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Royale Driving Report

In 1926, Ettore Bugatti contacted one of the few journalists who had always recognized the exceptional beauty and undeniably powerful performance of his automobiles: W.F. Bradley – who thus earned the honor of being the first to test-drive the “Royale” for the English automotive journal Autocar:

“I hope I will be forgiven for my erroneous belief that this car – because of its size and power – can only be driven on the wide national 2 roads. Bugatti must have known of my prejudice, because the minute the car had left Molsheim we left the main road and continued on narrow and bending country roads which snake up the hills in serpentines in the close vicinity of Molsheim.

Frequently, the roads were in a state of ill repair, which, however, did not keep Bugatti from pushing down the throttle to full speed. He wanted to prove, how the car kept its balance even at high speed, and I have to admit that he fully succeeded. Even in sharp bends the car stays exactly in line and hardly tilts to the side! There was a good deal of traffic on these roads, mostly one-horse buggies. However, passing them did not at all present a problem. Earlier in the day I had been driving the same route on a Bugatti sports car. The only disadvantage of these 250 HP cars would be that the driver has a lot of manoeuvering to do when hitting one of the hairpin bends, whereas a smaller car could easily be handled with a normal steering movement. From this car I had expected a smooth response and excellent acceleration values at a low torque – and I was by no means disappointed. We used the first gear just for starting up, and then one can immediately switch to the direct transmission mode, in which we remained for the rest of trip.

Even though our test route included short, steep and bending gradients 3 forcing down the speed sometimes to 5 km per hour, we still could aggressively accelerate. In the course of the test drive we drove up a hill in direct gear as slowly as possible – it went absolutely perfect! The same gradient once again in first gear, just to show the very impressive acceleration. On a stretch of an empty road in the direction of Strasbourg we were offered the chance to switch into fast gear, which turned out to be as quiet as the direct gear.

Of course, for this kind of car and in its price category there is only a limited market. Some criticism which one may have in one respect or another is entirely superfluous in this special case. The absence of a removable cylinder head and the shape of the cylinder itself make it impossible to exchange a valve, not to mention to sand it, without having to completely disassemble the engine. Thanks to its construction, the high quality of the castings and the perfect manufacture, repairs become necessary only after a very long time. Easy access expected from a regular car would here be quite irrelevant...”

Pebble Beach 1985

From left:
Royale Park Ward, Royale Binder, Royale Kellner, Royale Double Fiacre, Royale Weinberger, Royale Coupé Napoleon.

Photo: Pebble Beach 1985, Ronald J. Kellog

Jean Bugatti with a T41 Royale, 1932

Jean Bugatti with a T41 Royale, 1932