Ettore Bugatti set out to make one of the greatest cars in the world in the form of the Type 41, known by many as the “Bugatti Royale.” Its 12.8-liter inline-8 engine produced 300 horsepower and propelled the car to a then-unheard-of 124 mph. However, the car was launched at an unfortunate time, right before the Great Depression took hold. While incredibly innovative, beautiful, and desirable, buyers were hesitant because of the economic disaster and the car didn’t achieve its anticipated sales success.
However, the 25 engines for the car that were built didn’t go to waste. Instead, the ingenious Ettore Bugatti and France’s rail network came together to modify the engines for a new train. The existing steam-powered trains at the time were slow, and failed to compare to quickly emerging automobiles, and the introduction of Bugatti’s engine helped open the doors for rail to be transformed with high speed as a new and modern form of luxury travel, one that would go on to be important in places like Europe today. The train traveled at a record-breaking 106 mph, and a 1934 version would go on to do over 121 mph.
Bugatti made a total of 88 trains, which helped the brand be stronger through the Depression. However, only one survives today: “Le Présidentiel,” which is managed by Sylvain Vernerey at Cité du Train in Mulhouse. In Bugatti’s very long history, one of its greatest stories goes beyond cars.