We spoke to CEO Ben Hedley to see how the company has grown and what its future plans look like.
In 2019, Bugatti approached Ben Hedley to help with a modern take on the Bugatti Baby produced between 1927 and 1936. The updated recreation was so much more than a toy, however. It was a scaled-down replica of a full-size Bugatti that was as true to the roadgoing variant as could be. Since then, The Little Car Company has taken things further, producing the Aston Martin DB5 Junior, a scaled-down version of the same car Daniel Craig's James Bond drives in No Time To Die. And most recently, it has made the first customer deliveries of its new Ferrari Testa Rossa J, of which only 299 will be produced.
So how did The Little Car Company go from a handful of people in 2019 to employing over 60 in 2022, producing replicas for Ferrari, a brand that will happily sue its own customers if they don't do as they're told? We spoke to company CEO Ben Hedley to find out.
"It all started with the Bugatti project," recalls Hedley, recounting that the original was very small, and realizing the new replicas should be a bit bigger. He noted that there was an opportunity to make these classic cars with a small electric powertrain, which seems obvious, but people still think these are "just toys," so Hedley explains that they "scanned an entire Bugatti Type 35, got it down 25%, got the geometry the same, the handling the same. We even tried to match the weight distribution, the stiffness."
And it's worked: "So the Bugatti Baby handles like the Type 35, and we've had that from Bugatti's own test driver, Andy Wallace. So that was the genesis of the whole thing."
So how did The LLC get to Ferrari? Well, Hedley tells us that he and his team drove through the famous gates at the HQ in Maranello with the Bugatti Baby in the back. After seeing it offloaded, Ferrari's people said, "We thought you were bringing us a toy, and you've brought us a little car."
Ferrari understood immediately what Hedley and his team are trying to do, and that is "not step on the toes of the original - if we had to build Ferrari Testa Rossas full-size, with an electric powertrain, we'd have pitchforks outside the building [...] but make them smaller, make them a bit useful, make them fun to drive, and people are really engaging with them."
Interestingly, they've even had a guy who is 6'7" and weighing 250 pounds in the car, and although it was a tight squeeze, he loved it. But the car can take it because LLC puts all its cars through the same sorts of processes as a full-size car. Road car tests are conducted on every example, evaluating braking, handling, acceleration, and even electromagnetic interference.
In the Testa Rossa J, the first attempt was shown to the head of the project at Ferrari, who said there were "two big problems." First, the dash was wrong because Ferrari provided a scan of a crashed car's dash that was then modified. This was a mistake but relatively easy to fix.
"The second problem," recalls Hedley, "Ferrari said, 'we want you to take your badges off and just leave the Ferrari ones on there,' and I was like, 'Yeah, that's not a problem. We'd be delighted.' That's the greatest compliment."
The level of detail here is outstanding for even Ferrari to be that impressed, and with extra touches like a manettino inspired by that of the Ferrari 812 Superfast, or pedals borrowed from the F8 Tributo, these miniaturized classic cars are as close in looks and handling to their full-size inspirational forebears as possible. But with a touch of modernity where older cars may have lacked nice touches like alloy pedals.
As for what's next, we can't tell you just yet, but we can say that the next project is arguably even more exciting. In the meantime, there are plenty of classic convertibles that The Little Car Company has yet to consider, so what would you like to see recreated next? We'd be quite keen on a BMW 507 Roadster...