The 1926 Bugatti Type 41 was Ettore Bugatti’s vainglorious attempt to sell his cars to emperors and kings. The lofty Italian-born carmaker called it “La Royale”. The car had a 779ci (12,763cc) straight-eight engine, with three-valves-per-cylinder, but just a single carburetor. It had a wheelbase of 14ft (4.3m), longer than a complete Subaru Impreza, and its overall length was longer than any factory-built limousine today at 21ft (6.4m).
Bugatti Type 41 Royale 1926
- YEAR REVEALED 1926
- PLACE OF ORIGIN Molsheim, Alsace, France
- HISTORICAL STATUS production car
- ENGINE eight-cylinder, 779ci (12,763cc)
- MAXIMUM POWER 300bhp
- LAYOUT front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels
- BODYWORK two-seater roadster, five-seater saloon, five-seater tourer
- TOP SPEED unknown
- NUMBER BUILT six
The Royale was a leviathan at over 7,000lb (3,175kg) in weight, with cast-alloy wheels measuring 24in (60cm) in diameter and an engine that was 1.4m (4.5ft) long. No matter what bodywork was fitted, the car was magnificent. But Bugatti’s timing was unfortunate. It took six years for the first car to be delivered in 1932, and during the intervening period the whole world had fallen victim to the chronic economic slump known as the “Great Depression.” Only six models were made in all, along with a prototype destroyed in 1931.
Surplus Royale engines began to be used to power French railcars. The surviving Royales became a myth-laden icon for vintage car buffs. In 1987, at one of the most celebrated collector’s car auctions, Christies sold one for £5.5 million in front of 4,500 people at London’s Royal Albert Hall.