Introduction: How to Make a Cup-holder for a Smart Car

Picture of How to Make a Cup-holder for a Smart Car

I recently bought a smart car to be a little more environmentally friendly. I've looked at the cup-holder specificallly made for the car (remember, European cars have stuff like that as extra features you have to pay for). After reading some smart forums, I found the following statement:
"The smart cup-holder is good for shuttling drinks from the take-out to the office, but if you want to have a cup of coffee while driving..."
I'm used to having real cup-holders fitting real travelling mugs, not just one that sits right below the dashboard or one that only holds cans or small plastic bottles. So I thought it's time to make one on my own.

Step 1: Finished Cup-holder First

Picture of Finished Cup-holder First

I start with the end just to first show, where in the car the new cup-holder will go. The ones familiar with the smart car will know, that right below the little square compartment of my cup-holer sits a coin-holder. Hey, who needs that?
As you can see, the cup-holder provides easy access to your latte, americano or whatever you prefer.

Step 2: Creating the Cup-holders Foundation

Picture of Creating the Cup-holders Foundation

The foundation of the cup-holder is made of sturdy cardboard. The material should already support the cup sufficiently.
Please excuse that this step is not actually step by step. I was in the middle of making the holder when I thought that this would make a nice instructable. The following indicates the steps I made.

1. I wrapped a piece of cardboard around my favorite cup which forms a cylinder. I taped the ends to one another. To make it more robust, I wrapped another piece of cardboard around the first one and secured it with tape, too. I used the inside of the cylinder as a template to cut out the bottom of the cylinder (once cut, put it into the cylinder and secure with tape). I then went to my car to see, where exactly I want to install the cylinder. I decided that it needs to go just in front of the coin-holder, because otherwise, it would have been to high.

2. The little boxy compartment is actually just to hide the coin-holder and to give the cup-holder a better hold to the gear shift lever box. Measures for the size of the box were taken while checking where the cylinder needs to go (see step 1). Cut and tape a piece of cardboard to form an open box and attach to the cylinder (I used tape, but any other glue or staple might work, too).

3. The cylinder and box will give you the approximate length of the outer casing. Wrap a big piece of cardboard around the already assembled parts and fixate with tape and staples at the top. Leave the ends a bit longer as you will mark where to cut the casing in the car.

4. Check the fitting of the cup-holder in the car, and mark the final length and height you desire (I made the sides overlap the transmission tunnel, as I didn't want to screw the cup-holder into a brand new car). I decided to go round at the end (which made it more complicated than I liked). After marking, cut the outer casing and finish off with adding the rear part of the casing, closing the gap between the gear shift lever box and the boxy compartment.

For a better view on some of the details, check the secondary images of this step.

If you use the cup-holder just like this, you'll save a lot of work. I found out later how much work step 3 and 4 is going to take.

Step 3: Papermachee the Cup-holder

Picture of Papermachee the Cup-holder

This step was very tedious. But it adds a lot of strength to the cup-holder. Be careful with the glue, as to much water will corrugate the sides of the casing.
Be careful with the little triangels between the cylinder and the little boxy compartment. This is a bit tricky as there is no cardboard (at least in my design).
Wrap the papermachee around the edges of the casing, but don't add too much as you measured the size without the papermachee. And you'll want to put the cup-holder over the gear shift lever box later.

Ok, this step was not really very much step by step, but I think almost everyone will know papermachee. I know that the color of the papermachee looks strange, but this comes from being too impatient to wait for the layers of papermachee to dry ;-)
So I recommend: take the time to air dry your cup-holder to avoid the nasty color.

Step 4: Making a Smooth Surface

Picture of Making a Smooth Surface

Ok, this step took much more time than the previous one. But the papermachee (due to rushing the drying process, etc.) didn't have the smoothest surface. If colored nicely, it probably would have looked good, but I just needed to have it more perfect (ok, sometimes I regretted adding this step).
Putting filler, putty, or whatever exactly the name of the stuff is, that you use to fix dents in the car won't need much explanation, I guess.

So here are just some general hints:
- don't prepare too much filler at once, it dries fast.
- be careful at the edges of the casing the filler, once dried, is very hard and may scratch the gear shift lever box if you fit the cup-holder as is.
- despite the above point, I recommend test fitting, as the sides of the cup-holder may have bowed in. Once you put the filler and it gets hard, you can't adjust the sides any more. I did put a plastic box between the side flaps to ensure proper width of the casing.
- sand smooth the surface in between steps to see where you still may need filler.

The pictures show my cup-holder being test-driven to grandma's house. (Ok, the picture was taken while parking on grandma's driveway. Don't take pictures while driving if you are in the driver's seat.)


Step 5: Adding Self Adhesive Fake Leather

Picture of Adding Self Adhesive Fake Leather

To make the cup-holer look better and to ensure, that the edges won't wear out, I decided to put some self adhesive fake leather on (first I thought I'll paint the cup-holder gray, but decided otherwise as there is just enough gray plastic in the car already).
You can take any material you like. I went with the self adhesive stuff as I think this is fairly easy to put on.

Ha, ha. I thought ;-)

In general it is, but here are the general things to consider:
- The sticky fake leather doesn't really stick to the papermachee within the boxy compartment and the cylinder (so either put filler there, or use some glue that will hold the material you plan to put in. Be careful with the choice of glue as mine caused the fake leather to bubble a little).
- You must wrap the fake leather around all edges of the casing to make it look good (wrapping the stuff around was tedious).
- There is a top part with cut outs for the cylinder and the boxy compartment, a part for the casing (just like in step 1), and there are fake leather inserts for the cyilinder and the boxy compartment.

I've added some "seams" with my black sharpie. I just like the looks more. It looked a little boring without.

I've also added some foamy pieces to pad my cup.

Ok, if you measured correctly, the cup-holder should now fit perfectly. Mine didn't hold too much. So I've taped it to the shift gear lever box. Tape doesn't stick enought to the lever box, so I will have to rethink screws or so. Due to the design, the fitting is ok. But I must advise, if the fit is not tight enoguh, don't risk a coffecup between your feet while driving. Just imagine you have to break really hard. If you have any second thoughts about the cup-holder properly holding your cup, use some save fixing method.

I hope you like my cup-holder for the smart car, and if so, drop me a comment.


ata1anta (author)2017-04-13

[blowing away dust] Just picked up a used car (2010 Aveo, US) that has lame cup holders. The front ones pop out of the console and there's a "back" one that is about an inch deep. One bump and I see my morning cuppa flying. This has inspired me to do something like this and when I do, I'll post it and refer back to this.

8-year usefullness of a project. Not bad!

Mike73 (author)ata1anta2017-04-14

Thanks for the nice comment. I still use the cupholder today. I wouldn't have thought that it's so durable ;-)

Jimmy252 made it! (author)2015-07-14

I went for a full molding with fibreglass qwick fabrication then used Polly filler to give it a grate suffice to paint onto got red enamil spray paint and some thin aluminium styling sqwairs from halfords to finish the look but last 5 min at work and about 1 hour at home not inclooding drying times champ of a idea p.s use the Polly filler liberal on the side away from the cup to counter waight it and glew in a non slip pad to sit on the carpet it won't go anywhere

thekelsta (author)2013-10-18

Excellent job! I specifically signed up to give thanks & kudo's because you've given me an idea and you've done really well with this. You deserve the credit, well done :)

foobear (author)2013-08-27

such a good finished result - wow

Mike73 (author)foobear2013-09-25

Wow, thanks for your comment. I can't believe that this thing is almost 4 years old now (just checked when I entered the instructable). It's still going strong, even with everyday use :-)

DAND (author)2011-05-28

Finally a cup holder that looks good! I'm going to make one of these, I use to have to wedge my drink in between the parking brake and the seat; often times spilling.

Mike73 (author)DAND2011-06-02

Great that you like it. I was wondering how good it'll hold up over time, but after 2 years of daily use, it's still as good as new :)
I had feared that the sides would break if someone bumps on the holder, but it's really sturdy.

BrianJone5 (author)2011-05-08

Nice 'ible. I like it. Well done. I wounder what it would take to actually make it in leather? As others have commented that colour clashes with your car's interior a little. I wonder if one could find stick-on carbon fibre look-alike?

Mike73 (author)BrianJone52011-05-08

I think that carbon fibre was kind of an option for the self adhesive foil.
I just don't like that look. And all in all, the interior is pretty gray all around (fabrics, plastics), so this one is adding some color splash ;-)

Yes, I know, the color is not perfect, but hey, it really works well. I use it every day since I made that thing which is about 2 years.

BrianJone5 (author)2011-05-08

Or this:

Esmagamus (author)2011-04-19

You'll see how absurd cupholders are when you're having your nice hot coffee while driving and the cup slips out of your hand, burns your crotch and you get distracted with the pain.

Then you crash and someone gets hurt. Are you driving or drinking?

DavidHParry (author)2010-11-08

I drive a Smart.
The Smart, being European, has no cup holder because it is ILLEGAL in many countries in Europe to drive and distract yourself by eating, drinking, smoking, doing makup in the mirror, using your mobile phone, reading your newspaper, watching tv, catching 20 winks or generally not looking at the road and thinking about the difficult and dangerous act of actually driving your heavy weapon down the road among flimsy human beings. European roads, like those here in the UK, are crowded, narrow and require your brain to be in gear while driving down them.
It wasn't some afterthought or omission by neglect by the manufacturer.
That is why such things are sometimes 'options' on European cars.
Be nice about Europe.

hackmattr (author)DavidHParry2011-01-29

Well it's illegal in the US to be distracted while driving. There are laws about phone usage and video monitors in many states. It can be illegal to eat or drink while driving, but cops won't stop you for it.

Mike73 (author)hackmattr2011-01-30

I know. Talking on the phone or watching DVDs isn't allowed here either. No rules on "drinking while driving" yet (lol. not alcoholics).

And for the stopping of people, I rather prefer they take people off the street for speeding and DUI.

Mike73 (author)DavidHParry2010-11-08

I've heard that it's prohibited in the UK to drive and have a drink with you (I'm not talking about alcoholics), but I still think that this wasn't the main reason for omitting a cup holder in the first place. Today, a lot of cars have cup holders, and if it's prohibited to have a drink with you or to take a sip at a red light, then don't do it. After all, cell phones weren't meant to be used while driving either and one could just take a short break to make a call instead of talking on the phone while driving before such laws were passed.
But those are just my 2 cents.

And the orange color, well....
That was all they offered in the store. I would have gone for a darker brown :-)

coonrod545 (author)2010-11-26

I like that! You did a great job making the cup holder.

Mike73 (author)coonrod5452010-11-26

Thanks for your comment. I never would have thought that such an old instructable could get so much attention after this long time. It was running around 2000 hits after 2 years, and now, after being featured, it seems to soar up....

DavidHParry (author)2010-11-08

I like the leather look one here. Well done.
Orange leather ain't my taste...but there you go. Mine is ALL Jack Black!

Smart make TWO perfectly good cupholders (the review you originally read is a bit off) which screw into the console column below the cd radio and its cd holders (optional). E*ay have them.
That's where I got mine!

And woe betide any driver caught drinking from a cup at traffic lights. Instant fine!

Deaths on the roads are way down.


zack247 (author)2010-11-04

this is a very smart (no pun intended) solution to no cup holders! i wonder why they didn't put cup holders in it in the first place though, it seems like there must be room for one, why didn't they put it in?

5*s though :)

Mike73 (author)zack2472010-11-05

Exactly what I thought, too. Why didn't they put a cupholder in!?!
I think because it is a european car. The Smart was brought to market some years ago, and at that time, cupholders weren't common in european cars. Today there are a lot of cars having them, although I have the feeling they first came in cars of makes which were also intended to be sold in the US (mostly expensive car makes). Then others followed in the "me too" mentality.
But still, none of them could accomodate the cups I brought with me from the US ;-)

But hey, that's why we have DIY and instructables.
Thanks for the 5*s :-)

Mike73 (author)2010-11-04

Yeah. It consumes only 1/2 the gas I need wih my truck for the same mileage.

rosewood513 (author)2010-11-04

Wow that looks like a professional job, wtg!
I have an Accord that has a broken cup holder, I can use your idea to make an insert to make it a usable one. I will be happy if mine comes out 1/2 as good as yours.

Mike73 (author)rosewood5132010-11-04

Well, there are so many different ways you could do that (and Materials).
I guess just going with the little cylinder (depending on your cups and holders size) and some papermache to make it more or less watertight would probably already do. I use white wood glue mixed with water to make my papermache. After it is dried, it makes for a nice hard surface and it's pretty wtertight. I've been using my cupholder for a year now every day and it still looks brand new.

CazzPhoenix (author)2010-11-03

I hope to use your instructions to aid in building 4 additional cupholders in the front of my sunfire.. why? because we always seem to have 4 more drinks than available cupholders in the car when ordering to go and the drink trays just aren't sufficient

Mike73 (author)CazzPhoenix2010-11-03

Yep, you cannot have enough cup holders ;-)
My truck has 3 in the middle, one in each front door and 2 in the back.
That's what I'd call sufficient.
But for my little commuting ride, one cup holder works pretty well.

Mr. Potato Head (author)2010-11-03

This is nice, as long as you don't mind giving up half of your passenger/cargo space to make room for it.

Mike73 (author)Mr. Potato Head2010-11-03

Well, for my Smart car, I haven't actually lost any space. It's the space right in front of the gear shift lever and I really only use this car for commuting. I share my ride though with a colleage. But he is not one of those guys who have a drink on the way to work anyways, so one holder is sufficient (lucky me).

If I had to use some space for other stuff (I had my guitar with me or my photo gear) I still have the little trunk (the guitar actually fits in there, I almost didn't believe myself) and if I need it bigger, I use my wifes car ;-)

I was actually thinking about adding a small compartment for my mp3 player, but the button positions would be a little odd.

berky93 (author)2009-10-12

well made, looks good. perhaps to get a more realistic look (the leather looks a bit orange) you could use some type of dye to make the leather a little darker.

what I don't understand is the purpose of the smart car in the first place. from this instructable I can assume that there are no cupholders, add that to the fairly standard gas mileage and lack of space, I just dont get it. but maybe its just me.

Mike73 (author)berky932009-10-13

Hi berky93, compared to my truck (approx. 20 mls/gallon), the smart car gets about 45 mls/gallon. So it's a nice way to produce less emissions. But ok, the main reason is, that the truck is such a big vehicle here in Europe, that the smart is more comfortable in terms of driving to the city, getting parking spaces, etc.
The color of the leather might be due to wrong white balance. Usually I shoot raw instead of jpg because I can easily correct such issues later when using raw.

masterochicken (author)Mike732009-10-14

 They really serve no purpose in the US. Same mileage and pricerange as a Honda, except a Honda has back seats and a trunk. It's justthe cool thing to do I guess.

Mike73 (author)masterochicken2009-10-14

I can see your point. Being in NC for 3 years, I actually saw thedifferences in life you have there compared to Europe. Distances arelonger, roads are wider, parking is usually not a problem, too. For meit is more the convenience of driving something small on our crowdedroads. To bust a myth, some Autobahns don't have speedlimits, butactually, with all the traffic, there is no point in going faster than70 mph.
We have a family car, too, also the truck we brought from the US. Soback seats are dispensable. I also think that the smart has some kind ofapple-factor. It's kind of cool, even if it comes without cup-holders.But that's what I tried to fix. And by the way, thanks for the 3-star rating.

masterochicken (author)Mike732009-10-15

 I don't think I rated it. If I did it would have been 5.

Mike73 (author)masterochicken2009-10-15

Hey, thanks. Really awesome.

we looked in a smart dealership once and they were suprisingly roomy.....even more so than my moms mercades........

About This Instructable




Bio: I rather like "to make" than "to consume". I've been programming for iOs for a while just to see if I can. I love ... More »
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