Bugatti Type 46 Sports Saloon
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-litre inline eight-cylinder engine featuring a single overhead-camshaft valvetrain. Its impressive specifications included three valves per cylinder (two inlet and one exhaust) and twin spark plugs per cylinder, and it delivered a stout 140-bhp output. 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 highly rigid, thereby providing 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 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 gearbox/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” and so-named for its striking resemblance, on a somewhat smaller scale, to the Type 41 Royale, which remains famous for its massive 4.3-metre wheelbase and 12.8-litre engine. Despite its impressive specifications, however, the Type 41 was essentially a car with an extremely limited market, particularly considering it was conceived during the immediate pre-Depression period. With the Type 41 Royale’s engine displacing roughly four times the volume of the next Bugatti model offered, the Type 46 “Petit Royale” very capably bridged this otherwise massive gap in the marque’s model range.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in October of 2011 at the Battersea Evolution, London.
140 bhp, 5,359 cc SOHC inline eight-cylinder engine with three valves per cylinder, three-speed manual gearbox, live front and rear axles with front semi-elliptic leaf springs and rear inverted quarter-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel, cable-operated drum brakes. Wheelbase: 3,505 mm.
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Dirk de Jager