Being shown around the headquarters and production line of The Little Car Company by boss Ben Hedley reminds me of Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory.
Around every corner and through every door there is something new to surprise and delight, from miniature Bugattis and Ferraris, to an Aston Martin DB5 with working James Bond gadgets, a full-size Tamiya Wild One off-road buggy and a new car I can’t talk about just yet.
It’s clear Hedley takes huge joy from showing off the high-end components of these beautiful cars. For the Ferrari there are wire wheels from Borrani, shock absorbers from Bilstein, springs from Eibach and tyres from Pirelli. The paintwork, leather, badges and pedals are from Ferrari itself. There are Ferrari chassis plates and the aluminium body is bent and beaten into shape by hand. Just 299 examples will be built.
I’m here to see The Little Car Company’s latest creation, an upgrade package for the Testa Rossa J called the Pacco Gara – or ‘race pack’ in Italian.
Named by Ferrari itself, the kit adds a range of upgrades to make the Testa Rossa J faster, more agile and better-suited to racing on track. The electric motor’s power output is increased from 12kW to 14kW (16 bhp to 19 bhp), pushing the top speed to beyond 50 mph. There is also a quicker steering ratio, drilled brake discs with a firmer pedal, adjustable dampers and brake bias that can be adjusted front-to-rear on the move via a knob in the cabin.
There’s also a removable roll bar and leather tonneau cover for when the passenger seat isn’t being used, four-point Sabelt harnesses, a driver’s side mirror and a pair of spotlights ahead of the front grille. For the night stint of a 24 hour race, naturally.
The body sits on a tubular steel spaceframe chassis exactly like that of the full-size 250 Testa Rossa, only with extra strength owing to the doors not opening. Swappable battery packs sit under the bonnet and a single motor drives the rear wheels.
Ferrari was involved with developing the car to ensure it drives, rides and feels just like the real thing, with final sign-off coming from Ferrari test drivers after a stint on the company's Fiorano test track in Maranello.
Lower yourself into the Pacco Gara, switch to Race mode, floor the accelerator and the extra power is immediately apparent. With fully-charged batteries the car sprints off the line with what feels like a lot more than 19bhp. This turn of pace subsides a little after a few minutes of hard driving, but remains entertainingly quick.
I turn into the first corner of the small test track at Bicester Heritage and the quicker steering is just as obvious as the extra power. It makes the car feel agile, lighter on its feet and more eager to hit the apex of every corner. The quicker ratio also makes it easier to catch slides with some opposite lock – and there are plenty of slides to catch, not necessarily due to power-oversteer, especially in the dry, but from lift-off oversteer. Turn into the apex, lift off the accelerator and the rear swings around nicely. It’s all hugely entertaining.
Hugely expensive, too. All this adds €25,000 (£22,000) to the car’s €95,000 (plus tax) starting price and yes, we know you can buy a real Ferrari for that sort of money, but that isn’t really the point. The Little Car Company has created a niche wealthy car collectors never knew they needed, but now can’t get enough of. Many of these cars are sold to existing customers who want something to enjoy with their children (or, in many cases, by themselves) and to look good in the garage.
Intended for drivers aged 14 and over (a legal restriction due to voltage), the car has four driving modes, each with different power levels to help novices get to grips with the car before satisfying their need for speed. There’s also a remote kill switch to stop children venturing too far.
I spent about half an hour in the car, including a battery swap to sample full power, and I simply did not want to get out.
It’s only a small track at Bicester Heritage, similar to a karting circuit, but the range of corners is still enough to make every lap slightly different. The Testa Rossa J is the sort of car you never tire of experimenting with, as you saw at the wooden, unassisted steering wheel from Nardi, feeling every bit the 1950s racing driver.
The most fun you can have in an electric car? Absolutely.