These “Bebe” Bugattis were modelled on the Type 35 and 51, which were very successful racers at the time. This was an expensive and desirable toy for children of the wealthy in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and races were staged for them at Deauville and Monte Carlo.
The first car was built for Ettore’s five-year-old son, Roland, for the 1925 Milan show. But what was thought of as a joke turned out to have remarkable staying power. These are often referred to as the Type 52, but it’s believed the factory just called them the “Bebe.” They were aimed at children between six and eight years old. Early models were built on a 47-inch wheelbase; later cars were stretched to 53 inches. Altogether approximately 500 “Bebes” were built between 1927 and 1935.
The car features pneumatic tyres, detachable alloy wheels, a dummy radiator and an opening hood and is powered by a 12-volt battery with a single forward speed. The throttle is connected to a rheostat on the electric motor above the rear axle, and with a simple switch you can reverse polarity and create a reverse gear. Top speed is 15-18 km/h or about 11 mph flat out—perhaps not enough to escape mom or pop!