The Bugatti Type 41, better known as the Royale, was a large luxury car with a 4.3 m wheelbase and 6.4 m overall length. It weighed approximately 3175 kg and was fitted with a 12.7 L straight-8 engine.
The Type 41, 'La Royale', was a grand project, only to be sold to persons with royal blood. The number of Royales build has been a disputed matter. Number from 6 to 8 have been suggested. Looking at all the production and restoration of the Royales, it looks like there are 6 chassis produced, wearing 11 bodies. Of these, 6 or 7 are in existence - one of them is a rebuild. The first chassis may in reality have been 2 different chassis, though, making a total of 7 produced.
Ettore Bugatti planned to build 25 of these cars, and sell them to royalty. But even royalty was not buying such things during the Great Depression, and Bugatti was able to sell only 3 of the 6 or 7 chassis built from 1926 to 1933. None to a royal. Today a Bugatti Royale is both one of the largest and rarest cars in the world.
This Royale, chassis 41131, is the fourth out of six or seven examples built and was sold to Englishman Captain Cuthbert W. Foster, heir to a large department store in Boston USA, through his American mother, in 1933. He had his Royale fitted with a luxurious limousine body constructed by Park Ward in the style of a 1921 Daimler Mr. Foster had once owned. Before the car was delivered to the customer, Ettore's son Jean traveled to London to screw on the Elephant radiator cap and to start the engine.
In 1946, the Captain eventually sold his Royale to British Bugatti dealer Jack Lemon Burton who was forced to replace the huge tires with ones from an artillery piece, necessitating the need to remove the skirting from the fenders. In 1956 it was sold to American Bugatti collector John Shakespeare, becoming part of the largest collection of Bugattis at that time. He frequently used the luxurious machine for lengthy road trips and always without any problems. In 1963 financial problems forced him to sell his entire collection and in Fritz Schlumpf he found a willing buyer. Upon receiving the Park Ward Limousine, Schlumpf had the the upholstery redone.
Today the fourth Type 41 Royale is still part of the Schlumpf Collection, which is now government owned.
It is on permanent display at the Musee National de l'Automobile in Mulhouse alongside another Royale. It is amazing to note that, with the exception of the interior, the car is still very original; a testament to the exceptional build quality.
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