Bugatti Royale Type 41
|Also called||Bugatti Royale|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||Berline, coupé, cabriolet, roadster|
|Engine||12,763 cc (12.7 L) (779 cu in.).straight-8|
|Wheelbase||~4.3 m (169.3 in)|
|Length||~6.4 m (252.0 in)|
|Curb weight||~3,175 kg (7,000 lb)|
The Bugatti Type 41, better known as the Royale, is a large luxury car with a 4.3 m (169.3 in) wheelbase and 6.4 m (21 ft) overall length. It weighs approximately 3175 kg (7000 lb) and uses a 12.7 L (12763 cc/778 in³) straight-8 engine. For comparison, against the modern Rolls-Royce Phantom (produced from 2003 onward), the Royale is about 20% longer, and more than 25% heavier. This makes the Royale one of the largest cars in the world.
Ettore Bugatti planned to build twenty-five of these cars, sell them to royalty and to be the most luxurious car ever. But even European royalty was not buying such things during the Great Depression, and Bugatti was able to sell only three of the six made.
Crafted by Ettore Bugatti, the Type 41 is said to have come about because he took exception to the comments of an English lady who compared his cars unfavourably with those of Rolls-Royce.
The prototype had a near 15-litre capacity engine. The production version, its stroke reduced from 150 mm (5.9 in) to 130 mm (5.1 in) had a displacement of 12.7 litres. The engine was built around a single huge block, and at (apx. 4.5 ft (1.4 m) long x 3.5 ft (1.1 m) high), is one of the largest automobile engines ever made, producing 205 to 223 kW (275 to 300 hp). Its eight cylinders, bored to 125 mm (4.9 in) and with a stroke length of 130 mm (5.1 in), each displaced more than the entire engine of the contemporary Type 40 touring car. It had 3 valves per cylinder (two inlet:one exhaust) driven by a centrally positioned single overhead camshaft. Three bearings and only a single custom carburettor was needed. The engine was based on an aero-engine design that had been designed for the French Air Ministry, but never produced in that configuration.
The chassis was understandably substantial, with a conventional semi-elliptic leaf spring suspension arrangement at the front. At the rear the forward-facing Bugatti quarter-elliptics were supplemented by a second set facing to the rear.
Strangely, for the modern day observer, the aluminium clutch box was attached to the chassis, not to the engine, and the gear box, also in aluminium was attached to the rear axle, so was part of the unsprung mass of the suspension. The reason placing clutch and gearbox at such odd locations was reducing noise, so increasing comfort inside the cars, a difficult problem in those days. On the other hand, in view of the Royale's huge mass, placing the gearbox on the rear axle did not present a driveability problem.
Massive brake shoes were mechanically operated via cable controls: the brakes were effective but without servo-assistance required significant muscle power from the driver. The car's cast "Roue Royale" wheels measured 610 mm (24 inches) in diameter.
Reflecting some tradition-based fashions of the time, the driver was confronted by a series of knobs of whalebone, while the steering wheel was covered with walnut.
A road test performed in 1926 by W.F. Bradley at the request of Ettore Bugatti for the Autocar magazine proved how exquisite chassis construction allowed very good and balanced handling at speed, similar to smaller Bugatti sports cars, despite the car's weight and size.
All Royales were individually bodied. The radiator cap was a posed elephant, a sculpture by Ettore's brother Rembrandt Bugatti.
In 1928 Ettore Bugatti asserted that "this year King Alfonso of Spain will receive his Royale", but the Spanish king was deposed without taking delivery of a Royale, and the first of the cars to find a customer was not delivered until 1932. The Royale with a basic chassis price of $30,000, was launched just as the world economy began to sour into the 1930s Great Depression. Six Royales were built between 1929 and 1933, with just three sold to external customers. Intended for royalty, none was eventually sold to any royals, and Bugatti even refused to sell one to King Zog of Albania, claiming that "the man's table manners are beyond belief!"
All six production Royales still exist (the prototype was destroyed in an accident in 1931), and each has a different body, some having been rebodied several times.
The 1930s Bugatti Royale side view
41.110 - Coupé Napoleon
- The first car is chassis number 41.110
- Known as the Coupe Napoleon
- This car was fitted with the larger 14.7 litre prototype engine
- The Coupé Napoleon was used by Ettore Bugatti, and in his later life became his personal car. It remained in the family's possession, housed at their Ermenonville chateau until financial difficulties enforced its sale in 1963. It subsequently passed into the hands of Bugatti obsessive Fritz Schlumpf.
- It originally had a Packard body. It was rebodied by Paris coach builder Weymann as a two door fixed head coupe. The Weymann body was replaced after the car was crashed by Ettore Bugatti who in 1930 or 1931 fell asleep at the wheel travelling home from Paris to Alsace necessitating a major rebuild.
- At various stages it was also fitted with other bodies.
- Bricked up with 41.141 and 41.150 during World War II at the home of the Bugatti family in Ermenonville, to avoid being commandeered by the Nazis.
- Sold by L'Ebe Bugatti in the early 1960s to the brothers Schlumpf
- Resides in the Musée National de l'Automobile de Mulhouse, alongside 41.131 that the Schlumpf brothers had acquired from John Shakespeare.
41.111 - Coupé de ville Binder
- The second car built, but the first to find a customer, is chassis no.41.111
- Known as the Coupé de ville Binder
- Sold in April 1932 to French clothing manufacturer Armand Esders. Ettore's eldest son, Jean, fashioned for the car a dramatic two-seater open body with flamboyant, full-bodied wings and a dickey seat, but no headlamps. In this form it became known as the Royale Esders Roadster.
- Purchased by the French politician Paternotre,the car was rebodied in the Coupé de ville style by the coach builder Henri Binder. From this point onwards, known as the Coupé de ville Binder
- Never delivered to the King of Romania due to World War 2, it was hidden from the Nazis by storing it in the sewers of Paris
- Briefly found its way to the United Kingdom after World War 2, and was then acquired by Dudley C Wilson of Florida in 1954. On his death in 1961 it passed to banker Mills B Lane of Atlant before in 1964 taking up residence in The Harrah Collection at Reno, Nevada, bought at the then sensational price of $45,000 (approximately what the car had cost new).
- Sold in 1986 to Californian collector, home builder, and Air Force Reserve Major General William Lyon, he offered the car during the 1996 Barrett-Jackson Auction by Private treaty sale, where he refused an offer of $11 million; the reserve was set at $15 million.
- In 1999, the new owner of the Bugatti brand, Volkswagen AG, bought the car for a reported $20 million. Now used as a brand promotion vehicle, it travels to various museums and locations
41.121 - Cabriolet Weinberger
- The third car is chassis no.41.121
- Known as the Cabriolet Weinberger
- Sold in 1932 to German obstetrician Josef Fuchs, who specified coach builder Ludwig Weinberger of Munich to build him an open cabriolet. Painted black with yellow, the car was delivered to Dr Fuchs in May, 1932.
- As political tensions rose in pre-war Germany, Fuchs, relocated to Italy, then Japan; before permanently relocating to New York around 1937, bringing the Royale with him.
- Admired in Dr Fuchs ownership by Charles Chayne, later VP of Corporate Engineering at General Motors. Chayne later found the car in a scrap yard in New York, buying it in 1946 for $400.Chayne would amass a very impressive collection through paying such prices for classic cars in the 40s and 50s.
- Chayne first had the car running again, then he modified the car to make it more road usable and is said to have spent over $10,000 doing so, with the completed car featuring from 1947 onwards: a brand-new intake manifold with four carburetors, instead of the original single carb setup; a new paint scheme of oyster white with a dark green trim and convertible roof
- In 1957, after running the car for ten years, Chayne donated the car to the Henry Ford Museum, located in Dearborn, Michigan, where it still resides. The associated placard, in its entirety, reads: "1931 Bugatti Royale Type 41 Cabriolet, Ettore Bugatti, Molsheim, France, Body by Weinberger, OHC, in-line 8 cylinder, 300 horsepower, 779 cu.in. displacement, 7,035 lb (3,191 kg). Original price: $43,000, Gift of Charles and Esther Chayne."
41.131 - Limousine Park-Ward
- The fourth car is chassis no.41.131
- Known as the Foster car or Limousine Park-Ward
- sold to Englishman Captain Cuthbert W. Foster, heir to a large department store in Boston USA, through his American mother, in 1933. Foster had a limousine body made for the car by Park Ward, created in the style of a 1921 Daimler he had once owned.
- Acquired in 1946 by British Bugatti dealer Jack Lemon Burton for around £700 (or $2,800), who was forced to replace the huge tires with ones from an artillery piece, necessitating the need to remove the skirting from the fenders.
- Sold June/July 1956 to American Bugatti collector John Shakespeare, becoming part of the largest collection of Bugattis at that time. Shakespeare paid £3,500, or approx $9,785 for the car, which was in mint condition. This was a substantial price for a collector car in 1956. Two show-condition SJ Duesenbergs could be bought at the same price that year. Brand new Ferraris started around this price in 1956 as well.
- Facing financial problems, in 1963 Shakespeare sold his entire car collection, and he found a willing buyer in Fritz Schlumpf
- Part of the Schlumpf Collection
- Resides in the Musée National de l'Automobile de Mulhouse, alongside 41.110 that the brothers Schlumpf had acquired from the Bugatti estate.
41.141 - Kellner car
- The fifth car is chassis no.41.141
- Known as the Kellner car
- Unsold, it was kept by Bugatti
- Bricked up with 41.110 and 41.150 during World War II at the home of the Bugatti family in Ermenonville, to avoid being commandeered by the Nazis.
- Sold together with 41.150 by L'Ebe Bugatti in the Summer of 1950 to American Le Mans racer Briggs Cunningham, in return for FR₣200000, ($571 US) plus a pair of new General Electric refrigerators, then unavailable in post-war France. Bear in mind that the French franc had been drastically devalued in the years immediately following the war. The refrigerators were included out of gratuity. The car was rough but drive-able. Taking the refrigerators into account, he essentially paid about $600 per car. Restoration costs would bring the total cost up to about 1 million Francs, or $2,858 US, per car. The cars were delivered to the states in January 1951.
- After closing his museum in 1986, in 1987 the car was sold direct from Briggs Cunningham's collection by Christie's for £5.5 million or $9.7 million U.S. at the Royal Albert Hall, to Swedish property tycoon Hans Thulin
- The car was also offered for auction in 1989 by Kruse in Las Vegas where Ed Weaver bid the car to $11.5 million, which was declined by Thulin, reserve was $15 million. On collapse of his empire, Thulin sold the car in 1990 for a reported $15.7 million to Japanese conglomerate the Meitec Corporation, and it resided in their modern building basement before being offered for sale for £10million by Bonhams & Brooks by private treaty in 2001.
- Ownership is presently unknown, but it has been shown in recent years by Swiss broker Lukas Huni.
41.150 - Berline de Voyage
- The sixth car is chassis no. 41.150
- Known as the Berline de Voyage
- Unsold, it was kept by Bugatti
- Bricked up with 41.110 and 41.141 during World War II at the home of the Bugatti family in Ermenonville, to avoid being commandeered by the Nazis.
- Sold together with 41.141 by L'Ebe Bugatti in the Summer of 1950 to American Le Mans racer Briggs Cunningham, in return for FR₣200000, ($571 US) plus a pair of new General Electric refrigerators, then unavailable in post-war France. Bear in mind that the French franc had been drastically devalued in the years immediately following the war. The refrigerators were included out of gratuity. The car was rough but drive-able. Taking the refrigerators into account, he essentially paid about $600 per car. Restoration costs would bring the total cost up to about 1 million Francs, or $2,858 US, per car. The cars were delivered to the states in January 1951.
- On their arrival in the United States, Cunningham sold 41.150, first to Cameron Peck in early 1952 for about $6,500, (at the time one of the highest prices ever paid for a collector car, landing Cunningham a substantial profit). From there the car would eventually find its way into The Harrah Collection.The car was then sold at the 1986 Harrah auction where Jerry J. Moore paid $6.5 million for it, he kept it for 1 year and then sold it to Tom Monaghan for £5.7 million (US$8.1 million).
- In 1991, Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza, sold 41.150 for US$8,000,000, which was actually less than the £5.7 million (US$8.1 million) for which he purchased it in 1987 from Jerry J. Moore.
- The car was sold to the Blackhawk Collection in Danville, California, where it has been on display at various times
Bugatti Royale Cabriolet Weinberger side view