When we think about classic cars, it’s often a conversation about the big-ticket models, like the McLaren F1 that recently was sold at an auction during the Monterey Car Week for $20.5m, or the famous Ferrari 250 GTO which is rarely seen on the road due to being worth about $50m.
Alongside these famous marques and models though, is a popular industry for replicas. We don’t mean full size replicas, but reduced-scale versions, for children or collectors who wish they were still children. For many that will conjure up days of trying to make their pedal car go faster as a child, but things have moved on significantly since then.
Today there are exact scale replicas using small electric motors with precision-engineered steering, suspension, brakes and other components. Right down to the wheels and the tread pattern of the tyres, they are exact in every detail, only smaller.
We recently had a brief and slightly cramped drive in one, a Bugatti Type 35 produced by The Little Car Company in England. It is exquisite, with perfectly formed components and the feeling of being in something really special. To give you an idea of what goes into making it, the handcrafted aluminium bodywork takes over 200 hours to make. Driving it on a private test facility during which we drove lots of other, much faster machinery, the so-called Baby Bugatti produced the biggest smile. It’s not fast and we had a tailback of real cars behind us which was a little intimidating, but it’s so much fun.
The same company also produces a two-thirds scale version of the famous Aston Martin DB5 convertible. Only 1,059 will be made, the same number as the real thing and it measures 3m long, and 1.1m wide. It’s powered by a 5kW electric motor that gives it a decent top speed of 48km/h. It has period correct double wishbone front suspension, a black leather interior, fantastic 10-inch wire wheels and it even has a boot so the children can pack their luggage in and drive to their holiday home, the summerhouse at the end of the garden.
There’s another small Aston on the way too, something to do with a replica of a famous James Bond car. It’s all top secret at the moment, which is very 007, but we know it will be called the 007 Junior car and we’re hearing rumours of replica gadgets. How much fun will that be. We imagine it will fire sponge darts rather than actual bullets of course.
Ferrari has also got in on the scene, working with The Little Car Company to produce 299 75% scale replicas of the famous 1957 250 Testa Rossa. The Maranello marque even provided all the original drawings for the car from its Ferrari Classiche department. The Manettino dial allows the little driver to choose from four different driving modes, including a Race mode which delivers a maximum speed of over 60km/h. Fortunately there are Brembo disc brakes and grown-ups can stop the car from a key fob if necessary.
If you want something more sporty, then Half Scale Cars will build you a half size replica of the famous Porsche 917 or how about the legendary Mercedes-Benz 722 race car? You can also opt for an AC Cobra or a Jaguar E-Type. If you want your child or child-at-heart to have the most authentic experience, it’s possible to have these cars with a little petrol engine.
These junior classics are so popular that this year they will even have their own concours event. A part of the Concours of Elegance in England, the Junior Concours will feature the best examples of these scale replicas and winners in the various categories will attend an exclusive tea party.
“This feature really shines a light on the fascinating world of bespoke built children’s cars, popularised by the Austin J40 of which almost 32,000 were built from 1950,” says Andrew Evans, director of the event. “We have gathered together a wonderful collection of handbuilt cars of all ages, complete with working headlamps, innovative powertrains and a near-perfect likeness to the full-size models they seek to imitate.”
While the prices for these junior classics are not in the same league as their full size originals, they still carry quite a price tag. The Aston Martin DBS starts at £35,000 in the UK, so at least R716,000. The Ferrari will double that price and if you want something bespoke, then the sky’s the limit.