Bugatti Type 46 Superprofile Coupe

Barely 30 years elapsed from the emergence of the first Type 13 Bugatti until the cessation of production at the onset of the Second World War. In that time, an almost endless stream of models and variants poured forth from Ettore Bugatti’s works, each of them meticulously crafted from the finest materials and lovingly detailed by dedicated artisans. Of all Bugatti models, one of the most elegant, imposing and luxurious was the Type 46, which was introduced in late 1929, and approximately 450 examples were produced to 1933. The steel ladder-type chassis of the Type 46 featured a long 138-inch/3,505-mm wheelbase and was powered by an equally impressive, long-stroke 5.4-liter inline eight engine featuring a single overhead camshaft. Its impressive specifications included three valves per cylinder and twin spark plugs per cylinder, which delivered a stout 140 brake horsepower. Engine durability was also very good, by virtue of the engine block casting itself, which extended down to the main-bearing supports. Consequently, the engine’s structure was rigid and thereby provided exceptionally smooth operation.

The three-speed manual gearbox was mounted within a rear-transaxle unit, marking another technical innovation of the basic T46 design. Four-wheel, self-adjusting cable-operated brakes with 16-inch drums provided stopping power. Wire-spoke wheels were used early in the T46 production run, while stylish, vane-type “Royale-style” alloy wheels were fitted to the later cars. The T46 also influenced the mechanical specifications of the long-wheelbase T50, which shared the T46 chassis, radiator and transaxle assemblies.

The combination of Type 46 attributes, especially when its fine chassis and engine is clothed in sophisticated coachwork, makes it one of the most appreciated Bugattis. In fact, the T46 is perhaps best known as the “Petit Royale,” so-named for its striking resemblance to the Type 41 Royale, which remains famous for its massive 4.3-meter wheelbase and 12.8-liter engine. With the Type 41 Royale’s engine displacing roughly 2½ times the volume of the next Bugatti model offered, the Type 46 “Petit Royale” very capably bridged this otherwise massive gap in the manufacturer’s model range.

As described in the definitive book Bugatti Type 46: La Petite Royale by Bohuslav Klein, Roland Saunier and Kees Jansen, the T46 remains highly significant in the Bugatti pantheon as one of the marque’s most influential road-going models. As they wrote, “no other Bugatti Type motivated so many European bodymakers in the thirties, to build such exclusive bodies, as this one did.” They further stated that no fewer than some 40 custom coachbuilders applied their unique artistry to the T46 chassis during the model’s relatively brief production run.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in March of 2012 at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida.

140 bhp, 5,359 cc SOHC inline eight-cylinder engine with three valves per cylinder, three-speed manual gearbox, front semi-elliptic leaf springs and rear inverted quarter-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel, cable-operated drum brakes. Wheelbase: 3,505 mm (138")

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Dave Teel

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