Bugatti Type 41 Royale

1930

  • Only seven examples were constructed between 1926 and 1932, of what was both Ettore Bugatti’s biggest dream and the most prestigious automobile ever to be commercialized.
  • The coupé Napoléon is a marvel of elegance and equilibrium. Its engine with 8 cylinders, 24 valves, and 9 blocks and crankshafts is a modern art sculpture in itself.
  • None of the expected clients, the Kings of Spain, Albania and Romania, actually acquired one. Why? The 1929 stock exchange crisis and an exorbitant price, twice that of a Rolls Royce.

"The Royale is quick and lithe like a living being, it is reliable, rapid, powerful, silent: a magnificent dream that could only be realized after thirty years of trials and constant research." These words come from the pen of Ebé Bugatti himself, whose father, the remarkable Ettore, had produced one of the world's legendary automobiles, the type 41 - a true masterpiece from all perspectives.

Ettore Bugatti started active work on the Royale project in 1925, and his dream of building the largest, most powerful and fastest touring automobile began to take shape with the 41100 prototype. The huge chassis with its 181” wheelbase was an enlargement and evolution of the type 38 and 40 models, with the inclusion of additional cross-pieces to make the structure more solid. The pièce de résistance of the project is without a doubt the engine, an in-line 8 cylinder unit with a centrally positioned twin overhead camshaft controlling three valves per cylinder, and with a cylinder capacity of nearly 15 liters - an ensemble that produced a shattering 300 hp! Although already proven on the type 28 and on the extraordinary metallurgic masterpiece that was curved front axle of the type 35, substantial adaptations had to be made to the unusual dimensions of this new prototype.

In 1926, the enormous chassis, sitting on 39” alloy wheels, was tested for the first time and was soon enclosed in the Torpedo bodywork of the Packard, previously acquired by Ettore for observation of work from the other side of the Atlantic. Its adaptation was not free of problems; the difference in wheelbase between the two automobiles meant they had to change the fenders and redesign the hood. These modifications were illustrated in a sketch dated 29th January 1927.

To be continued...