A KGO-TV image of a Smart car tipped over in San Francisco early Monday.
A KGO-TV image of a Smart car tipped over in San Francisco early Monday.

There’s something a little hackle-raising about the so-called Smart car. Starting with the name. What’s so smart about it? It’s a cramped can of a vehicle that in its gasoline-powered version gets an uninspiring — given that it’s such a clever car — 34 miles to the gallon in city driving (the car allegedly delivers 38 mpg in freeway driving, which looks a little terrifying). You get all that — the geeky looks, the tininess and the bragging rights that go along with driving a car called Smart — for a minimum of about $13,000. I’ll bet it’s a dream to park, though.

But it turns out that the Smart car can be fun. If you’re a hoodie-clad vandal. And you don’t have to pay for the damage.

San Francisco police say a band of six or eight guys upended or knocked over three four Smart cars — which have a listed curb weight of 1,830 pounds — in the city’s Bernal Heights and Portola neighborhoods late Sunday and early Monday. The group, which did not issue a manifesto to explain its actions, is still at large Monday morning, police said.

KGO-TV located a man who saw one of the Smart car tippings go down:

A witness said he stepped outside to smoke a cigarette when he saw eight people with hoodies on walk up to one of the cars.

“I thought they looked like they were up to no good and then sure enough they walk up to this Smart Car right here, all huddle around it and just lift it up and set it on its hind legs, like a dog on its hind legs, — that’s pretty much it,” said witness Brandon Michael.

KNTV-NBC Bay Area offers this historical and cultural context on Smart car tipping, which by the way is not funny:

Smart car flipping is not new, but the motives behind it are slightly unclear, other than the cars are smaller and lighter than most vehicles.

The VoiceofVancouver showed a video of people flipping over a smart car in 2011 during a citywide riot, as did another YouTube user who showed people smashing the high-tech mini-car.

In 2009, the Toronto Star wrote a piece, “Tipping smart cars the latest prank trend,” comparing the act of tipping over the pint-size vehicles as the modern-day equivalent of tipping over cows.

The Smart car website has a forum with frustrated car owners discussing the pricey prank. And a parody Facebook page was set up called “Smart Car Tipping” by a creator who does not “practice, promote or condone Smart Car Tipping.”

  • Jay F

    Police are currently looking for a big green man with purple shorts, known to have a bad temper.

  • Peace of Mind

    Portola is a P.O.S. neighborhood

  • Jeska Dzwigalski

    Is this a joke? “The group, which did not issue a manifesto to explain its actions”

    Since when do vandals require a manifesto?? “We were sh*t-faced drunk” usually suffices for the rural equivalent (cow-tipping)


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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