For the second part in my series, I'd like to set my sights on one of the most prolific cars ever built, the Bugatti Type 41 Royale. The Type 41 holds a number of sizable records: world's biggest production car, the largest engine ever fitted in a production car, and most notable for this post, it is one of the most expensive cars on the planet, both when new and now.
The Bugatti Type 41 Royale was the brainchild of engineering genius and sportscar builder Ettore Bugatti. Bugatti was a man of singular purpose who built cars for himself that he expected others to buy. He was unforgiving, resolute, and stuck in his ways. These factors certainly helped lead to the demise of his company shortly after WWII, but they have also created the backdrop for what is one of the most famous car makers in history.
The Type 41 was Ettore's greatest triumph, or so he had hoped. He wanted to build the greatest, biggest, fastest, and most spectacular car the world had ever seen. So great was this car he wanted to build, that, initially, he wanted to only sell it to royalty (hence the 'Royale' moniker). The timing for the car was poor, however, with the first chassis emerging from the factory in 1926 and production not beginning until 1929. The Great Depression hardly created a market for a car that had a 15 foot wheelbase, a 12.7 liter Straight 8, and a $20,000 price tag without coachwork.
The economic situation, and Bugatti's own idosycracies, was such that Bugatti never actually sold a single car to someone of royalty. In fact, he could barely sell the few cars he actually produced at all. After making only six chassis, and selling only four of them, Ettore halted production before he bankrupted his company completely. Bugatti had already built 25 engines, however. The remaining 19 engines were pressed into service powering a motor yatch and, more significantly, very fast commuter trains.
Today, all six Bugatti Type 41's are surviving and in excellent condition. Three of the cars are on public display, two at the Musee National de l'Automobile de Mulhouse and one at the Henry Ford Museum. A seventh car, a replica of a previously destroyed body built on a spare chassis, is also at the Musee National de l'Automobile de Mulhouse.
The price of the Type 41 has fluctuated from around $43,000 new, to as low as $350. Although a Bugatti Type 41 has not sold publicly in about 10 years, the last car to sell garnered a record Â£5,500,000 ($8.7 million) at a Christies sale in November of 1987 (Click number 4).
The Type 41 picture here is built off of the first chassis, the body is from 1931, a "Coupe de Ville Binder", by Jean Bugatti.