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Bugatti 41 Royale Replica's


By Otakar Kopecky

Click on a picture to see an enlargement!



In the twenties, Ettore Bugatti had invited a rich English woman to spend a few days in his house. During a dinner, she told the 'Patron' : "There's no doubt you are making the most fascinating race cars and sports cars, but when someone wants a truly elegant car, there is nothing but a Rolls-Royce". Ettore Bugatti jumped out from his chair, ran to his drawing table and started to draw the Bugatti Type 41, nicknamed 'Royale'.
This story may be just a legend, but it shows that EB's aim was to build a car dedicated to the elite, that is to say aristocracy at that time, which was keen on Rolls-Royce, on Daimlers, but not on too sporty Bugattis.

Franco Sbarro's approach is comparable: each one of his numerous creations is, because of its price, reserved to the elite which is, sign of the times, not only composed of aristocracy: the Sbarro Royale was ordered by a German business man, who is a billionaire too.

The Sbarro Royale is close to the Bugatti 41 considering its spirit, but its shape is quite different. This is a four-door, six-window limousine, which evokes the Royale Limousine by Park Ward, but there are not many common details. The radiator has the typical horseshoe shape, but Rembrandt Bugatti's elephant has been replaced by Sbarro's running greyhound. The hood is the most faithful part, considering both its length, its shape and its louvers. The design reminds me of a classic wedding limousine design. One would be proud to have this limo as part of their wedding invitations package. Although is a classical design, you still have modern conveniences inside the car.
The wheels remind the 41's alloy wheels but with a less pure design.

All the rest is far from the original. The body has a less flowing shape, essentially because of a too high roofline (an owner's demand for a huge passenger space). The half-wraparound wings do not have the finesse of Jean Bugatti's creation. It is quite strange too that Sbarro did not took up the typical Bugatti paint scheme, though the car has a two-tone paint. Last awkwardness: the too small headlights seem to be lost between the hood and the wings.

The Sbarro Royale is more an evocation (a parody ?) of twenties and thirties style than a faithful replica. This is quite a shame because Sbarro knew how to make astonishing replicas, like his wonderful Mercedes Benz 540K Spezial Roadster Replica.
The Sbarro Royale is mechanically both close and far from the 41: far, because the four independent wheels, the four disc brakes, the power steering, the automatic gearbox and the double Rover V8 (3,5l and 160bhp each) are perfectly up to date (do not forget we are in 1979); close, because Sbarro hide the engines under an aluminium cover which looks like a Bugatti straight eight, and because the car was build thanks to 1000 Bugatti-like square headed screws.

The passenger space has a retro flavour (walnut dashboard, velvet upholstery, thick floor carpets) but the equipment is perfectly modern : air conditioning, telephone and armoured windows (!).

The Sbarro Royale, which is 6 meters long and more than 2 tons heavy, was build during one year and cost 300,000 Swiss Franks, twice the price of a Rolls-Royce Camargue in 1979...this is still cheaper than an authentic 41. As Sbarro gave up creating cars three years ago to run his school "l'Espace Sbarro", the Sbarro Royale remained unique.



The producers of the French film 'Rebus' (directed by Massimo Guglielmi, starring Charlotte Rampling) asked Jo Cote and Remy Julienne to build a static replica of the legendary Bugatti 41 Royale Coupe Napoleon. The two men preferred the challenge of making a driveable car in the incredibly short time of three months.

They were fortunately helped by the Schlumpf Collection in Mulhouse and by old cars specialists. The plastic body was made thanks to the original molds kept in Mulhouse. The builders noticed a 6 centimeters gap between the left wing mold and the right wing one ! The front axle, the wheels and the mascot were made according to the original parts too. The tires were spare parts from the Schlumpf Collection. The rear passenger space was upholstered with a blue patterned fabric, close to the original and which was extremely hard to find, but the steering wheel is from an American GMC truck. The chassis is fully American: the car is based on a stretched and reinforced Cadillac chassis, with an automatic gearbox and a Chevrolet V8 engine.

Cote and Julienne have made a good job by making fastly a replica which is hard to tell from the original (as long as you do not drive it). The car was bought for 800,000 French Francs by the production crew.



The Bugatti 46 was nicknamed "la petite Royale" (the small Royale), so it is logical that Mr Varin, a French Bugatti lover, chose this basis to build a replica of the Bugatti 41 Royale Coupe Napoleon. As the 46 is smaller than a 41, he reproduced the car with a 0.875 scale.

However, the shorter chassis implicates more compact lines: it is particularly noticeable with the too narrow side doors. However, the car, built by Mr Varin and friends, has been carefully reproduced, using steel and aluminium (no plastic !), with precious wood decorations in the passenger space. Most of the original details have been respected, but some mistakes are noticeable: the door handles are wrong, the passenger space fabric is only in plain blue, the hood Bugatti paint scheme is made with a too light tone, and at last the radiator mascot is here painted in gold, which is an unforgiveable taste mistake.

The chassis is a 46 stock one, including the 5,4l engine. The car, which remained unique, has never been sold. It would have been too hard for Mr Varin to get rid of his masterpiece, which took him ten years of spare time.

LINDBERG B.31 (1984):


The Americans invented the replicas, which does not mean at all that all the replicas they made were irreprochable. The firm Lindberg was specialised in Auburn Speedster and Mercedes Benz SSK replicas made on a ... Beetle basis.

The B.31 was a chance for Lindberg to reach a higher level, but this car is just a Tex Avery like parody. What are the common points between a Bugatti 41 Coupe de Ville by Binder and this Lindberg B.31 ? Only the hood and the wings, even if the latter are designed in a too wraparound style. The rest has been designed with a certain lack of finesse, especially the huge passenger space which unbalances the whole car.

According to the latest news, Lindberg's designers have neither been jailed, nor been locked in a psychiatrical institute, but their frightening creation has fortunately never been sold.

PANTHER DE VILLE (1974-1981, 1984):


The trend of replicas really grew in the seventies, and the English firm Panther was a trendsetter with its J72, a Jaguar SS100 replica created in 1972. Panther launched the De Ville in 1974 as a sedan, and in 1976 as a convertible.

The Royale flavour is a light one: only the wings and the paint scheme are close to the French reference. In fact, this car is more a neo-classic than a replica, because the cockpit is designed in a frankly modern way. With its heavy lines, the car is not really elegant but compared to other seventies neo-classics, it is not that ugly. The De Ville uses a Jaguar engine (inline 6 or V12), and the technique is quite up to date: four independent wheels, four disc brakes, automatic gearbox, power steering. The car weighs more than 2 tons, but reaches 200 kph thanks to its powerful engine.

The De Ville was dropped in 1981, because Panther had financial problems, and because it became hard to sell a car that cost 72,000 pounds as a convertible ! However, Panther did a last De Ville in 1984 for a Malaysian prince. This one-off, nicknamed 'Golden Eagle', was a six-door limousine powered by a turbocharged 8,0l V8. The lines are even heavier than before, with a side spare tire and a mess of lamps and air intakes on the front bumper.

Sources, Acknowledgements

The pictures come from the following sources:

Sbarro Royale: 1st: L'Automobile magazine No.463 (Jan.1985), page 47. 2nd and r3d: from the book "Automobiles Extraordinaires" by Peter Vann and Gerald Isaria (EPA,1983), page 94
Cote-Julienne: L'Automobile magazine No.504 (June 1988), page 110
T46: L'Automobile magazine No.484 (Oct. 1986), page 158
Lindberg: L'auto journal No.14/15, 1984, page 27
Panther de Ville: 1st: L'auto journal No.14/15, 1978, page 137. 2nd: L'auto journal No.14/15, 1979, page 157. 3rd: L'auto journal No.14/15, 1984, page 208

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