You’ll probably need to spend the better part of $20 million if you want an original 1957 Scaglietti-bodied, “pontoon-fender” Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa. Or you could buy a brand-new, almost identical Ferrari Testa Rossa J for just $106,000 plus taxes and shipping. Sounds like the deal of the century. But there are just a couple of things you should know. The Testa Rossa J is fully electric powered. And it’s three-quarters the size of the original.
It’ll fit nicely under the Christmas tree, though.
The Ferrari Testa Rossa J is the third car from The Little Car Company, a boutique British engineering and manufacturing shop based at Bicester Heritage, north of London. Founded in 2018 by manufacturing engineer and self-described “serial entrepreneur” Ben Hedley, The Little Car Company got its start when Bugatti asked Hedley to create a modern version of the Bugatti Baby, a half-scale model of a Type 35 built in 1926 for the fourth birthday of Ettore Bugatti’s youngest son, Roland.
Hedley’s proposal differed from the original in one key respect: Instead of being a half-scale version of the Type 35, The Little Car company Bugatti Baby II would be three-quarter scale. “I wanted something that adults as well as children would be able to drive,” he says.
The launch of the Bugatti Baby II—500 will be built, and about 70 cars have been delivered at the time of writing—was followed in 2020 by the reveal of the kid-sized Aston Martin DB5 Junior, which can be ordered in more powerful Vantage specification or as the 007-worthy No Time To Die Edition, complete with fake machine guns behind the headlights, switchable license plates, and a smoke machine at the rear of the car.
Ferrari Tested and Approved
Powered by a rear-mounted 12.0-kW (16.1-hp) motor that drives the rear wheels and will scoot it to 50 mph, the Ferrari Testa Rossa J has been developed with the complete approval of, and assistance from, Ferrari.
Using data from original drawings in the archives of Ferrari’s Classiche Department in Maranello, the Testa Rossa J has a tubular steel chassis that is a faithful replica of the full-size original, right down to the steering and suspension geometry. The suspension features Bilstein coil-over shocks and Eibach springs, and the tires on the handmade 12-inch wire wheels (genuine Borrani wire wheels are available as an option) are from Ferrari supplier Pirelli. The car’s dynamic setup was signed off by Ferrari test drivers at the company’s storied Fiorano test track.
The bodywork follows the exact proportions and distinctive style of the original 250 Testa Rossa and is made in the same way, from hand-beaten aluminum. The Prancing Horse badge on the front of the car is the genuine item, and the accelerator and brake pedals are the same as the ones used on the F8 Tributo. An online car configurator allows customers to choose from 14 historical liveries, 53 bodywork colors, and additional personalized racing liveries—all rendered in the same paint used on Ferrari road cars.
Likewise, the bench seat is trimmed in factory Ferrari leather. The vintage-style three-spoke wood-rim steering wheel is from Nardi, which supplied steering wheels for the original car, and while the gauges on the instrument panel have been repurposed for use in an electric car, they feature the same design and fonts used back in 1957.
One obvious anachronism on the dash is what looks like a modern manettino. It’s where the key to start the car is inserted, and twisting it activates four drive modes. Novice mode restricts the motor’s output to 1.3 hp and will automatically shut down the car if it travels beyond a certain distance from a hand-held key fob. It’s designed to allow children to be able to learn to drive the car safely.
Comfort mode increases the motor’s output to 5.4 hp, Sport Mode takes it to 13.4 hp, and Race mode to 16.1 hp. The modular powertrain, which is also used in the Little Car Company’s Bugatti and Aston Martin models, draws from three 2-kWh batteries mounted under the hood to deliver a 60-mile driving range; those batteries can be recharged in about four hours.
Looks Like a Toy, Drives Like a Sports Car
It’s a truly beautiful little thing. And while it’s toylike, it’s nothing like a toy to drive.
The Nardi wheel has a quick-release mechanism that allows adults to clamber into the cockpit. Insert the key into the manettino, select Sport mode, and twist the Drive knob to the right (left if you want reverse). Release the hydraulic fly-off handbrake, and you’re ready to go.
Instant torque punches the little Ferrari forward the moment you touch the accelerator. The car weighs just over 570 pounds, but with up to 16.1 hp to work with, forget any comparisons with a golf cart: The Testa Rossa J has a weight-to-power ratio 3.7 times better than the quirky Citroën Ami city car we tested earlier this year, and almost twice the top speed.
Now, 50 mph doesn’t sound Ferrari-fast, but when your head and torso are out in the freezing slipstream of a British winter’s day, it certainly feels it. More important, though, the Testa Rossa J isn’t just a point-it-and-plant-it drive experience.
Start pushing, and you’ll feel the roll in the suspension and the compliance in the tires—the 125 SR 12 Pirelli Cinturatos fitted to the Testa Rossa J were used on tiny 1960s Fiat 500s. It feels like an old front-engine sports car; it likes to be braked early, settled, then turned in, with the power fed in early to get the weight transfer to the rear axle.
A Ferrari Through and Through
Ferrari is taking the Testa Rossa J very seriously, Hedley says. “We thought you were bringing us a toy, but you’ve brought us a real car,” Maranello insiders reportedly said when he showed them the prototype. As a result, the Testa Rossa J has a genuine Ferrari VIN plate, and Ferrari asked that The Little Car Company remove its own logos from the car. “They’ve told us this is the first Ferrari ever made outside Maranello,” Hedley says. “That’s quite a compliment.”
Ferrari is one of the world’s most astute brand managers. Just 299 Testa Rossa J’s are being built, and although for most of us it’s little more than an expensive toy, for some of Ferrari’s most well-heeled owners, it’ll be a fun addition to their collection, a limited-edition talking point when they’re showing their buddies around their garage. More important for Ferrari, though, for those owners with kids, the Testa Rossa J is a way of passing on their passion for the Prancing Horse to a new generation.
Source: Read Full Article