Baby Bugatti elevates junior motorcars to a new level… for a hefty price
As part of its celebration of the 110th anniversary of the founding of Ettore Bugatti’s namesake car company, the Volkswagen Group’s Bugatti brand has taken the drapes off of the first Bugatti Baby II prototype and given us details on Molsheim’s miniature motorcar.
Bugatti introduced its modern take on the Bugatti Baby at this year’s Geneva Motor Show. The original Bugatti Baby was a half-scale electrically powered Type 35 that Ettore Bugatti and his son Jean originally made for four-year-old Roland Bugatti, Jean’s son. Customers visiting to Bugatti’s atelier in Molsheim liked it so much that the factory ended up making about 500 of the pint-sized Bugs.
The Baby shown at Geneva was just a 3D-printed concept, but working with The Little Car Company, which makes “junior” versions of classic motorcars, Bugatti has finished a working prototype and finalized production plans for the 500 Baby Bugattis that are already sold out. At the company’s La Grande Fête birthday celebration recently held at Ettore Bugatti’s estate in Molsheim, France that is the brand’s headquarters, VIPs and Bugatti customers had the opportunity to take Bugatti Baby XP1 for spins around the grounds.
As Stephan Winkelmann, president of Bugatti, put it, the new version is really “more of a teenager” than a baby. The original full size Type 35 is a trim, sleek race car, most suitable for jockey-sized drivers, so the half-scale version was a tight fit for even some children. Consequently, XP1 (apparently standing for “experimental prototype one”) is now a three-quarter-scale model, big enough for even parents or grandparents to take it for a spin, with an adjustable pedal box to accommodate both adult- and child-length legs.
The first step in bringing the Baby back was creating a digital scan of a 1924 Type 35 Lyon Grand Prix car, down to every component. The Type 35 was scaled down to 75 percent of the original, as well.
While the original Baby’s lead-acid batteries and vintage motor are replaced with lithium-ion cells, a modern electric drivetrain, and regenerative braking, Ettore Bugatti’s lightweight and innovative (for the time) hollow front axle, elegant suspension, and steering gear remain. Bugatti’s signature eight-spoke alloy wheels were also retained, but they now are shod with Michelin radial tires.
As you’d expect in a classically-inspired Bugatti, the instrument panel is machine-turned aluminum, fitted with custom Bugatti branded instruments, including a speedometer, battery charge indicator, and a Veyron-like power gauge. Bugatti’s classic, four-spoke steering wheel, sits before the dash. The Type 35’s clock, used by drivers to time laps 90 years ago, was replicated, with a similar dial design and Roman indices. The Type 35’s fuel pressure pump was repurposed as a forward/reverse shifter.
All Bugatti Baby cars will come with a horn, rear view mirror, handbrake, headlights, and a special remote control that can disable the Baby from up to 150 feet away, to keep child drivers safe. Of course, each Baby will come with a numbered, engraved plaque on the dashboard, and up front will be a solid silver “Macaron” badge, as is worn by the Chiron.
Two selectable driving modes offer 1kW of power and a 12 mph top speed for kids, and a 4kW mode with an electronically limited top speed of 27 mph. An optional Speed Key is available, which activates a 10 kW mode with no speed restricting governor. The rear-wheel drive Baby also has a limited-slip differential to make the most of that power. Two removable batteries are available, the standard 1.4 kWh pack, and a long-range 2.8 kWh pack that is expected to yield at least 18 miles of range, depending on driving style.
Bugatti is offering the Baby II in three configurations. There is the base Baby II with a fiberglass body, the Baby II Vitesse with a carbon-fiber body and the Speed Key, and the Baby II Pur Sang, which reproduces the original Type 35’s hand-formed aluminum body and also comes with the Speed Key option. The Baby II is 109.2 inches long and 39 inches wide. By comparison, an original Austin Mini is 120.25 inches long and 55.5 inches wide. Dry weight starts at about 500 pounds, depending on the model.
All Baby II owners will receive a membership in The Little Car Club, which hosts events where owners and their offspring can drive their baby Bugattis and other “junior cars” on historic racing circuits.
Although all 500 Bugatti Baby II cars are spoken for, Bugatti is accepting names for a reserve list in case a deposit holder backs out or if the company decides to produce additional models. For details, you can visit the Baby’s bespoke website.
Prices start at $33,100, not including delivery fees or taxes. Production, which will take place in the UK by the Little Car Company, begins early next year, with completion of the 500-unit run sometime in 2021. You could pick up a nicely equipped Nissan Leaf for that much money, but it’s not exactly a style icon. Then again, 33 grand is a lot of cheddar (roquefort?) for what amounts to a glorified, handcrafted Power Wheels.