Of all Bugatti models, one of the most elegant, imposing and luxurious was the Type 46, introduced in late 1929. Approximately 450 examples were produced until 1933.

The steel ladder-type chassis of the Type 46 featured a long 138-inch 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 horsepower.

The combination of Type 46 attributes, especially when its fine chassis and engine are clothed in sophisticated coachwork, makes it one of the most appreciated Bugattis. In fact, the Type 46 is perhaps best known as the “Petit Royale,” so-named for its striking resemblance to the Type 41 Royale.

As described in the definitive book, Bugatti Type 46: La Petite Royale by Bohuslav Klein, Roland Saunier and Kees Jansen, no fewer than about 40 custom coachbuilders applied their unique artistry to the Type 46 chassis during the model’s relatively brief production run. As noted in their authoritative reference, chassis 46208 was originally mated to — and still retains — engine number 77. It is believed that the original coachwork on 46208 was the four-door style known as conduite intérieure.

The present owner opted to have the drab sedan coachwork replaced with a faithful recreation of the “Superprofile” coupe penned by Jean Bugatti, which some argue is the finest of all of his designs.

The coachwork was produced by Ken Haywood of New South Wales, Australia, who has been responsible for many award-winning cars. This photo-documented restoration and coachbuilding effort is regarded as one of his finest results.

Only a very small number of the profile series of cars are known to exist. The beautifully appointed interior is brown ostrich leather complemented by a flawlessly finished wood dash and steering wheel rim.

The balance and presentation of the interior is highlighted by the front seats, which look more like lounge chairs belonging on a sunny patio than automobile seats. The entire finish of this car is consistent with the body and concours-quality paint, which is matched by the finish of the chassis and suspension components.

The lithe Superprofile body is augmented by a restrained amount of chrome that adorns the handles and latches, horseshoe radiator surround, Scintilla headlights and matching fender lights. The entire assembly rides on Royale-style wheels shod with period-correct Goodrich Silvertown tires. Chassis 46208 was shown and won honors at the 2011 Sydney Concours and will garner high praise and attention wherever it is shown around the world. It is a remarkable feat of coachbuilding prowess as well as legendary Bugatti engineering.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1930 Bugatti Type 46 Superprofile coupe

This car, Lot 178, sold for $1,017,500, including buyer’s premium, at RM Auctions’ Amelia Island, FL, sale on March 10, 2012.

We’ll start this essay with a discussion of bodies. I declare here before all that I am a self-identified, openly proud sedan lover. If you’ve got a problem with that, I’m sorry.

When given a choice between a sporty open racer and a smooth, quiet, four-door saloon, I don’t hesitate a second. It becomes particularly interesting when it comes to two great marques whose devotees seem to — if not revel in — at least enjoy, and certainly more than tolerate, a body switch for purely aesthetic reasons. Of course, we’re talking about Bentley and Bugatti.

When it comes to re-bodies, it seems to matter less for these two brands than for just about any other if the original coachwork is nowhere in sight — provided that everyone owns up to their handiwork.

I have long declared to anyone who would listen that my favorite Bugatti of all, and a car I have vowed to own before I die, is a Type 57 Galibier berline, which is a Jean Bugatti-designed four-door offered as a “factory” body on the Type 57 chassis. Even for a committed sedaniste, some of the pre-Galibier “Conduite Intérieur,” or “fully closed body,” as the sedans were referred to, were not bodies that longed to be missed.

The combination of the soft curve of the horse collar radiator and the graceful undulation of the fenders sometimes jarred alongside a four-square passenger compartment that would have been at home on a Peugeot 30.

From sedan to coupe

Our car was apparently born with a sedan body, which the seller discarded in return for one the most stunning of Jean Bugatti’s creations: the Coupe Profilée. As far as I could discover, through research and consultation with a number of noted Bugattistes, no Type 46 was ever fitted with a Coupe Profilée body when new.

One Type 46 was given a genuine Profilée body in the 1960s by then-owner Andy Rowe. That car now sits in the Schlumpf Collection in France. The first time this style appeared in period was on the later DOHC Type 50 chassis. In fact, one such car, a 1935 Type 50 Coupe Profilée owned by Bill Harrah, took Best of Show honors at the 1964 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. That car today is a part of the Louwman Museum Collection in The Netherlands.

Jean Bugatti was only 23 years old when he penned the stunning shape, which inspired his later — and certainly more mainstream — Ventoux two-door design for the Type 57. The Profilée has a delicacy and elegance of line certainly rivaling that of the Atalante and Atlantic coupes, and it’s not surprising that someone would choose it to replicate.

The workmanship was superb and probably better than the original bodies from the factory shops. It was glamorously finished in dramatic black and yellow with a brown ostrich-leather interior, so this car is certainly not a conveyance for the shy and retiring.

Fun, but no chance at top awards

The challenge here, of course, is one of use. Most Bugatti owners enjoy driving their cars, and rallies and tours across the world welcome them. Relatively few of the cars lead a display-only life, but even then, there would be few concours venues at which a Bugatti would not be heartily embraced. But as a re-body, many of the top awards at major shows are off-limits to this car. As for touring, a Ventoux or even the original sedan would probably be more practical.

Nevertheless, the buyer here paid a premium over the price of a more common body on this chassis.

As a comparison, Bonhams sold a very well-restored Type 46 with an attractive — but thoroughly conventional — Faux Cabriolet coupe body in the style of Belgian carrossier D’Ieteren for $862,161 at their February 2011 sale in Paris.

It’s frequently a challenge for auction companies to estimate values for cars such as this, and the fact that the reserve was set well under the low estimate of $1.25m indicates that the seller and the auctioneer were realistic in their expectations.

Thanks to the prevailing rules of the Bugatti world, the seller was certainly not punished for his choice to “upgrade” his bodywork. The new owner has a striking car, which I would have to place in the well-sold category.