The world's most expensive car is up for sale. And whether or not you think it's worth the estimated $10 million asking price, it's no doubt exceedingly rare, beautiful and--like many follies in automotive history--a triumph of hubris over reason.
This Bugatti Type 41 Royale was the brainchild of Ettore Bugatti--and also a hugely expensive misstep in the history of his firm. In the 1920s, Bugatti was expecting to get a contract from the French military to build 16-cylinder aircraft engines. The contract never materialized, but Bugatti felt he could use half that engine, a straight eight, to form one of the most amazing luxury cars in history.
The Type 41 Royale engine had massive displacement: 12.7 liters, or over 700 cubic inches, roughly twice the size of most of the largest production V-8s that would be built by Detroit four decades later. This is still the largest engine of any car to be sold privately.
Equally massive was the 15-foot wheelbase which, when bodied, stood about five feet tall at the hood alone. The car was incredibly imposing, whether in limousine or coupe form. Unfortunately, however, nobody could afford them--production began right at the start of the Great Depression.
A mere six Royale's were produced and two were never sold, staying instead with the Bugatti estate. This car, the 1930 Bugatti Type 41 Royale Kellner Coach (or 'Coupe') was one of those cars (bricked up behind a false wall during World War II). It stayed with the family until 1950 when both cars were sold to American multimillionaire Briggs Cunningham, who was himself a sports car constructor and Le Mans 24-Hours racing driver. After more than 30 years of ownership, Cunningham eventually sold the car to fellow American auto connoisseur Miles Collier, who placed the Kellner Coach up for auction in 1987.
The car sold for a record £5.5 million at London's Royal Albert Hall before an audience of 4,000 enthusiasts. Now the present anonymous owner--believed to be Japanese--has commissioned Bonham & Brooks in London to offer the Bugatti Royale for resale to anyone willing to pay the asking price. (Offers should be made through Bonhams' offices in London: 011 44 20 7393 3822.)