Baby Bugatti reborn and reimagined with renewed investment potential
One of the world’s most charismatic brands is undoubtedly Bugatti, to which Iain Robertson was uniquely privy on 15th September 1991, when it was relaunched by Romano Artioli, at a spectacular Parisian public reveal in the shadow of La Grand Arche.
Exactly 110 years after the birth of Ettore Bugatti, a French domiciled, Italian car builder, his remarkable company was resurrected by Sr Artioli, the Italian and European concessionaire for both Lotus Sports Cars and Indian-built Suzukis (Maruti). While the new business only survived for four years, producing a total of 139 EB110 supercar models in both GT and S guises, multi-millionaire Artioli was famous for also saving the Lotus brand, through an association with Proton.
While Artioli’s Campogalliano business went bust, due to a wrong-time, wrong-place period, a deal was struck with VW Group to resurrect the bespoke brand once again between 1998 and 2000. It has been successful in launching a series of extreme performance models, including the 253mph Veyron. Each is sold at Euros2m, which underscores their rarity. Volkswagen cannot have earned a bean from the opportunity, although its publicity potential has been immense.
Harking back to the original Bugatti company, in 1926, Ettore and his son, Jean, devised a plan to create a 50% scale version of the company’s Type 35 racing car for his grandson, Roland’s fourth birthday. No sooner had Bugatti’s exclusive customer base received a whiff of the plan, the requests for a productionised version started to flood in to the Molsheim office. Between 1927 and 1936, a remarkable 500-ish examples (the actual total number remains unconfirmed) of the half-scale Type 35 were built and its collectability status was assured.
The completely new Bugatti Baby II offers more in terms of size and considerably more in terms of performance. Eight-year-olds would struggle to fit in the original half-scale Baby, whereas at 75% scale and designed for ages fourteen and above, the Baby II has definitely become more of a young adult. Sr Bugatti himself was hugely interested in catering to the children of Bugatti enthusiasts and designed the ‘Type 52’ miniature car as a genuine Bugatti. It was a sensation at the time.
Baby Bug is available in three versions: Base, with a composite body and a 1.4kWh battery pack; Vitesse, with a carbon fibre body, 2.8kWh battery pack and an upgraded powertrain including a Speed Key (like big brother Chiron); and Pur Sang, targeted at collectors. The Pur Sang offers the same powertrain as the Vitesse but features beautiful, hand-formed aluminium bodywork, which take more than two hundred hours of skilled craftsmanship to create.
Its performance envelope has also grown. Still rear wheel drive, all versions of the Baby II have a limited slip differential, high performance hydraulic brakes and selectable driving modes. The Base model comes with two modes; Novice, which is limited to 12mph and 1kW of power, or Expert, which is limited to 30mph and 4kW (5.4bhp) of power. Both Vitesse and Pur Sang versions include the Novice and Expert driving modes, but also offer extra performance from an upgraded powertrain, unlocked by the legendary Bugatti Speed Key. This enables a deployment of up to 10kW (13.4bhp) and, allied to its 230kg kerbweight, the Vitesse and Pur Sang models will try to spin their rear Michelin tyres from standstill, on the way to a 70kph (42mph) top speed. Dependent on driver weight, 0-40mph is dispatched in just 6.0s.
The lithium ion battery packs combined with regenerative braking will surprise owners with a 25km range on a single charge. A larger battery pack in the Vitesse and Pur Sang models hikes it to more than 50km (31 miles). When it comes to handling, the Baby II is completely true to its mythical predecessor, the Bugatti Type 35. Based on a digital 3D scan of an original Lyon GP car, with identical geometry and suspension, the handling is as authentic as an enthusiast could hope for. The only nod to modernity is the introduction of adjustable dampers, allowing tailored handling not feasible in the Type 35’s heyday. Bugatti test driver, Andy Wallace, was even involved in the final development of the tuning and setup of the Baby II, some of which even took place at the famous Prescott Speed Hill Climb, UK home of the Bugatti Owners Club. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXi7T_qk3Fc
Enthusiasts will love the faithful working replicas of the original Type 35’s instruments, with inevitable adaptation for modernity. For example, the fuel pressure gauge has now become the battery gauge and in a nod to the Bugatti Veyron, the oil gauge has transitioned into a power gauge. The scale replica of the famous four spoke steering wheel now has a quick release to make access to the cockpit easier. The adjustable pedals are machined from solid aluminium billet and display Bugatti’s famous ‘EB’ logo, while the fuel pump handle has been reproduced precisely but now serves as the forward, neutral and reverse selector. The turned aluminium dashboard is as present and correct as it was on the original Type 35 and custom ‘EB’ switches operate the LED headlights in sidelight and main beam modes. Finally, displayed on the nose of each car is Bugatti’s famous ‘Macaron’ badge, made of solid silver, an exact 75% replica of the badge on the Chiron.
Pricing of the 500 ‘Sanction II’ Baby Bugs may be an issue to some people but starts at Euros30,000, rising to Euros58,500 for the rather special Pur Sang. With prices for the original versions running to twice that of the new models, its collectability status is assured. The Little Car Company, based in the UK, has been chosen as the sole retailer and there is a small number of available build slots for the new Baby Bug, if investors feel tempted.
Conclusion: Now much larger than the original and powered by a battery pack, the new Baby Bugatti is authentic and eminently desirable, even though the top version is priced at a similar rate to a baseline Porsche Boxster.