FrontRunners: Rare Royale

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Bugatti Royale is for sale. Next to “You have won Best of Show at Pebble Beach,” those might be the most electrifying words a car collector can hear. There are only six Bugatti Royales in the world—each spectacular enough to elevate a car collection from great to exquisite—and one comes on the market about once a decade.

This time it is the 1930 Bugatti Type 41 Royale, also known as the Kellner coupe. It was once owned by Ettore Bugatti himself and later by the legendary gentleman race car driver Briggs Cunningham. He sold it to Miles Collier, who had it auctioned in 1987, fetching roughly $8 million. The Bugatti is now owned by a Japanese multinational corporation, which displayed it in its entrance foyer.

The Bugatti Royales are remarkable machines. They were the longest production cars ever made and were fitted with 12.7-liter 8-cylinder engines, the largest ever used in a production car. The Kellner coupe measures 20 feet long and cost 6,000 pounds sterling in 1930, three times as much as a new Rolls-Royce of the period.

“The Royale is superlative in just about every sense: size, mechanical specifications, rar-ity, price, you name it,” says Simon Kidston, president of Bonhams (London number +41.22.300.3160, info@bonhams.com), the London-based auction house handling the sale. “Even a noncar expert would be impressed if he saw one on the street. It has the ‘wow’ factor in abundance.”

Some experts predict that the Bugatti could sell for more than 10 million pounds, which is roughly equivalent to $14 million. In late November, less than a month after announcing the opening of the sale, Kidston reported that 18 inquiries had been received, a number “well in excess of expectations.” Bids are currently being accepted until late April. Private viewings as well as test- drives can be arranged for interested buyers in Japan.

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