Being one of the most expensive cars in the world, the Bugatti Royale is no doubt exceedingly rare and a triumph of hubris over season and it combines prestige, performance and exception. It was the most magnificent car ever created and a beast machine intended to humble the Rolls-Royce of the day. A mere six Royale’s were produced and three will be sold during the great financial crisis. Invaluable in their time, they are even more so today.

This Bugatti Type 41 Royale was the brainchild of Ettore Bugatti and a hugely expensive misstep that formed one of the most amazing luxury cars in history. It was intended to be sold to royalty and the aristocratic elite of the time.

It is an extraordinary car, in the true sense of the word. It should be for Ettore Bugatti the ultimate, the model that would surpass in power, quality and renown all the production of the competition.

Aesthetically, the sheet metal is made by a drawing executed by Jean Bugatti, Ettore’s son, at the age of 20 years old. The first prototype, chassis 41100, was completed in 1927 and destroyed in an accident. Built as a six-window model featuring one of the largest cabs on any of the cars, it has only one body in its life.

To put it simple, the engine of this car was huge. Displacing till 15 liters, it had three valves per cylinder, a single overhead camshaft and a single carburetor, producing 300 hp for a maximum speed of 180 km/ h. It weighs 350 kg and measures 1.40 m long and 88 cm high. The crankshaft reaches 110 kg. Its gearbox is three-speed. The length of this sacred monster is 6 meters, its width of 2.05 m and its height of 1.75 m. La Royale is timed on 100 m in 8.9s. As for braking, it takes 33.50 meters to a Royal Bugatti of three tons launched at 70 km / h, to stop. Its transmission is via the rear wheels. In this car, everything is oversized and the wheels are no exception to the rule. The dashboard is coated by Park Ward. Among this luxurious debauchery, there is a radio, a cigar cutter and an ashtray in the armrests. Finally, the radiator cap is made of solid silver. It represents an elephant standing on its hind legs. It is signed by Ettore’s brother, Rembrandt Bugatti.

The first prototype was built in 1926 and its chassis bears the number 41100. Known as the Coupé du Patron, the car exhibits an open body of tourism, recovered on a Packard with a long wheelbase (4,57 meters) and the engine with long stroke (14.726 cm3). In 1928, she changed body two times, both of Ettore Bugatti, first in Coupé fiacre, then in horse-drawn sedan. In 1929, it was equipped with a two-door bodywork, signed by Parisian coachbuilder Weymann. Destined for the king of Spain, he did not acquire it. Between Paris and Strasbourg, this Royale suffered an accident. It will be entirely re-brushed on the drawing of Jean Bugatti. It will remain in the family as the boss personal car. It eventually ended up with the Schlumpf brothers and still resides in their Mulhouse Museum.

The second, with the number 41111, was sold to the king of ready-to-wear Armand Esders. Its owner not wanting to drive at night, the headlights are sheltered in the trunk. La Royale was then transformed into a “Coupé de Ville” by Parisian coachbuilder Henri Binder in 1938. The car was armored for a total weight of 4.5 t, because it was intended for the King of Romania but the latter did not take it. The car became the property of Raymond Patenôtre. The Binder Coupé, the original vehicle, now belongs to Bugatti Automobiles SAS.

The third, number 41121, was sold to a doctor, Joseph Fuchs of Munich, in May 1932. The Royale was converted into a cabriolet version, created by coachbuilder Ludwig Weinberger. It will travel around the world before definitely stopping at the Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan in the United States, where it is still on display today. The fourth, number 41131, was purchased in 1933 by the captain of the British Royal Army Cuthbert W.Forster. In the 1950s, it was bought by an American named Shakespeare, before Fritz Schlumpf had it integrated into his collection.

La Royale # 5, chassis 41.141, was built in 1927 and transformed into a coach by Parisian coachbuilder Kellner in 1931. The Coach is presented at the Salon de Paris 1932 and the Salon de Londres, where she won the title of the most expensive car in the world (three times the price of a Rolls-Royce). Unsold, the “Coach Kellner” is kept and used by the Bugatti family. During the Second World War, this car and the cars with chassis numbers 41.110 and 41.150 were hidden, enclosed in Ermenonville in one of the family properties, to avoid being requisitioned by the Nazis. This “Coach Kellner”, as well as the 41.150, will be sold in 1953 to the American pilot and collector Briggs Cunningham. After the closing of the Briggs Cunningham Museum in 1986, the car was auctioned off by Christie’s in 1987 at the Royal Albert Hall in Nick Harley. In 1989, the car is again auctioned by Kruse in Las Vegas. Ed Weaver made an offer at $ 11.5 million, refused by Thulin. Following the collapse of his empire in 1990, Thulin sold the car for $ 15.7 million to the Japanese conglomerate Meitec. It is stored in a basement of a building before being offered for sale by Bonhams & Brooks and acquired for 10 million pounds in 2001. Its current Spanish owner preserves its anonymity.

La Royale # 6, chassis 41150, is the sixth and last produced by Bugatti. This “travel sedan” remained unsold and preserved by the Bugatti family. It is one of those hidden in Ermenonville. It is a horse-drawn sedan, carved in 1929 by Bugatti on a drawing by Ettore Bugatti, often inspired by his passion for horses. It was sold with the “Coach Kellner” in 1950 by Ebé Bugatti, eldest daughter of Ettore and Barbara Bugatti, to the American Briggs Cunningham. Today it is owned by the former president of the Samsung group, the Korean Lee Kun-hee and exhibited at the BlackHawk automobile museum in California.
As one of the rarest and most expensive cars in the world, the Bugatti Royale is an automobile monument that can be seen in the most prestigious museums, including Mulhouse.

Gerry McGovern Gentlemen Drivers Magazine


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