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There Were Eight, Now There Are Nine – The Bugatti Royale Prototype Recreation

When Ettore Bugatti set out to build what he called the finest car in the world, the Bugatti Royale, a car built for heads of state and royality he certainly did not economize on anything. The seven-thousand-pound prototype was fitted with a mid-1920s Packard touring car body on a 169.3-inch wheelbase chassis powered by a 15 liter (915.3) s.o.h.c. straight eight engine that produced between 275 to 300 horsepower; later cars received a smaller 12.7 liter (778 c.i.) engine

In 1927 he originally planned to construct twenty-five of the magnificent cars, but the Great Depression, which set in during 1930 ended that goal. All in all by the time 1933 came around he had only sold three of the six monumental cars. He kept the prototype seen below and two others that were spared destruction during World War II after being bricked up inside the family home in Ermenonville, in the north of France.

royale-proto

  • Ettore Bugatti on one of his horses when the prototype was photographed in 1926.

The prototype was later fitted with coachwork by Weymann in Paris, France as seen below and wrecked by Ettore Bugatti after he fell asleep at the wheel. It was rebuilt with a Coupé Napoleon style body and resides today in France at the Musée National de l’Automobile de Mulhouse that formerly was the Schlumpf Collection.

Crashed Bugatti Royale

  • The wreck that resulted to the re-bodied prototype after Ettore Bugatti fell asleep at the wheel.

The lead photo in the post shows the unfinished recreation of the prototype in Molsheim, France on September 10, 2011, at the Molsheim Festival held on the former factory grounds. According to the owner and builders of the replica, Hevec Classic Cars in the Netherlands, the project began after the discovery of the frame in the US that was replaced when the crashed Weymann coupe was rebuilt. An existing replica Royale engine, a mid-1920s Packard touring car body and as many original parts as could be found were used in the recreation. Learn more about this huge undertaking in the recently released video below found via Arnoud Op de Weegh of the Netherlands.

The photos are courtesy of Daniel Lapp and are posted by Jaap Horst on his Bugatti Page which covers news and developments in the Bugatti world.

36 responses to “There Were Eight, Now There Are Nine – The Bugatti Royale Prototype Recreation

  1. One can not complete the current day Royale census without considering the Esders roadster replica in the National Museum (Schlumpf) in Mulhouse and the Coupe Napoleon Replica in the Donington Collection. That would make the current count nine, The engines are the easy part as Bugatti made hundreds of Royale engines to power the railcars that he built for the French rail system. Many of those were saved when the railcars were scrapped. There is disagreement on the Original Coupe Napoleon. After the crash some believe that Ettore scrapped that car and just transfered the chassis number to a completely new car. There are many details different between the two aside from the obvious coachwork change. That car had two other sets of coachwork on it between the Packard body and the Weyman. I have been a Bugatti nut since an early age – that’s my excuse and I am sticking to it!!

      • Back in the 60’s the Coupe Napoleon was for sale for $ 50.000.00 in Montgomery Alabama, in a small garage owned by Griffin, he was handling sale for owner, an Air Force Major, a friend and i drove up to look at it, had a chance to fire it up and admire it, but he ended getting the Mexico Duedenberg instead and I made the trip to Mexico City to retrieve it. It was a mistake but his decision.

      • Hope I don’t hurt your feelings David, it’s “There Were Eight……”, not “There Where Eight…..”. I appreciate your work. Thanks.

    • Hey Andy:

      Decades ago, you acquainted with the Royales — could hardly believe that such a car could be built. Suggestion: Build this car in scale and enter it at GSL!

      Take care, old friend.

      Mark S. Gustavson

  2. Hi David,
    While this Beautiful replica/recreation has a slim connection to the originals, there have also been a couple more high level replicas. The Esders Roadster replica was begun by the Schlumpf brothers and completed by the Mussee Nationale. This one used a lot of original bits and may be the closest to the real ones.
    Some years ago Tom Wheatcroft had built a replica of the Coupe Napoleon that is supposed to be an extremely accurate replica.
    There may be more, but the Panther deVille doesn’t count.
    Jon Lee

    • Charles, some people do think of replicas in this way. If recreation of an important car such as this one is are correctly labeled, one positive aspect of a project like this one is it gives enthuiests a chance to witness just what the original was like.

      • It begs the question, just what is a “Replica”, “Recreation”, “Copy”.
        Maybe the AACA should give a definite ruling on the matter, and add another stand to the concours field.

    • Focus on the “replica” aspect seems to be misplaced. This team focused their talents and resources to create a beautiful work…to specification. The preservation of these wonderful crafts to produce a work of art in our time is an accomplishment to be celebrated! BRAVO!

    • I would think that a ‘replica’ built in this loving and exacting fashion does not deserve a title anything like ‘pathetic’. It was built to honor a true artiste and using as much from a diminishing stock of original parts and from ‘replica’ parts ostensibly built to factory specs. Would love to have an opportunity for closer inspection, now much more plausible since this is a ‘replica’.

    • So , I guess we don’t need another performance of Beethoven’s seventh Symphony. It haseems been done and who would conduct it better than the composer? I was taught that replication of an experiment is valid science. As an engineer, projects like this serve to preserve design knowledge easily lost by developing technology. Think this isn’the important? We have three Saturn moon rockets but not the plans.

  3. Looks beautiful & very carefully done.

    Personally I think it’s great that a person puts their money/time/effort & love of a particular marque into a project like this. It particularly deserves respect because it’s a given, from the outset, that the snobs, critics, naysayers will never be satisfied. So, I say, well done!

  4. I’ve read in a number of places that the Number 1 car had a slightly different wheelbase than the others. Does this now put that argument to rest? Were they all 169.3 inches?

  5. I have immensely liked the Type 41 since I first saw one in an article from the 1960s which showed the Shakespeare collection going to France. I remember being fascinated when I saw a photo of all six originals (so to speak) on the lawn in front of the lodge at Pebble Beach back in 1985. I even have one of the signed posters. If I remember correctly no one was sure if all six would make it to Pebble Beach as the two in France are considered national treasures and, as such, are rarely if ever let out of the country. The other part of the deal to bring them to the U.S. was that there could be no admittance charge to see them, so they were on the lawn in front of the lodge instead of on the show grounds.

    I’m not sure if that is the only time that all six originals have been together, but it would be great to see it happen again with all nine (perhaps in France?) side-by-side. The recreations don’t bother me since we all know which ones were originally made by Bugatti. I think it is great to bring back something that was lost as long as no one is claiming it is an original. Thanks for the interesting update on this great car!

  6. One can look to the recent Ford Daytona GT article in Motor Trend to see the value of really well done replicas.

  7. Thank you to all involved in the building of this car, I’d much rather see this than piles of original bits scattered around the world. I got to see my first Type 41 back in 1968 at the Henry Ford collection, then the two side by side in the Harrah collection, and later the one in the Cunningham collection. Bob

    • Yes, much better than bits and pieces all over the globe rotting away or sitting on someone’s shelf. This is how we learn from history as well as preserve important artifacts. Many other items are built so that we can better understand their place in history and show respect for their builders. Here in Charleston the C.S.S. Hunley was discovered. It has taken many years to remove the encrustations of marine life and minerals. Will it be rebuilt? No, but is there a replica? Yes. So that we can learn from it. So the innovations of the past can inspire another generation of engineers, designers, and craftsman. Future generations should be able to see the great works of brilliant people that were preserved, rebuilt, recreated instead of us selfishly leaving all that’s left of them to disappear.

  8. I seem to recall seeing a movie a number of years ago which had a Royale in a prominent role. Saw it on TV, so it might have been a made-for-TV movie. Don’t remember stars, plot, or anything else–only that the Royale motored through a cemetery at one point. Any idea what that film might have been?

  9. I think the movie was 101 Dalmations with Merle Streep, that was made by Walt Disney.
    I also love the Bugatti’s and have the Franklin Mint model of the Esders Coupe.

  10. Interesting discussion on the choice of descriptive words… “replica”, “recreation”, “rebody, “, or even “copy”. Might throw in “restoration” for good measure. If, somehow, the choice of terms can be better defined as it applies to a faithfully executed example of a vintage car that was not constructed as presented by the original builder, so much the better. What does one call a car bearing the original chassis number (or some sort of VIN) of an original car, but with major changes, such as a different body, either a copy of the original body/coachwork or else a different style completely? A rebody? What then does one call what is essentially a new car, with a new chassis, but using major original parts, put together to “copy” an original factory design? A replica, or maybe a recreation? If so how does one distinguish such a “replica” from something built with essentially no original components at all, even if all the new replica parts are faithful to the originals? A good question, but here’s a suggestion- add a second descriptive term, such as “vintage”… so a “vintage replica” might then denote a vehicle that had been made in the manner and form of an original, using mostly original components made in the period being represented, but not originally assembled by the original manufacturer in the current form. So if one started out with an original running chassis then fitted a different body, correct for the period and matching the running gear, etc. calling it a “vintage replica” might help clarify what one sees. Perhaps also using the term “special” somehow might be another possibility. In any event since there are now many such recreations, or whatever one chooses to call such vehicles it would be nice to settle on an accepted standardization of terminology…yes?

    Ultimately,though, we have this…“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.”

    • I agree with you Rich. I remember reading about 30+ years ago of a man who had a Duesenberg Phaeton and had a Duesenberg 4-door body for sale. Give you two guesses what he did to end up with a Duesenberg 4-door body. So what do you call his Duesenberg Phaeton? To me, I would consider it a replica Phaeton using a Duesenberg chassis.

  11. I believe the wheelbase of the prototype Royale was 4700 mm (185 inches). This car also had the unique larger engine (14,710 cc displacement). All the subsequent Royales had the smaller engine (12760 cc) and the wheelbase shortened to 4300 mm (169.3 inches).

  12. Speaking as the man responsible for designing the reconstructed Royale prototype I can tell you that the story of the first car having a longer wheel base is in fact untrue. It is also untrue that the Prototype had a larger engine capacity (14726cc) than the following ‘production’ cars (12763 cc). These stories all came about from the first press report of the car in June 1926 by William Bradley, who often got facts wrong.
    The Coupe Napoleon , while using the chassis number of the prototype shares no other parts with it apart from the 3293 -J4 registration number. This was done to save money registering another Royale by the factory.
    The car mentioned for sale in Alabama in the earlier thread was not the Coupe Napoleon, but the Binder car that was displayed for many years at Harrah’s and is now owned by Volkswagen.

    • Hi Greg

      Amazing story and what a beautiful car! Is the thought after 41100 was crashed that the chassis was removed and discarded and the Schlimpf 41100 got a different chassis? So your team thinks there are two true chassis number 41100’s?

      How did this chassis make its way to the USA? Was there damage from the accident evident on the chassis? How did the team prove it was the 41100 chassis? Any chassis ID numbers? Exactly what parts were found with the frame?

      The prototype engine is discussed in the movie but not how it was found. Any details??

      Why was the Packard body chosen? It was merely a body Bugatti used to test his running gear. Any debate among the team of what iteration to restore it to?

      Thank you for giving clarity on these questions.

      Bill O’Brien

  13. I’m a relatively new Royale enthusiast, although I have been to Mulhouse. I’ve read a lot online, and of course there are lots of contradiction. I haven’t been able to find out anything about the chassis under the ninth car, except what was in this video. Is any more of its history known?
    Secondly, I’ve read that the chassis of the Schlumpf car is an original, but I’ve also read that the Schlumpfs had it built by the original manufacturer (Alstom?), and it’s not quite accurate. Anybody know anything about this?
    I have experience with classic yachts, and we have the same discussions about restorations vs. replicas. I do think, with either boats or cars, it’s as important to preserve the original knowledge and manufacturing methods as it is
    to preserve the objects themselves, as someone pointed out above.
    Personally, I would consider the ninth car a restoration, given the original chassis and other original parts. The body doesn’t enter into the equation because cars were rebodied all the time.

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