Heavy Metal Affliction - 2016 Smart forfour
As we approach five years of Heavy Metal Affliction stories, today’s story is something I thought I would never tell. Nonetheless it’s at the core of what the series is all about. Forza community member Oliver Whittaker – Gamertag GT OLW52– has a very particular passion and it is exemplified by the five cars he has owned. Whittaker has always loved the Smart brand and has done what I didn’t think was possible: he’s made owning a Smart cool.
I have to admit that when Whittaker sent me photos of his new Smart forfour Proxy Premium, I didn’t even know what it was. You see, I have never really understood the attraction of the Smart brand despite it’s uncommon design. When I realized it was a Smart, I didn’t back away; instead I embraced the idea of understanding what attracted Whittaker to the brand.
When I say Whittaker grew up with the typical gearhead influences, I mean it. He had older brothers with cool cars like the Ford Capri. He was taken to races and car shows at a young age. He built all the models of the emblematic dream cars. He read car magazines, and the first time he saw a Porsche 930, he had to have his photo taken with it. Here is where the typical car fan’s story ends and where Whittaker started making his own path.
When Whittaker thought of cars that appealed to him, he always focused on having something special and unique. When the Smart first appeared on his radar, he was skeptical but interested. “I’d wonder how can anything so small, really be so safe,” Whittaker said. The Smart fortwo met all his preconceived needs. For one, it had a rear engine with rear-wheel-drive, like the dream cars of his youth.
Smart design notions like the whole original concept of the car being that of an egg protecting its occupants with the wheels pushed out to the farthest corners made sense to him. Add to that the backing of Mercedes-Benz and the funky and upbeat styling, and Whittaker was “smitten with the Smart,” as he put it.
At this point, the Smart wasn’t even sold in the U.K. yet and Whittaker had yet to take on the lengthy process of getting his driver’s license. He began to immerse himself in the online Smart community and he clicked with the enthusiastic and welcoming bunch. “I knew I’d found the right place to be,” Whittaker said.
All his life Whittaker had been dealing with health issues that robbed him of the regular energy levels of a young man. “I’d never thought I’d be able to learn to drive,” Whittaker said. Despite his condition, a specialist thought that he should take driving lessons and utilize his passion for cars as a way to stay positive and improve his health.
After 12 months and some 20 lessons, Whittaker passed his test. Next would be to acquire his first car which by that time was readily available in the U.K. There was no question it would be a Smart fortwo. “Something bland and boring just wasn’t going to cut it,” Whittaker said. He chose a basic model called the Pure. He ordered a rich blue interior with Hello Yellow panels and a black frame (the tridion safety cell).
The day he picked it up is a day he will never forget. “Every time I got in the car, I would always have a smile on my face, it would brighten my day instantly,” he said. Over three and a half years he put 14,000 fun-filled miles on the two-seat city car. He added vinyl graphics and alloy wheels and, while unconventional, he used the car at a number of track days.
As time passed, Whittaker followed every move of the Smart company and, when the Smart Roadster Coupé came out, the idea of owning one of these concept cars that came to real life consumed him. He rode in one owned by a friend, he test drove one at a dealer, but it was financially out of reach. Any initial skepticism he had about the Roadster was overcome by a longing to own one as his “forever car,” a car he would keep his entire life.
When the right model popped up for sale a year later, Whittaker sold his first car and bought the unique and radical roadster coupé. Over the next three years his health improved, which he partially attributes to enjoying that car so much. He was in college however, and using the roadster as a daily driver simply was no longer worth the risk. As a result Whittaker would soon own his third Smart, this time a Pulse model in Phat Red.
The Pulse saw Whittaker through college and into his first job as a designer in marketing. With a new career came the opportunity to upgrade to a new model. Of course it would be another Smart, and this time with the highly efficient diesel motor. While subtle on the outside in white and silver, the interior would be a tastefully bright and bold red.
Appropriately named the Passion model, this car would be Whittaker’s daily for seven years. Of course, he still had the roadster for special occasions. Over those years, the CDI engine sipped fuel yet offered loads of torque. He modified the car, continuously updating body panels so only a Smart purist would know what year the car was. He even designed a livery he applied to his real life car using Forza Motorsport 4 when the Smart fortwo came out in the Top Gear Car Pack.
Now, using Whittaker’s Smarts as a timeline, we come to the present, and the car that I didn’t even recognize as a Smart. Whittaker was not convinced of the Smart forfour’s style initially, but eventually he came around. When he realized the package he decided he wanted was not going to be offered in the U.K. any longer, the search for the perfect model began in earnest.
You have got to hand it to Whittaker for his patience and diligence. He never settled on any option or feature, every time he bought a new car he purchased exactly what he wanted and this Proxy Premium edition with the 90bhp turbo engine and DCT takes the unique facet of Whittaker’s needs to a new level.
A forfour is at its shared platform between Renault and Smart, Smart bringing the rear engine platform to the table. The colors used in the Proxy model are shades of blue that seem to shift in different lighting and are a radical contrast to the stark white. Inside, you might think you are looking at a concept car and the matching white leather and blue cloth look impossible to keep clean, but amazing.
From the panoramic sun roof to the tachometer sticking out of the dash, and all the luxuries of technology, the forfour is possibly the ultimate expression of Whittaker’s unending love of this unique manufacturer. We don’t all have to agree that these cars are right for everyone, but I’m sure we can agree that when it comes to telling the story of someone who exemplifies what Heavy Metal Affliction is all about, featuring this gentleman was a smart choice.