauge shows empty when it should be 1/4 but apparently this is a thing that happens sometimes and it should correct itself. Poor thing needs a wash too, snapped this yesterday when it was still dry.

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Two weeks on and I've been working on a few of projects for the Smart. I think this is going to need multiple posts...

Firstly, I caved in and bought the paddle shift wheel. Fitting should've been easy. It wasn't.

I finally decided that I wanted to add the paddles, after finding 3D printable paddle extensions that address the only drawback of them - they're quite small. I was also watching the prices and availability on eBay and not only was there only one left for sale from the seller I had been watching since last year (they had three when I first started looking), the others for sale were also considerably more expensive.

I had read about issues with the steering angle sensor cartridge on the back of the wheel and that a way around the issue is to leave that in place on the car, dismantle the wheel around it and then build up the new wheel, after taking that apart too of course. The steering wheels are practically identical underneath with only changes in the plastic parts and the addition of the paddle shift modules and wiring. It should be a straight swap with the wiring just being unplugged from one and into another...

Nope. The wires on my old wheel are different to the new wheel and to the one shown in the guides. Rather than a nice, neat plug the old wheel has a bullet and spade (ish) connector combo. Sigh. This was a nasty surprise and I had to cut the plug off the sensor cartridge that came with the paddle shift wheel, cut the terminals off the ends of the wires in my existing sensor cartridge and join the two with a nice spliced and soldered connection. Fortunate that I have a butane soldering iron as I don't have power to the garage and it's about 70m from the house as the cable flies. This soldering iron also shrunk the heat shrink nicely, although it burnt it a bit. It works very quickly!


I didn't want to do this but the alternative was trying to use the other steering angle sensor cartridge that may never work, they're very fragile.

The connector under the dash also has to be swapped, I had full view of this when I was re-sealing the water channels but didn't want to buy the paddle shift wheel at the time and ignored it. I had to get down on the floor again and reach under the dash. After the issues with the SAM last year I've become quite good at removing the plugs quickly, but reaching the connectors at the back of the footwell was another thing entirely. It would've been much easier if I was left handed or if it was a LHD car but eventually I got the plugs swapped over.

The wheel was built then built back up, this was quite a quick job and I could test the paddles. I should mention that at this point I still didn't actually know that this would work, I was only assuming that the SAM I bought had the paddle shift codes as it had cruise control. Fortunately it did have the codes and the paddle shift was working immediately. That's a relief, it would've cost me another £50 or so to have to code added and I would have to wait until I take it for a service. I took it out for a test drive and it worked perfectly, however there was one issue - the steering wheel wasn't straight. With the added confusion of wires I wasn't expecting and my haste to get the wheel off I forgot to mark the original position of the wheel...

Oh well, off with all of the trim again so I can move it over one spline on the shaft. I had originally marked the shaft so I had to modify my markings.


Why not mark my visit to the centre of this wheel while I was here?


All built up with the paddle extensions. This picture was actually taken after it was built up the first time but let's pretend this is complete...


I've completed another project so I'll post that tomorrow.
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Secondly, I wanted to sort out the bodge job of a 12V splitter as it keeps falling out of the dash and takes up the entire centre section, with so little storage I need that space back!

Before Ringmeet last year I needed extra sockets for the dashcam so I pulled out all of the factory trays and shoved in my spare Ring four socket splitter however it would fit, diagonally as it turns out. This did the job but it keeps falling out and I really don't need four sockets, so I looked for alternatives on Amazon. Ideally I wanted something with a digital voltmeter and it had to be smaller than the Ring unit, otherwise anything goes. I went for one of these units in the end, although I was sceptical about the LCD screen as all of the pictures look like Photoshop...


When the unit arrived the LCD was indeed different to the pictures, not as bright or as clear and quite hard to see in the car but never mind. It shows voltage and either ambient temperature when nothing is plugged in to the USB ports or current when things are. I'll come back to the ambient temp sensor. The rings around the sockets are illuminated when turned on, in this picture the far one is on.


I wanted to make it fit where a pop out tray and 12V power socket sat, at the top of the CD-holder style section of the dash. It would be replacing the original factory fitted 12V socket. The slide out tray clips in to a wobbly plastic frame, I thought this then had clips that held it into the dash but it seems like I imagined this part.

I 3D printed a test part first to ensure I had the correct dimensions and then made a part to suit the 12V splitter. The splitter was dismantled and some holes added so I could screw the thing down to the 3D printed tray from the inside of its case, drilling my left pinkie finger in the process. I used small screws that are just cleared by the 12V socket body when the thing goes back together and are invisible.


On the power side, I wanted to hard wire this thing in. The original 12V socket was rusty on the inside so I wasn't worried about chopping the wires off and scrapping the part, but didn't want to do so without a spare original unit so bought one on eBay that has no rust. Inside the dash is a surprisingly large block connector for the 12V socket, so I spliced the wires from the sacrificed socket to the input wires on the splitter, this will all then be hidden inside the dash.

Back to that temp sensor then. Originally it was mounted on the main board of the splitter, so was only useful for measuring the temperature of the electronics. Maybe this was the intention but I was quite keen of having it measure the temperature inside the car so I moved it, it now sits alongside the splitter on the 3D printed tray. This might've been wasted effort, however, as the temperature isn't shown when a USB cable is plugged in and it seems to be pretty inaccurate anyway. Whatever.


Here it is mounted in the dash. I'm happy with it, but need to find a way to stop it sliding out as, like I said, I imagined that the tray was clipped in and couldn't move.

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Looking great!
Here it is mounted in the dash. I'm happy with it, but need to find a way to stop it sliding out as, like I said, I imagined that the tray was clipped in and couldn't move.

poster buddies to the rescue!
you'll be able to take it right out and clean it like it's never been installed, but it won't slide out under acceleration...
poster buddies to the rescue!
you'll be able to take it right out and clean it like it's never been installed, but it won't slide out under acceleration...

Good call, I don't have any but can make my own from VHB tape. ?

I forgot to mention that I'm now one step closer to the car being as identical as possible to the scale model I posted further up the page, I went ahead and bought it in the end.
Things were quiet for a while with the Roadster, I still don't have my third project complete but I did another long 'scenic drive' along a new route. It's split into two parts because the render kept failing on the full (nearly 2 hour) 4K video.

It has also now been serviced. The last service in the book was 2016, I don't remember if the previous owner had a reason for not servicing it but it's taken me 9 months to finally get around to it so I'm hardly innocent. I had it booked in at a Smart specialist in Watford today (10th) and as I said, things were quiet and uneventful. That was until Saturday, when I found a puddle of coolant under the engine after driving it. The metal coolant pipe that connects the turbo to the block had decided that enough was enough and it sprung a leak.

Fast forward to this morning and the Roadie is on the back of a truck, I'm a passenger in the cab and we're heading down to Watford. The Smart specialist I chose to use is S2 Smarts and I've only ever heard good things about them. They had a look at the water-damaged SAM unit for me when I removed it back in August last year. Service complete and the pipe changed, I was back on the road again. It's the first time I've actually driven it on the motorway since the limp-mode trip from Germany and I almost forgot how well it cruises when it actually has power. It's also faster when my wallet is considerably lighter.

The service highlighted a number of issues that will prevent it from passing an MOT and being a Smart those jobs can't be done by a local garage, so I'll be back down there on the 24th to have those sorted and the MOT renewed. :)
you could almost say it's a porsche! :D

I still stick by my statement that it sounds a bit like a Porsche too.

As for sound, the squirrel mincing sounds of the turbo have been improved due to the better air filter the Smart specialist fits as standard. There may be another reason, something to do with boost pressure, but if I told you any more I'd have to kill you. The walls have ears, you know. :-D
Time for another update. The MOT was due to expire on the Wednesday 24th and other work was needed to get it through so I was back down at S2 Smarts that morning to have the brake pipes changed, a bearing replaced and ball joints sorted. With all of that sorted it now has an MOT, but still needs rear wheel cylinders as they're weeping a little. Not bad enough to fail the MOT but they need sorting.

Not sure when I'll be back down yet, maybe the 8th.
Make sure it's sorted by the 17th. ;)
Make sure it's sorted by the 17th. ;)

Now booked in for remaining work on the 10th - next Friday. :-D

I don't fancy taking the motorway home from London on a Friday afternoon so have plotted a scenic route using A and B roads, some nice straight ones and some twisties to enjoy. This will of course take longer but I'm in no rush and at least I won't be sitting in motorway traffic.
Yet another update. Finally, everything is done. The brake cylinders were replaced and now I have proper braking again. I'm still getting used to them as they feel different now that the lines aren't pinched, but it also isn't as eager to lock up the front wheels.

The scenic drive home was an overall success, taking about 3 hours but encountering almost no traffic. Not bad for a Friday afternoon. The first part of the route (Watford to Tring) was the trickiest to plan because there really aren't any main roads going between them, unless you take the A41 which is a boring dual carriageway. All of the roads are small with a 40 limit, cars do 20 on this and the trucks have to stop constantly as the road isn't wide enough for them and another vehicle to pass each other. On the plus side, I did pass the ITV studios that are in the middle of nowhere.

Things became much more flowing after that. I only took the wrong turn twice, one of the roads was closed so I had to take a detour and I probably saw about 7 sets or horses being ridden on the roads. That must be some kind of record.

Tax and insurance also paid up now for another year, the Smart is now in a multi car policy with Bugsy. It's been an expensive month!

Edit: I forgot to mention future plans. This thing needs cruise control. It cruises nicely on the motorway but maintaining speed is tiring as it's always on and off the boost. I've driven through a 20-something mile stretch of roadworks on the M1 four times this month and sticking at something around 50 takes too much concentration. I know this SAM is set up for it, I just need to get the stalk.

After hearing bad comments about the 16" wheels and their affect on the ride quality I'm no longer looking (it's not like I can afford them now anyway). That doesn't mean I won't buy a set... I'm also looking at wheel spacers, I would like the stance to be wider as it looks a little goofy in my avatar pic and the handling improvement will be welcome. Rear windows will be polished at some point and hinges will be replaced, however these are just cosmetic and not a priority.

Edit (2): Not that I'm one for making impulse purchases, but I just ordered the cruise stalk to be delivered this week. Fitting takes 10 minutes, tops.
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