The first Bugatti Royale was rolled out of the factory in 1927 as a basic chassis, and it was Ettore Bugatti’s 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. 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.
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.
My poster is a reworking 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 enthusiastic audience of 4,000 people, for a stunning £5,500,000, which may still be a record price for an automobile.
In the design of this poster I have to acknowledge the influence of A. M. Cassandre, especially his 1929 poster ‘La Route Bleue’. His exquisite use of dynamic perspective and of the type skirting the border was, in its day, quite ground-breaking.