Wednesday, November 29, 2023


RV Review: Smart ForTwo camper conversion. Is it Smart?

Typically what I show you is something you can go out and buy somewhere. But today, we have one of the most ridiculous things I’ve seen. And I’ve seen some ridiculous things. Today we’re looking at a one-off conversion of a Smart ForTwo into an off-road camper complete with four-wheel drive and a lifted suspension. 

Why? Why not?!

Smart ForTwo

Back before I wrote reviews of RVs, I wrote reviews of new cars. These reviews went into this thing called a newspaper and some 280 of these dinosaurs of information published the column, which was called Curbside. 

As such, I got to go to the U.S. unveiling of the Smart ForTwo. I thought it was quite literally the worst car I had ever driven. And, remember, I’m the guy who had five Corvairs in my collection at one point in time in various states of disrepair. 

The reason I disliked the thing was the transmission. Since we Americans desire automatic transmissions and there really wasn’t one for the Smart, per se, the company figured out a series of actuators that would make Rube Goldberg proud. So you were literally driving an automated manual transmission. It was terrible. 

Customizing a Smart isn’t

So the gent in the video who customized this put a two-inch lift on the car. Now it looks like a four-wheel drive, but it really isn’t. Then came the off-road wheels and tires. 

From there, a roll cage was welded around the car complete with a winch and even off-road lighting. There’s even a spot to put a flag in so you can spot your camper conversion if you happen to be in a festival or something. 

As if the pointing and laughing weren’t enough. 

This actually does have a kitchen, of sorts, which comes in a box that was built that slides in and out of the rear cargo area. The Smart has a drop-down tailgate, so you slide the box out and there’s a sink and stove on top. 

When the meal’s done being cooked, you slide the box back in (with the stove all hot so it can catch on fire). The lid of the tailgate flips up, revealing a custom-formed place setting for two. There are cutouts for all the utensils and plates—it’s not a bad idea. Plus, you can sit at the table in your camp chairs and enjoy a slip-free meal. However, I have no idea where you’d put the camp chairs nor even the food because, well, there’s no refrigerator nor even space for a cooler if you happen to have a passenger. 

There is a roof-top tent that is mounted to the external roll bars. Flipping the base over to open the tent provides some shade. This is also where the shower is, utilizing a self-powered shower that draws from a water source. The presenter had a portable bucket. 

Smarter Smart

The Smart ForTwo actually is a really smart vehicle in Europe, where the little suckers use a Mitsubishi three-cylinder gasoline or diesel engine and shift with a manual transmission. The cars crash safety engineering was done by the same gent who was responsible for this in the Mercedes-Benz S class. That’s one of the reasons you sit almost chair height in the cars.

In crowded cities you can actually park two of these in a single space. They’re so short they can fit length-wise into the width of a parking space.

Another significant feature of these cars is that the plastic body panels are removable and interchangeable. So you could go into a parking garage with a blue car and come out with a red one—given some time, a screw gun and not a lot of security. But people in Europe did swap panels and you’d see cars with mismatched doors and fenders and such because it was sort of cool.

I know a lot of Americans are going to say, “Yeah, but if you get hit by a Suburban….” But remember, in Europe you actually tend to have lessons before you drive and most people (not all) pay attention when they’re doing so.

My conclusion

We’ve looked at tiny campers before, including the recent story of the XBUS camper. But there’s also the Honda N-Van Compo camper. It’s clear that this was built by someone just having fun and it’s kind of neat to see how easily you can modify a Smart ForTwo. 

I guess there are also some advantages to having to choose between bringing along a passenger or bringing along food or clothing as, well, you may not want to invite some friends. This would be an easy way to tell them to bug off. Or build their own Smart camper. 

Which wouldn’t be smart, even though it’s a Smart. And I guess, if you’re bringing clothes and food, it’s not going to be ForTwo either. 

More from Tony

I would love to read your comments and suggestions over on our new forums, where you can weigh in and start or join a discussion about all things RV. Here’s a link to my RV Reviews Forum.

If you’re RV shopping here are some tips on RV shopping from a former RV salesperson—me!

Tony comes to having worked at an RV dealership and been a lifelong RV enthusiast. He also has written the syndicated Curbside column about cars. He also works closely with a number of RV manufacturers to get an inside look at how things are done and is a brand ambassador for Rockwood Mini Lite with his wife, Peggy.

You can also check out his RV podcast with his wife, Peggy. 

These RV reviews are written based on information provided by the manufacturers along with our writer’s own research. They are based on information from a single unit and may not reflect your actual experience. Shop your RV and dealership carefully before making a buying decision. We receive no money or other financial benefits from these reviews. They are intended only as a brief overview of the vehicle, not a comprehensive critique, which would require a thorough inspection and/or test drive.

Got an RV we need to look at? Contact us today and let us know in the form below – thank you!


Tony Barthel has been a life-long RV enthusiast and travels part-time with his wife where they also produce a podcast, write about RVs and love the RV lifestyle.



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Donald N Wright (@guest_199913)
1 year ago

Not my cup of tea. Yet I have seen campers pulled behind bicycles, and a cartop tent on top of our ancient Subaru, 45′ motorhome for one person and Boy Scouts still use tents.

KellyR (@guest_199897)
1 year ago

Electric motors on each wheel and this will be the future of California RVing. Husband in one and wife in another, as two will fit in one space and still cheaper than a Class A.

Michael Galvin (@guest_199823)
1 year ago

Smart Cars actually have very good crash ratings.

Pursuits (@guest_199846)
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Galvin

My son did not like my VW bug because of the size. My comeback was the size made it easier to get out of the way. The size also made me less of a target.

Spike (@guest_199820)
1 year ago

“…in Europe you actually tend to have lessons before you drive and most people (not all) pay attention when they’re doing so.”

Must not be true around Rome! I’ve traveled all over the world and that was the most scared I’ve been in a vehicle, and that includes a 3am ride in a 1970s cab with no seat belts at 130 km/hr in Bangkok. Lanes are only a “suggestion” for drivers in Rome….if there’s a gap, they fill it, and at full speed to boot! Bumpers and mirrors where inches apart.

I expressed my fears to our driver (a colleague from Vimercate) and he simply said “Yes, but you don’t see accidents, do you?” I guess he had a point…maybe they are the best drivers! 🙂

Last edited 1 year ago by Spike
Davie Krokkett (@guest_200019)
1 year ago
Reply to  Spike

I’ve been and driven over many parts of Europe. Most of Europe still drives like its the third world and they’ve only had cars for thirty years. His jibe was hilariously inaccurate.

Bob p (@guest_199687)
1 year ago

I always thought Europeans were a little bit eccentric and this proves it let’s hope the big pond doesn’t dry up making it easy to drive over here. Lol. I know the Smart for two is supposedly very safe, but it’s not very economical, you would think something that small would get amazing gas mileage but they don’t.

Tommy Molnar (@guest_199660)
1 year ago

If that ladder is like all the other ones that look like that, it’s heavy!

Did he overlook the potty? Or is it like Tony said – “the ground”. But, if you’re actually camping in the wild, the ground is perfectly normal.

Imagine setting this up at your local truck stop!

G13 (@guest_199760)
1 year ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

If the ladder is used to support the tent bottom, hope the safety latches don’t fail.

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