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Editor: Jaap Horst

Volume 27 (2022), Issue 1

AutoRail 1:10 scale factory miniature

At the Artcurial auction during the 2022 edition of the Retromobile, an exceptional model was offered, a large scale (1:10) very detailed miniature of the AutoRail "Double". The model was in relatively bad shape, with some repairs being started, but not completed.

Compare the two photographs of the SNCF model, with that of the PLM (B&W), they are taken from the same side. The model is the same, number of windows, locations of the windows and other details match. Can it be that the PLM model was changed to SNCF colours, thus that the model is exactly the same one? Seems logical, especially knowing the difficult financial situation Bugatti found itself in, in those years.

Interestingly, though there were Bugatti AutoRails in SNCF colours (colours changed later), Bugatti never sold an AutoRail directly to the SNCF. The SNCF was founded in 1937 and actually started in January 1938, and was formed by the nationalisation of 5 railroad companies. This directly gives a year to this model of the AutoRail, must have been 1938 or 1939, probably to try and get a SNCF contract.

There are some more photographs in the article on the Retromobile in this issue of the Bugatti Revue

Info from Artcurial:

Autorail Bugatti, exceptional exhibition scale model
Sheet metal painted in the colors of the SNCF, aluminum, wood, fabric, velvet, including a motoring wagon, a trailer and 3 sets of bogies in cast iron. The engine surmounted by the cockpit in a central position. The extremely detailed dashboard: meters marked Jaeger, control levers, etc. The interior of the compartment fully equipped with 2 rows of seats (2 and 1) with shelf, separated by a corridor animated by light bulbs. Velvet upholstered seats with open fabric headrests. The rear part is equipped with an amenity area - The bogies: 2 four-axle bogies and one two-axle bogie (thus: one bogie missing, and two axles missing from one bogie).

  • Motor car: L. : 215 cm. (84 1/2 in.)
  • Coupled car: L. : 212 cm. (83 1/2 in.)

The monumental dimensions, the quality of manufacture, the choice of materials, the extremely detailed treatment of all the interior parts, the old lighting system are all specific elements of the exhibition models. It is highly probable that this spectacular set, perhaps produced directly by the Bugatti workshops, was used to promote the Bugatti Autorail. Today, it is a beautiful restoration project requiring a complete refurbishment. Although some elements are missing or damaged, it is nevertheless an exceptional piece, a moving testimony to the epic of the Bugatti railroad.

In the advertisements of the time, it was nicknamed "le Pur Sang du Rail", and for good reason! Developed in nine months by Ettore Bugatti's design office in Molsheim, the railcar is equipped with four 8-cylinder gasoline engines, originally intended for the Bugatti Royale, which was a commercial failure. The Bugatti railcar was put into service in 1933 on the Paris - Deauville route. Its remarkable performance and its aerodynamic design inspired by the Type 32 Tank allowed it to set world speed records over the years. It became the fastest train in the world. Operated successively by the State networks, by the PLM, by the AL and then by the SNCF, a total of 88 examples with different configurations were built and used between 1933 and 1958. Its too expensive operation and its lack of reliability will put an end to its use. Only one example of a "presidential" railcar remains today and is kept at the " Cité du train " in Mulhouse.

Estimate 20,000 - 30,000 euro, sold for 86,592 euro

Thus, the buyer must have been equally convinced as I am that the model was either made by Bugatti, or was commissioned by them, to promote their AutoRail. Question is now what he will do: restore the model to "as new" condition, and thus loose all of it's current originality, or leave it as is.. with some rather ugly defects in fact. Maybe just clean it? Is there a way to glue the loosened paint (which was in part stored inside) back on?

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