Bugatti Type 41 Royale

Cars

There is little to compare in the history of the automobile, interms of pure automotive audacity as the Bugatti Royale. Designed literally for a handful of the world’s regal elite in 1925, the car, otherwise known as a Type 41, is the child of one of one man’s personal vision.

In a story that mirrors that of the Ferrari-battling Ford GT, Ettore Bugatti is said to have come up with the idea of this most regal of rides in response to a the comments of an aristocratic English woman, who remarked that only the Rolls Royce could possibly be a car fit for a king, the huge, astronomically priced Royale project was scuppered on the reef of the great depression that followed the stock market crash of 1929.

All six of the cars produced remain, scattered to the four winds in various car collections. They may fetch as much as the most sought-after 250 GTOs should they ever come up for sale.

With a 12.7 litre engine, 24-inch wheels, a 6.4 Metre overall length, and a kerb weight of over 3000KG, it was a dinosaur whose evolution was cut short by global economic realities. How many times have we heard this story of late?

But more stunning than the Royale’s astronomical spec is the sweeping elegance of its design. It may have come a cropper in the pre war years, but the dynamic elegance of post war cars in Europe managed to live on.

But if we were hoping that the current economic crisis doesn’t spell the end of beautiful cars, then we’re not sure wether last year’s 4-door concept unveiled by Bugatti to coincide with compay’s centenary, should soften or heighten our worries.

The Galibier Bugatti featured the typical radiator grille, big round LED headlights and the clamshell design running the length of the vehicle, which became synonymous with the brand identity under Jean Bugatti in the Type 57.

Beneath the bonnet, which folds back from both sides, there resides a 16-cylinder, 8-litre engine with two stage supercharging that can run on ethanol. Four-wheel drive, specially developed ceramic brakes and a new suspension design keeps the car agile, and the body is constructed of handmade carbon fibre parts coloured dark blue so that, when illuminated, the woven structure shimmers through strikingly.

The Galibier’s design might have mastered the challenge of uniting sportiness with the comfort and elegance of a modern four-door saloon, and the basic architecture picks up on the torpedo-like character of the Type 35, which was already revived in the Veyron, and reinterprets it.

But looking at the graphic picture from the side elevation you can see how even this highest-end saloon recalls more workaday exec wafters like the VW Phaeton<, and even the Audi A6 series. The Royale surely was a one off- the product of a time and an attitude to design that is probably gone forever.

CLICK TO ENLARGE