A virtual magazine for a true passion!

Editor: Jaap Horst

Volume 22, Issue 3

Charlie and the Junkyard Bug

By Wallace Wyss


When German physician Joseph Fuchs took delivery of his Bugatti Royale in 1932, the car was painted black with yellow trim. Fuchs's daughter, Lola, and family friend Horst Lattke pose below in Frankfurt, Germany, September 1932 with the Royale in its original color scheme. Subsequent owner Charles Chayne had the Bugatti restored and repainted in oyster white with dark green trim.

Thereís favorite Bugattis in every area. Say you want style, art deco influences, you go Type 57SC Atlantic. You want race car: Type 35. But if you want ultimate grandeur you have to go for the Royale. This was a car calculated to push Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Hispano-Suizas and Delahaye aside. But the timing was off, and the car was a failure. The hope was to sell it to royalty but not one Royal was able to buy one.

. The Royale was made to dwarf all other luxury cars by any standard of measure. The biggest car. The biggest engine. And the price, adjusted for inflation mind you, was around $700,000.
The wheelbase was 169 inches. And it weighed 7,500 lbs. It had its own wheel design called "Roue Royale" that were 24 inches. The mind blower was the engine size, though, at 12,763cc in a straight-8.

Due, as I say, to bad timing (The depression of the thirties killed the market) only six Royales were ever built and amazingly all six survive. Some are worth more than others, due to the designs by different coachbuilders. Some have been rebodied several times.

The Bugatti T41 Royale Weinberger cabriolet in it's glory days

The car I remember the most was the one in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, an off white convertible with a body by Weinberger done in Germany. This is known by its first owner, Dr. Josef Fuchs of Munich. Chassis # 41 121 was bought new in 1931 by Dr. Josef Fuchs for $41,000, but the Doctor hadnít reckoned with the growth of the Nazi party and his family was forced to flee Germany. He first moved his family and the Royale to Italy, then picked an odd choice--Shanghai Ė

before finally making it to New York in 1937 with his family and the car. Before the war, he hadnít used anti- freeze and the engine froze and the block cracked. Somehow avoiding the prewar scrap drives, he kept the car in his backyard under a tarp.

During the war there were scrap drive zealots aiming to find every old car possible so it could be melted down to make guns and tanks.

Left, the Royale with cracked block, parked in New York. The interior shots on the right are probably from around the same time.

This car got close to oblivion, being taken to a junkyard in 1941 or 43 and a friend of GM engineer Charles Chayne called him up and tipped him off about #41121 being available. He bought it over the phone for $400 plus $12 tax.

He was a good candidate to buy it, being eventually named Vice President of Engineering at General Motors. He had access to engineers that could cast a new block, make anything you wanted (but a neww block for the Bugatti was never cast). After he restored the car over a four year period, he donated it to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI, in 1959 where it's still on display.

The Royale brought back to glory, with changed character however, even some of the mechanicals (carburettor, wheels) are not as original.

He continued to restore other classics including a Hispano Suiza.

In later years he became a big supporter of the Pebble Beach concours, and probably would have donated it to them if they had been a major player in the car collector world at that time. He was often a judge at their events and thereís even an award named after him. His car is living proof that you should follow every lead..especially those ones about "funny looking cars" in junkyards...

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is a fine artist, who has oils on canvas and prints on heavy paper of Bugattis. For a list of prints available, or to discuss a commission, write him at Photojournalistpro2@gmail.com

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