The simple ‘Bugatti Type 41’ designation hardly hints at the grandeur it represents, for this is one of the most impressive automobiles ever created.
No wonder the Type 41 was swiftly nicknamed ‘The Royale’, for it was intended as luxurious transport for monarchs and heads of state.
Measuring in at an impressive 6.4 m (21 ft) in length, each Royale was treated to a different body created by a leading coachbuilder. Sadly for the visionary Ettore Bugatti, his grand design was conceived in the extravagant 1920s, with the prototype completed in 1927. But it was launched as the world tumbled into recession and only half a dozen Royales were built, of which three were sold. One went to France, another to Germany and the third to England.
Ettore’s plan to build 25 of these magnificent machines sank beneath the weight of economic adversity, and after failing to sell half the limited production run the dream was over. All six Royales still exist, though not all in original form – two have been rebodied more than once. In chassis number order there’s the Coupe Napoleon (Ettore’s own car that has had five different bodies), the Binder Coupe de Ville (two bodies), the Weinberger (original roadster body), the Park Ward (original limousine body), the racy Kelner coupe (original grand tourer body) and finally (though possibly the first made) the Double Berline de Voyage (original body).
Whilst driving one of these beauties is not a realistic ambition, seeing one most certainly is – the Coupe Napoleon is in France’s Mulhouse National Automobile Museum, together with an authentic replica of No 2 with original roadster body. The Weinberger cabriolet now resides in The Henry Ford, that impressive museum in Dearborn, Michigan created by someone who operated at the diametrically opposite end of the automotive spectrum.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: France
1927 (until 1933)
12,763 cc Straight Eight
Capable of 100 mph (161 km/h)
YOU SHOULD KNOW: Economic disaster eventually turned to a modest triumph when Ettore Bugatti cannily recycled unused ‘Royale’ engines to power a new line of railcars.