Ettore Bugatti's Motoring Legacy

Ettore Bugatti liked to say that, ‘Nothing is too beautiful, nothing is too expensive’. Which probably explains why his famous creations — the racing cars that established his legend in the 20th century — were pure hedonism on wheels.
Bugatti at the wheel of one of his cars. Photo by Raphael GAILLARDE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.

In 1927, a most singular automobile glided out of the doors of a factory in Molsheim, in present-day Alsace. The Bugatti Royale was the ultimate in luxury conveyances, as envisioned by the celebrated Italian engineer and designer Ettore Bugatti. Reportedly inspired when Ettore was goaded by the remarks of an Englishwoman, who compared Bugattis unfavourably to Rolls-Royces, the Royale cut a suitably imposing figure. It was 21 feet long and weighed around three tons (outshining a Rolls by 20 per cent and 25 per cent respectively). Its rangy bonnet concealed a 12.7-litre straight-eight engine, originally designed for the French Air ministry, which could theoretically propel it to 180 kilometres an hour or more. It featured a swooping Art Deco running board and a radiator cap modelled on a dancing elephant sculpture by Rembrandt Bugatti, Ettore’s brother. It was a car fit for kings, which was just as well, since, in a mark of the hubristic élan that was Ettore’s trademark, he decreed that only bona fide crowned heads need apply for one of the planned edition of 25.


    Stuart Husband


    November 2020


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