I Drove The $53,000 Electric Bugatti Baby To A Blistering 42 MPH On The Willow Springs Racetrack

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Illustration for article titled I Drove The $53,000 Electric Bugatti Baby To A Blistering 42 MPH On The Willow Springs Racetrack
Photo: Bugatti

It is possible to drive a Bugatti flat-out on one of the oldest permanent racecourses in America. But only if that Molsheim special is the brand’s new Bugatti Baby II.

A laser-scanned, three-quarter-scale replica of the marque’s winningest early-20th century racer, the Type 35, this Baby II has all of the Bugatti heritage features you crave, including a solid silver Bugatti emblem, an arched metal grille shell, Michelin tires, eight-spoke alloy wheels, a hollow front axle, a turned aluminum dash, a quick-release mahogany steering wheel, delicate white-face gauges and leather hood straps. But under the piano-hinged bonnet, instead of a sized-down version of the famed French 2.0-liter straight-eight engine, there’s a 2.4-kWh battery.

Though for a variety of reasons both logical and cynical, I hate racetracks, I agreed to get into the car. I started out in Expert mode, just so I could get a feel for the thing. In this mode, the electric motor can push the $53,000 Vitesse version of the Baby to 30 mph, which is fast in a toy vehicle that lacks street legality, rollover testing or any safety equipment at all aside from the cosplay helmet I was given.

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Fortunately, you can increase this to 42 mph. As in the brand’s seven-figure Veyron and Chiron hypercars, a special Top Speed key can be inserted into the dash to grant access to the full range of power. For those too intelligent or disempowered, there is also a Novice mode (indicated on the dash by a light-up tortoise) in which the car is limited to 12 mph and can be disabled with a remote kill switch.

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Photo: Bugatti

The pedals, which in a fit of time-fuckery are copies of those in the Chiron, are adjustable front and rear, though uncomfortably offset. Luckily, I really needed only the right-hand one, since it is pretty easy — even for someone like me who lacks whatever mental processor is requisite for comprehending a “racing line” — to drive this thing flat out at 30 mph. My gigantic 1960s vintage sunglasses and purple COVID mask had to stand in for goggles and a balaclava, and as always I wish I’d worn a cravat, but otherwise I felt exactly like William Grover-Williams winning the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix.

After the skinny tires were good and warmed up, we turned the special speed key and unleashed the full potential of this little boy-racer. I was glad that we’d opted for the Vitesse model, which has a carbon fiber body, as opposed to the lesser, composite-bodied $36,000 base version. Not because I have some carbon fiber fetish, but because I am not a basic bitch. (The $71,400 Pur Sang version subs in hammered aluminum panels, which I suppose is better because it’s not plastic?) I could definitely feel a difference post key turning, mainly because I had to hit the brakes once or twice in the corners. With rear- wheel-drive, limited grip and a limited-slip differential, this thing can really plow.

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Though I anticipated disaster, I did not flip over, fly out (no seatbelt), hit anything alive or inanimate, or plow ass-over-face into a pile of sharp gravel. Pulling into the pit after my obligatory five laps, the Bugatti folks waved me on for another go-round. Sadly, the car immediately started gasping and conked out.

“The wind has been really strong today, so we’re not getting as much range as usual,” the spokeswoman said.

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Typical range is 32 miles per charge. I had gone 9.6 miles. Luckily, the battery pack is easy to swap. I mean, apparently, since I did not swap it or stick around to see it happen. After all, I had a Lamborghini HuracánEvo Spyder RWD waiting for me to drive back to LA. In such a situation, one does not tarry with trifling toys.

Bugatti and the Little Car Company will build only 500 examples of the Baby II, and according to the spokeswoman, most are already spoken for. A good portion are going to customers who already own a Bugatti, and some of these folks are spec’ing their Babies to match their current Bug. I’d forgo their tacky gold leaf and capybara uterus leather schemes and paint mine just like the real Type 35 that the brand had on hand, loaned by Peter Mullin and his museum, in French Blue with worn black leather. Or maybe the British Racing Green that Grover-Williams had on his. Then I’d drive it around the deck of my super-yacht until I crashed it into the pool.

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DISCUSSION

romeoreject
Romeo Reject

I’ve always wondered why no car company bothered to make a modern version of cars from the 20s - 50s. I was watching Ratched with my wife, and all I could think of is “Damn a sedan from that era looks awesome”.

Like, I like that Bugatti did this, though having it be a non-street legal, smaller-scale toy kinda feels like fumbling at the one yard line.