A hood as long as the cab that followed. An elephant dancing at the edge of the hood. Huge solid alloy wheels which could cover the wheel arches of a heavy truck. Customisation to the unexpected level and unmatched exclusivity. That is what you got for a 100,000 Reichsmarks plus the cost for building a body, when you ordered a Bugatti Type 41. You had to be invited to even book the car and being a billionaire industrialist or king did help.

Image Courtesy Bugatti

The car was the largest, fastest and sturdiest car of its time. It costed more than thrice the price of an equivalent competitor, or you could buy 10 other Bugatti models for the same money. A Hyundai Creta would snugly fit into the wheelbase of this car. Not surprisingly it came with the sobriquet, La Royale. The Type 41 Royale was Ettore Bugatti’s most magnificient creation. It was presented in 1926, however, thanks to the great depression, the first car was sold only in 1932 to the Parisian industrialist Armand Esders. The car was powered by an engine based on an aero engine developed by Bugatti for the French government. Though the aero engine displaced 14.7 litres and produced 300 BHP of power, the Type 41 was powered by an inline naturally aspirated 12.8 litre cylinder engine which produced 300 BHP at 1,800 rpm.

As was the tradition at the time, the buyer received a chassis, engine, drive and grille. Thereafter coach builders like Kellern & Cie, Weymann, Binder, Bugatti, Weinberger and Park Ward took care of the set up. You could have your car as a Cabriolet, a Pullman limousine, a travel limousine with a folding top or two-door limousine. Some buyers went in for the Coupé Napoleon wherein, the passenger communicated with the driver via an electrical intercom. The hood of the car was so long that it needed two fitters to unlock and fold up the hood to reveal the engine. The grille was decorated with a danging elephant hood ornament which had been designed by his artiste and sculptor brother Rembrandt Bugatti. The various body styles could increase the weight of the car to up to 3.5 tons. However, still the 300 BHP could push the car to a top speed of 200 Km/h using a multi-plate dry clutch that was shifted via a three-speed gearbox transmitting the power to the rear wheels.

Image Courtesy Bugatti

The solid alloy wheels had slots to cool the huge drum brakes which were used to retard the car when required. To improve the comfort, Bugatti doubled the quarter elliptical suspension on the axles.

Though the car was the epitome of luxury and ticked all the right boxes, it was launched at a wrong time in the middle of the Great Depression. As a result only six cars could be built and sold by 1933, of these two were used by Ettore Bugatti and his wife. However, thanks to the rarity and uniqueness of these cars, all six models have survived to this day.