The Bugatti Royale is considered as one of the rarest cars in the world, with some even considering it as the number one rarest because of the total number of units manufactured. Bugatti reported that there were seven Bugatti Royale vehicles that were made from 1927 to 1933, but there are only six cars that exist today, as the seventh was the prototype that was destroyed in a wreck. Bugatti, a French automobile designer who founded the Bugatti car company, initially wanted to build 25 Bugatti Royale cars and sell them for a starting price of $30,000, which is a price that only the royalty can afford in the late 1920s. However, when the Great Depression happened in the 1930s, Bugatti realized that the target customers were unable to buy the Royale due to financial problems, so he was forced to stop the production of the line after the seventh vehicle. To know more about the current states of the six existing cars, here is the interesting history of the Bugatti Royale.
History of the Royale
The first Bugatti Royale was built around 1927, and it has the chassis number 41100. To differentiate this first Royale from the others, it was named the “Coupe Napoleon.” The 41100 was mostly used by Ettore Bugatti, and it remained in his estate even after his death in 1947. Unfortunately, his family sold the 41100 in 1963 because of financial problems, and the car eventually came into possession of Fritz Schlumpf, an avid Bugatti collector. The 41100 is currently on display at the Musée National de l’Automobile de Mulhouse along with the 44131 Royale that was also purchased by Schlumpf.
The second Bugatti Royale, also known as the 41111, had an unknown production date, but it was sold in 1932 to a clothing manufacturer named Armand Esders. The 41111 was then sold by Esders to Raymond Patenôtre, who was a politician during that time. The second Royale was re-bodied by Henri Binder under Patenôtre’s specifications, and it was at that moment that the 41111 was called the “Coupé de ville Binder.” This Royale was supposed to be given to the King of Romania in the 1940s, but it was never delivered because of the effects of World War II. When it was not delivered, the owner hid it away from the Nazis by placing the Royale in the sewers of Paris. After World War II, the 41111 found its way to the US when it was purchase by car collector Dudley C. Wilson in 1954. It would eventually be owned by another American collect named William Lyon, who was also a US Air Force Reserve major general. The current owner of the Bugatti brand, Volkswagen AG, then bought the 4111 1 from Lyon in 1999 for $20 million. The 41111 would then be shown by Volkswagen AG as a display piece for their conventions and museum collaborations.
The third Bugatti Royale, with the chassis number 41121, was also sold in 1932, but this time, it was bought by Joseph Fuchs, a German obstetrician. During the early years of World War II, Fuchs relocated to different countries while bringing the Royale with him. Its last destination with Fuchs was in New York, and it was in that US state that it found its way in the scrapyard in the 1940s, possibly due to being faulty. Charles Chayne, who was going to be the vice president of Corporate Engineering at General Motors, then found the 41121 in the same scrapyard and bought it for $75 in 1946. To make it running again, Chayne said that he spent more than $10,000 for repairs and replacement parts. After more than ten years, Chayne donated the 41121 to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, where it is currently on display since 1957.
The fourth Royale, with the chassis number 41131, was also known as the Limousine Park-Ward and was bought first by Cuthbert W. Foster, an English businessman who was the heir Jordan Marsh department store founder Eben Jordan, in 1933. This Royale was re-bodied using a limousine body that was designed and built by coachbuilder Park Ward. The 41131 was then sold to Bugatti dealer Jack Lemon Burton in 1946 for only 700 euros. After ten years, it was sold to American car collector John Shakespeare in 1956 for 3,500 euros. Shakespeare eventually sold the 41131 to Fritz Schlumpf, and it is currently still in the hands of Schlumpf and is displayed at the Musée National de l’Automobile de Mulhouse along with the 41100.
The fifth Bugatti Royale, also known by its chassis number 41141, was unsold in the 1930s and was kept in Bugatti’s private collection until 1950 when it was sold to Le Mans racer Briggs Cunningham. It was then sold to a Swedish property tycoon named Hans Thulin for $9.7 million in 1987. Thulin sold the 41141 to the Meitec Corporation in 1990 for $15.7 million. Today, no one is sure as to who owns the 41141, but it was sometimes put on display by Lukas Huni, a broker in Switzerland
The last Bugatti Royale ever built, with chassis number 41150, was also unsold and kept by Bugatti in the 1930s. It was later sold to Briggs Cunningham along with the 41141 in 1950. In the United States, Cunningham sold the 41150 to a man named Cameron Peck in 1952, and it eventually found its way to real estate developer Jerry J. Moore in 1986. The 41150 was sold again in 1991 to Tom Monaghan, who is mostly known as the founder of Domino’s Pizza, for $8 million. Monaghan then sold it to the Blackhawk Collection in California, but at an unknown date, the Blackhawk Collection sold the 41150 to an unknown buyer.
The unused engines that were supposed to be used for 23 more Bugatti Royale cars were utilized to build railcars for the SNCF (SociétéNationale des Chemins de ferFrançais) or the French National Railway Company. While the Royale project was a financial failure for Bugatti, the subsequent use of the engines to build railcars allowed him and his family to have financial stability.