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One of the five surviving 180 Testarossa children’s cars sold at auction for $126,500 recently. (Michael Furman/RM Auctions)
One of the five surviving 180 Testarossa children’s cars sold at auction for $126,500 recently. (Michael Furman/RM Auctions)

Toys for tots

Child-sized Ferrari toy sells for $126,500 Add to ...

If you’re a Ferrarista seeking the ultimate automotive toy to park under the family Christmas tree, the bad news is you’ve missed your chance.

A well-heeled buyer pipped you for that prize at last week’s Art of the Automobile auction in New York presented by Canada’s RM Auctions and Sotheby’s, writing a cheque for $126,500 (U.S.) to acquire one of the rarest, and certainly smallest and least powerful models to wear Ferrari’s prancing horse badge, one of five surviving 180 Testarossa children’s cars.

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No worries though, you can still shop from a selection of Ferraris for small fries, as can aficionados of other luxury marques from Cadillac to Mercedes and Mini to Morgan, most of which are well represented by pint-sized pedal or electric powered reproductions of current or vintage models.

Whether the racing red 180 Testarossa will find its way under someone’s tree with a bow on its bonnet this holiday isn’t known. But the “kid” – at least at heart – who acquired it is likely pleased with himself. Although it wasn’t the ultimate big boy’s Ferrari present-to-self acquired at the New York sale, that honour going to the 1964 250LM, which went under the hammer for $14.3-million.

The 180 Testarossa is a faithful scale reproduction of the 1958 250 Testarossa, one of Ferrari’s most fabled racing machines, the 300-hp, V12-engined, “pontoon-fendered” version that won the Le Mans 24-hours that year.

The kiddie-car Testarossa was built, apparently with Enzo Ferrari’s approval, by Modena Ferrarina Italia, whose craftsmen recreated a steel-bodied version of the real thing, powered by a 12-volt, 180-watt (hence the name) electric motor of just 0.3 hp – just enough juice to make it entertaining in the hands of a prepubescent would-be racer.

Twenty-five were built and a number were sold by Enzo’s old racing chum and sole North American Ferrari distributor, Luigi Chinetti.

Pedal-powered toy cars began to appear shortly after the automobile itself became practical in the 1890s, were popular in the 1920s and 1930s, and again in the 1950s, then began to fade in the 1960s and 1970s. Powered versions took a little longer, but Bugatti was building its half-scale, 3.5-hp electric, Type 35/51 “Bebe” by 1927, and replicas of other makes would follow, usually in small numbers.

Both pedal and electrically motivated pint-sized cars are perhaps more prolific today, offered in an incredibly wide range of classic and contemporary models, representing virtually all luxury marques and mass production brands, in a variety of levels of sophistication, with commensurate pricing.

Hand-built junior cars in the spirit of the 180 Testa Rossa, are still available from companies such as Saigon-based British firm Group Harrington (groupharrington.com), which offers a Ferrari 250 California, AC Cobra and Jaguar XK120. Cars for Children Inc. (carsforchildren.com) in California, builds a modern-day, gas-engined Testarossa, an E-Type Jaguar, Audi and Land Rover.

If you’re handy you can build your own “Landie.” A British firm offers plans for a do-it-yourself classic Land Rover that would make a winter project for a dad-and-appropriate-offspring team.

Ferrari’s online store lineup includes an FXX pedal-go-kart, a pink plastic 430, a red Enzo and a toddlers’ “foot-to-floor” Formula One racer. A more serious Ferrari F1 racer – which can hit eight kilometres an hour – built in Italy under Ferrari “supervision” and selling at a Ferrari price can be found at trendtimes.com, which also lists a broad selection of other makes. Lamborghini doesn’t appear to offer children’s cars, but pedal and electric versions of the Aventador, Murcielago and Gallardo are available.

The Mercedes-Benz online store shopper can choose from the electric SLK and SLS, and a pedal-equipped 300SL. Porsche-philes can introduce their offspring to the make through Porsche Design creations that include a baby 918RSR racer, two types of pedal-car 911s, and a cool pedal go-kart. A classic Porsche 356 electric is also being produced.

Audi is pushing a paddle-style Mini Quattro on its website, but a Bosnian outfit called Elektroauto makes a neat little battery powered Audi TT, and there’s also an R8 Spyder.

Future BMW enthusiasts can acquire their early driving skills on the bright orange Baby Racer M3, a blue pedal or electric M6 Cabrio, or a yellow Z4 that makes “impressive engine sounds.” They can also take to the snow aboard the BMW Sno Pacer, all listed on the company website. Available from another source is an electric ride-on replica of the late 1930s BMW 328 Roadster.

Electric Lexus and Cadillac models can also be found. With a little Web surfing you can find just about any make.

Even venerable sports car maker Morgan Motors of Britain, which returned to its roots recently by offering a modern version of the three-wheeler that it began building more than 100 years ago, offers a bespoke “zero-emissions” pedal-propelled version.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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