Like Enzo Ferrari in the late 1940s, Bugatti established his automaking credentials through racing. It started with the 1911 Grand Prix du Mans, where Ernest Friederich, Ettore's friend, associate, and mechanic, drove a tiny 1.4-liter Bugatti to second place behind a monstrous six-liter Fiat.
"The disparity in, size between the two cars made the victory most impressive," Purdy wrote. "Bugatti was famous from that day forward." After World War I, more impressive Bugattis turned in more impressive performances, including an outright Le Mans victory in 1920. In 1924-1927, Bugattis racked up no fewer than 1,851 wins.
By that time, Molsheim had grown from 65 to over 1,000 employees -- about a third of the town's population -- who worked in greatly expanded physical facilities that Bugatti ruled like a kingly father -- Le Patron.
Besides a complex of one-story factory buildings (kept surgically clean at his insistence and fitted with identical door locks to which only he held the master key) there was a museum housing the sculpture of his brother Rembrandt, another for Ettore's carriage collection, a kennel, stables (horses were Bugatti's second love), vineyards, a family chateau, and an inn for favored clients, L'Hostellerie du Pur Sang: literally "hotel of the pure blood," as in thoroughbred horses-and motorcars. Each day, Le Patron toured his fiefdom by bicycle or electric car of his own design, dressed like some Hollywood mogul -- and dispensing nobless oblige like a feudal lord.
A "Car for Kings" might be expected from so imperious an industrialist. One of the many stories woven into the fabric of the Bugatti legend concerns Ettore's dinner with a certain English gentlewoman who remarked (according to Purdy): "Everyone knows you build the greatest racing cars in the world, and the best sports cars. But for a town carriage of real elegance, one must go to Rolls-Royce or Daimler, isn't that so?"
Though the Type 41 allegedly sprang from this "challenge," correspondence indicates that Bugatti had been contemplating such a car since at least 1913. That it was delayed 13 years was due mainly to a lack of resources at the time, then the intervention of World War I, plus his desire that the "machinery" be "beyond any criticism."
Learn more about 1926-1932 Bugatti Type 41 Royale's exclusive clientèle on the next page.