Classic AutoRAI 99: pre-war cars:
This should have been
the crowd puller of the Classic AutoRAI, but it didn't. This special and rare Bugatti is
actually a replica; the original bodywork was destructed in 1938 and replaced by a more
classic one by coachbuilder Henry Binder. The French Schlumpf brothers, real Bugatti
fanatics, took it upon themselves to recreate this original design of Jean Bugatti,
starting out in 1963 with some original mechanical components that were left in the former
They acquired original
Royale axles, transmission, clutch, brakes, wheels, steering-gear and accessories. That
was possible because Ettore Bugatti had planned to build 25 Royales, but sold only 6 so
there were parts left. Ettore Bugatti had also build more Royale engines than cars, but
the remaining engines were converted to train engines that ran on diesel fuel. The
Schlumpf brothers bought such a train engine and reconverted it to the original Royale
specifications (8 cylinders in line with 12.7 litre displacement delivering 260 hp @ 1700
rpm), except for the double ignition.
After acquiring the major parts they commissioned the Alsthom company, well-known for building locomotives and railway carriages, to build a replica of the Royale chassis.
With the chassis and
running gear of this Royale completed, the Schlumpf brothers ran out of luck and money.
Their factory went belly-up and the French government became the owner of their famous
collection, including the unfinished replica.
It was exhibited in the National Automobile Museum in Mulhouse for a number of years until museum director Jean Claude Delerm decided to finish it. First the chassis and running gear were made into proper order in 1988, and then the most difficult task commenced: recreating the bodywork.
There were no original
construction drawings available except for a side view, so the bodywork had to be
recreated using the remaining original photographs and documentation. French designer Paul
Bracq, famous for his 1963 Mercedes-Benz
SL design, reconstructed the necessary drawings with the help of Peugeot's Cray
supercomputers. Coachbuilder André Lecoq and his highly qualified team then set to
building the bodywork, which took 18 months.
The result is excellent, although the engine leaked a bit on the Classic AutoRAI. The reconstructed Royale, that was originally commissioned by French fashion designer Armand Esders in 1930, was first shown to the public in 1990, but not after it was thoroughly checked for correctness by Armand's son Bernard, one of the few people who had seen the original.
This priceless car is normally on display in the French "Musee National de
L'Automobile" in Mulhouse. According to the organizers of the Classic AutoRAI it took
quite a bit of effort to get it to Amsterdam for the show. Question is of this car has
enough charisma and credibility to be the headliner. Priceless or not, a replica just
isn't the real thing and with just one car getting exceptional attention the show probably
didn't get the broad appeal that was wished for.
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