1931 Bugatti Type 41 Royale poster

Bugatti Royale poster

Armand Esders poses proudly with his Bugatti Royale Roadster in 1932.

1931 Bugatti Type 41 Royale poster. The first Bugatti Royale was rolled out of the factory in 1927 as a basic chassis, with an eight-cylinder, 12.7-litre engine and a wheel-base of 4.3 metres. But with just three forward gears. It was Ettore Bugatti’s fanciful notion to sell his most prestigious model exclusively to Royalty. But as the world economy crashed in the Great Depression, even European royalty were pulling in their belts, and certainly had no plans to splash out the asking price of $30,000 on a new car, no matter how luxurious. A 1928 model was destined to be sold to King Alfonso of Spain, but he was deposed before it could be delivered. However, King Zog of Albania did step forward as a potential purchaser, but Bugatti refused to sell to him as “the man’s table manners are beyond belief.”

The first model to actually find a customer was not delivered until 1932. This was the Jean Bugatti Roadster, which was bought by textile industrialist, Armand Esders, for 700,000 francs. It was delivered without headlamps at Monsieur Esder’s request, as he had no intention of driving at night.

So, after planning to produce and sell twenty-five of these cars, in the event, only six production models were actually finished, and only three sold. All of these still exist, but a prototype was destroyed in a crash.

They were all individually bodied by independent coach builders, and the one in my poster was by Carrosserie Kellner of Paris, who also built bodies for Rolls Royce and Hispano-Suiza. The radiator cap featuring a rampant elephant was sculpted by Ettore’s brother, Rembrandt Bugatti.

The high cost of developing this car almost ruined Bugatti, but much of the cost was recovered when the powerful engines were later used in a pioneering high-speed train commissioned by the French government.

My poster is a new version of the original that I was commissioned to produce in 1987 for Christies Auction House, promoting the sale of this impressive vehicle at The Royal Albert Hall. The car was sold on that day, in front of an audience of 4,000 enthusiasts, for a stunning £5,500,000, which may still be a record price for an automobile.

When I drew this poster originally, 30 years ago, it was the first art deco automobile poster I had produced in my career. I used conventional techniques; enlarging references through a Grant projector, tracing the drawings onto CS10 line board, cutting masks with Friskfilm, and drawing using gouache and DeVilbiss airbrush. I redrew it in 2005 using the airbrush tool in Photoshop through my Mac computer. All told, I think I prefer working with computer.

In the design of this poster, I have to acknowledge the influence of A. M. Cassandre, in particular his beautiful 1929 poster ‘La Route Bleue’, for the French railway company Wagons-Lits. His exquisite use of dynamic perspective and his technique of running the type around the border was quite ground-breaking.

You can view this poster in our shop HERE.

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