Home » What Is The Dream Car That Got Away From You? Autopian Asks

What Is The Dream Car That Got Away From You? Autopian Asks

Aa Dream Car Ts

Life is full of fun and weird coincidences that can change the course of your existence, or at least a hobby. One of those coincidences is the concept of the one that got away. It seems everyone has a story about the one that got away, regardless if it’s about a person, a job, an event, or a thing. The Autopian isn’t your therapist, so we won’t be talking about that person who got away. But what about a car? What is the dream car that got away? Is there a car you still search for to this day?

There is just one vehicle I consider to be the one that got away. I was so close to buying it in early 2018, but missed it by almost a week. It disappeared after and my search continues every day. Every day I hope to find that car and even ask people in my communities if they’ve seen it. Somehow, my dream car disappeared.

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What is this car? Well, you know me, so of course it’s a Smart. But it’s no normal Smart. This one is legitimately one of the fastest Fortwos in the world:

That lovely car in the above video was built by a man the Smart community knows as Barney. Our friend Barney used to make the most thrilling tuned Smarts ever put on the road. Barney built a series of turbocharged Fortwos that more or less doubled power and were fast enough to leave European Brabus models in the rearview mirror. His turbo builds turned Smarts into the cars they could have been from the factory.


Yet, none of those builds could hold a candle to Barney’s magnum opus. During the 2010s, he lifted the Toyota 5E engine out of a Toyota Paseo, attached a Sprintex supercharger to it, and fitted it into the rear of a Smart Fortwo.

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Of course, there was a whole lot more to it than that, but you get the idea. The best part about the engine swap was that the Smart was still a road-legal car. Barney kept the vehicle structure intact and mostly everything still worked from the lights to the central locking system. Sadly, it didn’t have anything in the way of HVAC anymore, but it was a car that you could drive down the road.

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In fact, he road-tripped the car to a Smart rally out of state, where I got to see the masterpiece in person. Not noted in the above video is what happened after the car landed from its wheelie. The supercharger’s belt came off, so the Smart lost all its boost. Still, it did a decent time all things considered.


Barney eventually sold the car and it came up for sale near me in Illinois. The price was just $4,500, which I had in hand less than a week before it was posted. Unfortunately, I committed to buying another Smart less than a week before Barney’s was posted for sale. I wanted to cancel that sale so much, but didn’t want to burn the guy I was buying my car from. So, I watched as someone else bought Barney’s magical car. Had I waited just a few more days, I could have owned the dream.

My Smart is on the left in this one!

The car I bought turned out to be a pile of junk, too, which seemingly added insult to injury. It remains the only Smart I have ever sold.

As I noted earlier, I’m still searching for that car. So, if you happen to know of a Smart out there with a supercharged Toyota engine, send me an email at mercedes@theautopian.com. Otherwise, tell me about the dream car that got away from you!

Story images: Author
Top graphic: screen grab via victoryredcolorado/YouTube

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20 days ago

2003 50th anniversary Corvette Z06 drove it to Dearborn for the car shows at the Corvette museum.. had it for 1 year and when the hurricane of 2004 came around.. car was a total loss….

28 days ago

2009 VW GTI.
I will remember this quite vividly to this day. I ended up in a Mazda 3 of slightly more recent vintage, solely because of a better warranty. I ended up driving the 3 for years, the whole time trying to convince myself that I don’t find the styling of it absolutely idiotic. It was a white 2011 sedan. I did get a 6-speed manual one but I feel that was the only concession I was able to wrestle from the world that day. At the time I was considerably younger and still living with my folks, who had some say in what I drove as I was on their insurance plan. They of course weren’t the only constraint – I also had a 90 mile round trip commute from Irvine to Ontario to brave each day, and getting something cheap, simple and much older, like an NA Miata was sadly out of the question.

Anyway, back to the GTI, and why it was a big deal. I’m an architectural designer by education and training. Design to me is not simply the matter of how something looks, it also very crucially involves how something feels when you touch or operate it, how it makes YOU feel when you’re interfacing with it, and of course does it solve a problem you currently attempt to solve. Dieter Rams’s 10 commandments of Design were fresh in my mind having recently graduated. I was young and idealistic. In contrast to all the Japanese offerings that I drove that week, the GTI was different. Everything about it felt like it was made of solid steel. The shifter clicked precisely into every gear, the turbo ensuring a very smooth acceleration curve, the plaid seats with firm stitching, even the color scheme of the dials – red and white – was an absolute novely to me. The instrument panels, the locations of dials, the straight lines running the length of the dash from left door handle to the right – all of this felt very simple, functional and solid. Mind you, this was in 2011, right when swoopy curves ending in sharp edges in car interiors were reaching their peak. New offerings felt like dubstep by comparison to Kraftwerk that this car’s interior appointment was. The entire car felt firmly planted on the ground around corners. It was incredibly confidence inspiring and reassuring.

So yeah, I let that one get away. Fast forward to 2024, and 2 cars later I find myself in a 2012 Golf TDI. Not quite as quick, but coincidentally the previous owner swapped in GTI seats, so there’s a bit of nostalgia in it I can live with 😉

Jay Miller
Jay Miller
28 days ago

I looked at a 2009 Pontiac Solstice coupe sitting unloved at the back of the dealer lot. Really should have jumped on that.

28 days ago

Guy I knew bought a ’66 Mustang GT350 knowing he didn’t have the money and was going to have to return it after the seller let him drive it for a week. I think he was asking $2,500 in 1974.
He took his car nut friends for rides in it, then gave it back. I relive sitting on the spare for a ride in that car every day of my life.
If only I had been financially able…

Alison Chan
Alison Chan
28 days ago

Last year I was looking at trading in my Mini Cooper for a more practical (real rear doors, more reliable) stick shift car. I happened to spot a 2013 Buick Verano Turbo online at a local lot. It was, iirc, the only manual Verano for sale in Michigan at that time. It had about 100k miles, the Choccachino (yes, this is actually the name of the colorway; it’s a two-tone tan and brown) interior, and already had an aftermarket intake and exhaust. But by the time I made it to that lot, somebody had already put a deposit down on the Verano. So I bought a 17k mile 2014 Chevy Sonic (1.4T/6MT) that was on the same lot instead. I’ve owned the Sonic for about a year and 11k miles so far, and I really enjoy it, but I still think about that Verano way more than I probably should.

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