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It’s About to get Chilly — 2014 King of the Mountains

June 28th2014
 By Thom Kingston on 2014-06-28T08:00:22-06:00 | King of Italy

It's About to get Chilly -- 2014 King of the MountainsSpidertrax | Thom Kingston | CC BY 3.0

Figured the day we talked about a Smart Car would be the day hell freezes over. Well, get out your winter jacket.

When I booked my Italian rental car, being the cheap… I mean frugal guy I am, I selected without hesitation the economy car. In the states, this typically means a Chevy Cruze or equivalent. You will receive no such thing with your economy rental in Milan, no sir of expensing very little, you will get a Smart Car.

Called the Smart Fortwo, this tiny shoe looking thing with wheels had me first laughing, than thinking, then worrying that I would shortly die leaving the parking lot of the rental hire (rental hire = rental car). About 10 minutes in, I still struggled to figure out how the back hatch opened, and after an exhaustive search came to the unfortunate conclusion not a single cup holder was present (not one, really?!?!). Oh boy, this trip is going to be short (no pun intended).

About a 2 hour drive to Parma, I oddly became more complacent, more comfortable, in this tiny little machine. While I thought I’d be crushed to death by speeding Lorries, the shoe fit only for some handled the 130 km/h (roughly 80 mph) highways with little effort. Not bad, but that cup holder thing…

But then came race day. The course was a long one, and traveling around would only be possible by vehicle before the track was hot, because it was the track you needed to use to get out to remote areas. Armed with only my Fortwo, I ventured off on race course into the depths of the King of the Mountains landscape and man, did this little thing deliver in a big way. Armed with a rear engine, rear wheel drive 1.0 L petrol engine and an overall length about a foot shorter than my JK wheel base (73.5 in wheelbase!), the Smart Fortwo was a hill climbing machine. We’re not talking about small inclines, there aren’t many 2-wheel drive low to the ground vehicles that could have pulled that off. We went everywhere in this car from one end of the race course to the other, up rutted loose rock inclines and down steep non-paved grass valleys, all without fail. Another testament, all be it in a very non-sexy kind of way, that simple lightweight design often prevails in just about any engineering feat. Even for the Smart Fortwo.

That’s it, no more Smart Car talk. You may remove your jacket.