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Nov. 27, 2020, 2:34 p.m. EST

Bugatti’s Baby Is a Pint-Sized Electric Car With History

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Revisiting history, Bugatti is once again selling scaled-down versions of a favorite model, the Type 35 Grand Prix race car. The new cars, celebrating Bugatti’s 110th anniversary, are being built in an edition of 500—just as the originals were.

The first-edition Baby was built as a half-sized electric replica by founder Ettore Bugatti , in response to a plea from his 4-year-old son, Roland . The one-off children’s toy project quickly grew in scope, and eventually Bugatti produced 500 of these Bugatti Baby runabouts (also known as the Type 52) between 1927 and 1936. 

The early Babys were aimed at kids ages 6 to 8, and used a rear-mounted 12-volt battery to propel them to the heady speed of 11 miles per hour. They even had reverse, using a switch to reverse the polarity of the electric motor. 

Today, an original Bugatti Baby is a highly prized artifact. “Cherished by Bugatti enthusiasts worldwide, today no collection is complete without a Baby,” the company said. RM Sotheby’s sold a 1929 Baby for $31,625 last year .

The new Baby II debuted at the Geneva International Motor Show last year. It’s bigger than the original (three-quarters scale), drivable by adults and not recommended for younger kids, and is generally more sophisticated overall. Baby II is being built in conjunction with Britain’s Little Car Company , which operates out of a former World War II airbase and also produces scale replicas of the Aston Martin DB5 and Vantage.  

The Baby II made its American debut in California this week, with appearances at Willow Springs International Raceway (where journalists drove it), and Bugatti dealerships in Newport Beach and Beverly Hills. Baby II comes in three versions. 

The base Baby II starts at $36,600, the mid-level Vitesse is $53,000, and the top-of-the-range Pur Sang is $71,400. Standard in all the cars is rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drum brakes with a regenerative feature, adjustable shock absorbers, and a remote stop switch (for parents, if kids get ahead of themselves). The cars have turned aluminum dashboards (as per the original Type 35), a mahogany and aluminum steering wheel, and full instrumentation—speedometer, battery level gauge, and clock. There’s a handbrake, a clock, and a horn. 

The base model has composite bodywork and a 1.4-kilowatt-hour battery pack. Set in one-kilowatt “novice” mode, it can reach 12 miles an hour. For adults or experienced kids it can be dialed into four-kilowatt “expert” mode, allowing 28 miles per hour. 

The Vitesse (as shown in California) has carbon-fiber bodywork and a longer-range 2.8-kilowatt-hour battery that offers 50% more range. The upgraded powertrain makes available a 10-kilowatt “Speed Key” mode and 60% more power.

Pur Sang has similar performance to the Vitesse, but adds handmade aluminum coachwork—which takes 200 worker-hours to complete. Baby range is up to 31 miles, and top speed in Speed Key mode is 42 mph. There are 21 colors available, including Bugatti favorite French Racing Blue. Owners have the option of matching colors with their grown-up Bugatti Chirons. On Vitesse and Pur Sang models, Bridge of Weir leather interiors are available, as is a “distressed leather” range for that vintage look. 

Another perk is membership in the Bugatti Owners Club and the Little Car Club, conferring the ability to drive the Baby on selected racetracks around the world. Street legality is dubious in most locations. There is a range of options, including a touring package with LED headlight upgrade, a flight case, a long-distance battery pack (doubling range), an indoor cover, a leather-bound tool kit, and a steering wheel extender.

Bugatti said that most of the 500 Baby IIs have been spoken for, but “a small amount of the build slots have been reserved for Bugatti customers and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.” There will be a waiting list, in case anyone drops out. 

In an email, Ben Hedley , CEO of The Little Car Company, said the collaboration with Bugatti began in late 2018, when the automaker wanted something “fun” to exhibit for the 110th anniversary. “We digitally scanned every single component of a full-sized Type 35 and used that as the basis of the new car,” he said. 

Hedley said that Baby II “is not designed for children. We suggest they are only driven by 14-year-olds and above. They may look like toys but they are extremely fast.” That said, he adds, “We definitely want the Baby IIs to be used, rather than sitting hidden away and gathering dust.”

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