Friday, September 14, 2012

Bugatti Type 41 Royale

Cars That Were Never Made #13
A supremely elegant car 
that is seeped in tragedy....

Sometimes, I'm afraid, there is no happy ending.

This article is not really about the beautiful and remarkable Type 41 Bugatti. This is about the talented young man that designed it - Jean Bugatti.

Most people these days are very aware of the Bugatti Veyron and its incredible top speed of well over 250 miles per hour. 

Bugatti Veyron

That car, however, is actually a friggin' Volkswagen. 

And not many people know where the brand came from, or of the heartbreak associated with it.

So let's find out, shall we?

Ettore Bugatti - born in 1881 - was an Italian artist with a penchant for car design...and it shows. 

Ettore Bugatti

Ettore was from a family of artists, in fact, all living in Milan until Ettore opened his car company across the border in Molsheim, France in 1909. 

He experimented with several prototypes before producing the Type 13 in 1910. 

Type 13

Ettore moved on with the gorgeous Type 22 vinet boday (a modern tragedy in itself) and the great-looking Type 23 Boattail Speedster. 

Type 23

While all this was going on, Ettore's young son - Gianoberto Bugatti (Jean) - was showing great interest in his father's work...and had the artist's touch, as well. 

Jean Bugatti

It was the perfect combo package - Jean started drawing out beautiful cars, and his dad excelled at making them real.

At 23 years of age, Jean put pen to paper and designed the unbelievable Type 41, specifically for wealthy clients that demanded the very best. And they got it.

By today's standards, the Type 41 completely outclasses a modern Rolls-Royce Phantom in terms of elegance, size and weight. 

It featured a super-smooth 12.7 liter (!) straight 8 engine that was so well crafted that it didn't need gaskets, and every nut is artistically safety-wired.

The suspension was typical for the day, semi-elliptic leaf springs to handle the substantial weight of the car, and surprisingly good non-servo assisted brakes. 

The Type 41 also has the very first DUBs - the cast Roue Royale wheels are 24 inches in diameter.

Inside, several dozen Gold-Beater cows gave their lives for the leather, the switches were whalebone, and the steering wheel was walnut. 

Talk about over the top...PETA would have a field day with this car.

As luck would have it, the Great Depression came in full swing after the Type 41's introduction and sales were non-existent. Between 1927 and 1932, only 6 were made.

No matter. We're really here to learn about Jean Bugatti.

In 1934, he designed the most iconic car to ever see the light of day...the Type 57 Atlantic. 

Type 57

The Type 57 featured an awesome new independent front suspension system and an extremely innovative rear axle that went through the frame rather than under it. 

With a supercharged 3.3 liter racing engine, the Type 57 is regarded as the finest Bugatti ever made...and is certainly the most beautiful.

Unfortunately, it was the last car Jean would design.

On August 11th of 1939, Jean Bugatti took a Type 57 'Tank-Bodied' racer to a nearby test track in Duppigheim for evaluation. 

Tank-bodied Type 57

What he didn't know was that a drunk douchebag had sneaked through the fence around the track to ride the circuit on his bicycle. 

Jean was killed, swerving to miss the drunk asshat, hitting a tree at high speed.

This was the beginning of the end for Bugatti cars. 

Ettore died - probably from a broken heart and grieving for his son - a few years later, and the company closed its doors for good.

I'm sorry to say that this is the end. 

There is no happy finish for a family of artists that made some of the most beautiful and unique cars history has ever known. 

Being both an artist and a petrolhead, this sad story hurts me to my core.

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