My Bugatti Royales - Part 1, Chassis 41100
Following Jani Bodmann’s post on May 25, and a follow-up by David Holcombe, I promised I would post pics of my Bugatti Royales. After a flurry of picture taking, this snowballed into a lot of research, so it has taken some time to put this all together. I relied on my Automobile Quarterly collection, the excellent website https://monovisions.com/vintage-bugatti-cars-1920s-and-1930s/ , Wikipedia, and a few other pictures strewn about cyberspace.
I won’t go into a lengthy treatise about these cars (there’s plenty online for the curious). Suffice to say, Ettore Bugatti envisioned his Type 41 to be the most luxurious and powerful car yet made, a car for kings and heads of state – hence the name “Royale” stuck. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way due to the 1929 stock market crash and a few other factors. He only sold three out of seven cars built before World War 2, and one of them was written off in a crash. With two of the cars having multiple bodies, there are 11 variants, not counting the crashed one. All remaining six chassis still exist in collections around the world.
I have eight models (one I have two of), so there are four more I need. I should mention that throughout the last few decades several French artisans have made handbuilts of many Royale versions – I believe Heco was the most prolific – so all of them have been available. However, except for one beautiful resin model by EMC, I have stuck to diecasts for my collection.
Chassis 41100 (Prototype)
Chassis 41100 was the prototype, completed in 1927, and carried 5 different bodies during its lifetime. It was also Ettore’s personal car.
1st version (Packard body) – Ettore was impatient to try out this first chassis, and did not want to wait for a coachbuilder to do justice to his creation. So he obtained a Packard somewhere (you know, for “research”) and had the body transferred to his new chassis. With only black and white photos and poor records, there’s no way to definitively nail down the color, plus he may have repainted it along the way. Someone built a replica of the 1:1, and painted it dark red.
My model is the excellent handbuilt by EMC of Ukraine. I bought a green, top raised version, and LE of 125. I love various details included – a thin red pinstripe at the beltline, realistic headlamps, and replicated eisenglass side curtains. EMC also made a dark red version without curtains (LE of 80), and top down versions (probably 80 of each). I would have liked to remove the display case top, but the nails holding it in are so tight I was afraid I’d break the plastic if I tried too hard.
2nd version (Fiacre Coupe) – After the Packard body, a somewhat awkward and antiquated body appeared, known as the Fiacre coupe. I am not sure of the body builder, but was probably Weymann of Paris. Rio made several Royales, and they made this one as No. 74 in their original series. Like all of their Royales, the radiator has a curious inverted triangular mascot, instead of the little elephant typical of these cars. But it does have engine detail. I don’t know if the colors they chose are authentic since I could not find a picture of the 1:1 (AQ’s Ted Lodigensky artist shows it to be all black).
3rd version (Weymann 4-door) – Not long after the Fiacre coupe came a 4-door enclosed body, again probably by Weymann. Rio made this one as No. 54 in their original series, and the same comments as for No. 74 apply.
4th version (Weymann Coupe)– This version went back to a 2-door coupe, but as you can see, the progression of Weymann bodywork was becoming sleeker. Photos of the 1:1 seem to indicate both the black/light color scheme and all black. Ettore reportedly fell asleep at the wheel in this one, crashing it, necessitating a major rebuild. [Wiki seems a bit confused here, saying the prototype was destroyed in 1931, but also says the prototype chassis was rebuilt. What about the 7th chassis that was supposedly crashed about the same time? Did it crash or were parts from it used to rebuild 41111? Any experts know the full story?]
Ixo made the 4th version in their Museum Series as MUS061. A nice casting, but the fenders are plastic so there isn’t much “heft” to it. At least they got the dancing elephant on the radiator, unlike Rio. No engine detail or working features, but the shape and proportions seem very good.
5th version (Coupe Napoleon) – Following Ettore’s little road mishap, he added the 5th and final body, though I’m not quite sure if it was designed in-house or by Henri Binder. Known as the “Coupe Napoleon” this was an elegant limousine in the traditional owners-in-the-dry-chauffuer-in-the-wet design. New fenders gave it a long flowing look befitting the “car of kings”. I’ve seen this version called a 1930, 1931, or 1932 – anyone know for sure? My vote is for 1931, This car, along with 41141 and 41150, were hidden from the Nazis during World War 2 in a brick-up enclosure. Today it resides in the Musée National de l’Automobile de Mulhouse in France.
I have two models of this version.
Solido introduced the Coupe Napoleon as their second L’Age d’Or (Golden Age) model in 1964. It has a removeable hood and opening front doors and most versions are all black. The tiny elephant was included in a small glassine envelope inside the box. Mine is considered the second version from about 1967 based on box and other minute variations.
Note that the Solido is all-black, the period photo seems to show no two-tone effects, and that AQ painting from some 40-odd years ago shows an all-black 41100. But today there is blue paint along the hood sides and chauffeur’s doors. Perhaps the Schlumpf brothers did a little sprucing up of the old beast? Anyway, Ixo released MUS053 in 2014 as this version, with some nice passenger compartment jacquard-pattern upholstery included as well. The thin white rings on the tires are confusing me though.
On a final note, the first version by EMC, and this last by Ixo, both have the registration 3293-J4, so the chassis does seem to have remained the same even after Ettore’s wreck.
Stay tuned for Part 2 - the other chassis.
Thank you Harv. This is a wonderful well written post with an interesting variety of models. Sadly, I only have the Rio and Solido versions. That EMC looks great!
Your images of the actual cars really add to this Post.
Great presentation, thanks Harv.
Very nicely done.
Claude (Elegance) did at least 2 as special requests.
Beautifully done sir!