The Little Car Company designs and manufactures miniature and electrified versions of classic models, in partnership with marques, such as Aston Martin and Bugatti. Auto Futures has been talking to its CEO about the birth of TLCC and the development of two new miniature models.
Back in 2018, Ben Hedley was approached by Bugatti to see if he could help develop a follow up to the Bugatti Baby as a 110th birthday present to themselves. He has a background in automotive engineering, so working with Bugatti, his team developed the concept for the Baby II.
“At that point Bugatti’s in-house engineering team was busy working on La Voiture Noire, which was also to be unveiled at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show. So we launched a company and recruited an experienced engineering team to create the Baby II in partnership Bugatti,” he explains.
“The feedback from the launch was so positive we started speaking to other luxury car brands to see if they would like to do something similar. We’ve just launched our second model, and we have several more at different stages of development.”
Hedley says it’s a shame that classic cars have become so valuable because owners can be too conscious of the risks of driving them, or the impact that added miles might have on their value. “For us, the whole purpose of the The Little Car Company is to bring these incredible machines of the past to a new audience. We are not looking to replicate the originals, but instead to reinterpret them in a new way, and make them accessible to a new audience.”
Unlike its predecessor, the fully-electric Bugatti II features removable lithium-ion battery packs and it comes with selectable power modes offering different top speeds.
“The Bugatti Baby is really fast. That’s what people notice first when they get in and drive it with the Speed Key. It handles just like an original Type 35, and has all the beautiful design details which Ettore Bugatti incorporated.”
As well as being beautifully and authentically designed, Hedley tells us that it’s also a lot of fun to drive. “We call it the ‘first mile smile’. We guarantee that after one lap of our test track, any driver will come back with a huge smile on their face after they discover how fun (and fast!) it is.”
Only 500 cars will be built and each one will come with its own plaque displaying its unique chassis number.
The Rules of Construction
Hedley’s team took the decision to go electric in order to make them future-proof.
“The automotive world is moving to electric power whether we like it or not, and we wanted to show that electric cars can be fun. Future generations may not want to drive vehicles from the past powered by fossil fuels, and we want these cars to be heirlooms which are passed down through families.”
All the cars are hand-built, and future models will all be built at TLCC’s headquarters in Oxfordshire.
“The Bugatti Baby is actually hand built by our partners at Gentry Restorations, arguably the world’s leading Bugatti restorer, under the watchful eye of my team. The reason for this was that Gentry know more about the Bugatti Type 35 and Baby than anyone else, and we wanted to use that expertise with the Baby II to make sure it was put together properly.”
TLCC has a number of rules when it develops a car. “First, it has to be as authentic as possible, so we go back to a digital 3D scan of the original to make sure the proportions are absolutely spot on. We then have a research phase to really understand the car under the skin. What all the controls do, why it was designed in the way it was and how it was put together. So based on that we develop an overall concept which we can then refine with our engineers.
“Wherever possible we will remain as close to the original as possible, for example suspension geometry or gauges, but sometimes with some flourishes which reference the current cars in a partner’s range, for example the speed key and solid silver badge from the Chiron.
“The second rule is “nothing can be fake”. So we can repurpose things from the original cars, for example the fuel pump on the Bugatti has become the direction lever while the fuel gauge on the DB5 Junior has become the battery meter. But we never create something fake without purpose – you won’t see a dummy exhaust on our cars for example.”
“The third rule is the cars have to be safe. We test all our cars for thousands of kilometres before we release them, and they have a variety of tests; from TUV for the wheels, to EMC for the electronics, handling tests, braking tests, CE marking and many of the components we use are already certified as being safe for use on full size road cars.”
We wanted to include a little fun too, so if you have the Vantage model, there is a hidden missile switch.
TLCC’s second model is the junior version of Aston Martin’s classic grand tourer, the DB5, that was originally launched by the iconic British marque back in the 1960s.
“The DB5 Junior has similar performance to the Baby II, but the design of the original car has allowed us to make a much larger cockpit which can even fit two adults at a squeeze. You sit lower, and feel less exposed, but it has that same electric surge when you put your foot down. The bucket seat holds you really tightly and allows you to test the handling with the confidence the low centre of gravity gives you.”
There are three powertrain modes can be used. Novice, for learner drivers which is 1kW of power, and a top speed limited to 12mph / 20kmh. Expert, which offers 5kW of power and 30mph / 45kmh. There is even a Race mode which will match the car’s performance to the Bugatti Baby II.
“But we wanted to include a little fun too, so if you have the Vantage model, there is a hidden missile switch to operate the Vantage mode. This doubles the power to 10kW and removes the speed limiter completely. How fast? We’re still to find out in testing…,” adds Hedley.
TLCC strongly believes in building a community amongst little car owners, and that’s why every owner receives a lifetime membership to The Little Car Club.
“We love building the junior cars, but we thought it was also important to offer events where parents and grandparents can bring their children and grandchildren to enjoy their cars at famous motorsport venues. To create a spirit of community around the cars, and allow owners to meet face to face. To allow customer to test the performance of their cars in a safe environment.”
“We can event ship cars for clients (a flight case is one of the options we offer) and look after them as well if they wish. We like to think of it as a Ferrari FXX program for all the family,” he adds.
Finally, we asked Hedley what’s next for TLCC. His response left us in suspense.
“At the moment we are delivering the first Baby IIs to customers, and focusing on getting the DB5 Junior into production next year. We do have a few more surprises up our sleeves we can’t wait to tell you about…”
We can’t wait either!