Some of the early Bugatti coupes survived into the 1930s. The five production Royales also survived, and have equally involved histories. Number 41111 was built as a beautiful Jean Bugatti roadster, then received Coupe de Ville bodywork by Henri Binder of Paris, retained to this day. Royale 41121 resides at the Henry Ford Museum with its original two-seat cabriolet coachwork by Ludwig Weinberger of Munich. Number 41131 has also had but one body: a six-window "D-back" limousine type with sporty sidemount spares by Park Ward of London; it, too, now lives at the French museum.
Royale 41141, bodied as a two-door coach by Kellner of Paris, remained in Molsheim for years after Le Patron's death as the personal car of his daughter L'Ebe; it was purchased in 1950 by American Briggs Cunningham, and remained in his collection until 1987, when it sold at auction to an unnamed British collector for $9.8 million. That was the highest price ever paid for a car at the time, eclipsing the previous record set by ... another Royale.
This was 41150, the odd Berline de Voyage "cabriolet-limousine" once part of the Harrah Collection (along with 41111), acquired in late 1986 for $8.1 million by American pizza baron Tom Monaghan.
The few who've actually experienced a Royale report it surprisingly easy to drive. Of course, those heroic proportions make for cautious maneuvering like that required in a semi-trailer truck, but the steering is pleasantly manageable, performance adequate, ride firmly sporting, and handling of such a high order that the beast actually seems to shrink around you after awhile.
But the Royale was less a car for driving than for arriving: one to be seen in, one to make you the envy of all whom you'd deign to survey -- the ultimate automotive statement. Then again, what else from Ettore Bugatti, a man whose life, as Ken Purdy wrote, was "full of such gestures. Indeed, his whole life was a gesture. A sweeping, magnificent gesture."
Get specifications for the 1926-1932 Bugatti Type 41 Royale on the next page.