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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Not-so-Forbidden Fruit: This Smart Roadster Lives in the USA


Copyright © 2016 Bold Ride LLC.

The grass is always greener on the other side… or in this case, orange-er. 

This is a 2003 Smart Roadster. It was not made for US roads, nor was it ever officially sold on these colonial shores. That makes this particular orange occurrence highly unexpected, but a rather enjoyable one, because this Smart Roadster is in fact on US soil. More specifically, it’s in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

These cars have long piqued the interest of US sports car fans, ever since they debuted in 2003, especially with fond reviews painting them as spiritual successors to the Austin-Healey bug-eye Sprite. And now, a US admirer may finally be able to buy this one…


So what’s the allure? Like the Sprite, the Smart Roadster offered big fun in a small package. Its engine was tiny—you had your choice of either a 60 or 80 horsepower 700cc turbo three-cylinder—but then again there wasn’t much car to haul around. The Roadster tipped the scales at just 1,740 pounds, and its coupe-bodied sibling added a mere 40 pounds more.

The end result was a car that wasn’t fast (naught to 60 mph took 10 and a half seconds) but you could chuck it around with glee, and crucially, you could wring out every last horsepower. Not something you can do with most $100,000 exotics, legally at least.

And in contrast to the polarizing Smart ForTwo, the Smart Roadster shape was quite the head turner. Scratch that, it still looks rather good, despite its now teenage status. That said, its plastic interior does reveal its age, but who doesn’t like a pair of snail eye gauge pods that poke out from the dashboard. These cars have unique written all over them.


It is worth reiterating however that the Smart Roadsters were never officially sold in the USA, so how this one got here so soon is somewhat of a mystery, especially considering the US government’s infamous “25-year rule” and the costs of federalization. Nevertheless, the listing does claim this Roadster is registered in the US and has spent its last couple years in a private collection.

So does it push your buttons too, or is this “forbidden fruit” more of a sour apple? Let us know in the comments below.