Vintage & Classics

The Bugatti Type 41 Royale was a beast of massive proportions, even by today's standards

Bugatti Type 41 Royale Park Ward on display at Cité de l"Automobile national museum in Mullhouse.

Photo courtesy of Bugatti

With a price tag starting around $6 million (2020 USD) when it was new, the Bugatti Type 41 Royale was easily one of the most expensive vehicles ever made. In its heyday, it was also one of the largest and most luxurious.

For that price, buyers received a chassis with the drive and grille. The Type 41 Royale had a wheelbase of over 169 inches and an overall length of over 236 inches (that's 33 inches inches longer than a modern Honda Odyssey). The first prototype of the vehicle was built in 1926 and it was even longer than the first production measurements.

Bugatti Type 41 Royale Roadster\u200b

The Bugatti Type 41 Royale Roadster is shown off in a park.

Photo courtesy of Bugatti

Coachbuilding companies including Kellern & Cie, Weymann, Binder, Weinberger, and Park Ward then took possession of the components to complete construction.

The vehicle was wholly unique. Bugatti founder Ettore Bugatti designed an aircraft engine in 1927 on the behalf of the French government. It wasn't as strange an ask as it might seem on the surface. While he was displaced during World War One, Bugatti had spent his time designing aircrafts. After the war, he designed a railcar and continued his work on planes alongside automobiles.

Under the Type 41 Royale's hood was an engine befitting the car's size, a 12.8-liter inline eight-cylinder that achieved 300 horsepower. The initial design called for a 14.7-liter engine that was able to get the same horsepower. The 12.8-liter power plant moved the car, which could weigh as much as 3.5 tons, to about 200 km/h.

The engine was connected to a dry sump lubrications system that pumped 23 liters of oil to the required points. It required 43 liters of collar oil to keep the engine temperature just right. A vertical shaft connected the crankshaft and camshaft together, and the long crankshaft sat on nine plain bearings. To open the hood, it took two fitters to unlock it and fold it up.

\u200bBugatti Type 41 Weymann coach

This Royale model was owned by the Bugatti family and used as a daily driver.

Photo courtesy of Bugatti

The rear-wheel drive car's multi-plate dry clutch was shifted Bia a three-speed manual gearbox.

Bugatti's buyers required comfort. The company doubled the quarter elliptical suspension on the axles in order to achieve a better ride. Solid alloy wheels with slots ensured that the large brake drums did not overheat and a 200-liter gas tank ensure that the car could make it from Point A to Point B and beyond.

Though the first prototype was built in 1926, it wasn't until 1932 that Bugatti sold the first production model. Parisian industrialist Armand Esders. Esders was a unique fellow, an Antwerp native who had been sent to New York after college with a million gold francs (upwards of $2.2 million in 2020 USD) in his account with which to start a business.

Upon his return to France, Esders implemented a streamlined approach to mass manufacturing ready-to-wear clothing that was then sold at a variety of chain stores throughout Europe.

Jean Bugatti Royale

Jean Bugatti, the son of Bugatti owner Ettore, stands next to a Royale.

Photo courtesy of Bugatti

Esders had a passion for aviation and motoring. He hosted car manufacturer André Citroën and the aircraft manufacturer Henri Farman at his estate. And he owned several planes and 20 motor vehicles, including the Bugatti model that would become known as the Coupé Esders.

Ettore Bugatti's son Jean was put in charge of the coachbuilding of the Esders Royale. He gave the car large wings that ran the length of the body, a dickey seat, and eschewed headlamps. This style model became known as the Esters Roadster.

Three other vehicles with different bodies went into customer hands. Overall, a Cabriolet, a Pullman limousine, a travel limousine with a folding top and a two-door limousine were built in the few years to come. In the Coupé Napoleon, owned by Ettore and used as a personal car for a number of decades, the passenger communicated with the driver via an electrical intercom.

Photo courtesy of Bugatti

This 1932 Type 41 Royale, formerly owned by Esders, was shown at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed.

The Royale is the only Bugatti vehicle to ever have a hood ornament. It features a dancing elephant, designed by Ettore's deceased brother Rembrandt Bugatti, a well-known artist and sculptor.

The global economic crisis of the 1930s prevented the Royale from becoming a success. Through 1933, only six models were built. Only four were sold.

Today, all six still exist. The prototype model was destroyed in an accident in 1932. The Bugatti family's Coupé Napoleon and the Limousine Park Ward, chassis 41100 and 41131 respectively, reside in the Musée National de l'Automobile de Mulhous.

The Royale Esders Roadster was renamed the Coupé de ville Binder and rebodied. It was slated to be sold to the King of Romania but World War II stopped those plans. Instead, it went to England for a few years then was brought to the U.S. and rotated among several owners. In 1999 it was purchased by Volkswagen AG, the parent company of Bugatti, and is currently used as a show vehicle.

Chassis 41121 was dubbed the Cabriolet Weinberger and lived a colorful life, traveling the world with owner Josef Fuchs, a German obstetrician. Collector Charles Chayne, who would later become vice-president of Corporate Engineering at General Motors, found the car in a scrap yard in New York in 1946 and purchased it for $75. Today, the car resides at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

The two unsold Bugattis, chassis 41100 and 41150, were named the Kellner car and Berline de Voyage, respectively. They were bricked up during World War II to keep them from being procured by the Nazis. Following the war, the cars were sold together to American Le Mans racer Briggs Cunningham, in return for the equivalent of $571 USD and a pair of new General Electric refrigerators. Today, the models are under private ownership.

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New electric pickup truck

GMC Hummer EV deliveries to start soon

Hummer EV deliveries will start in December.

GMC

This year has turned out to be as difficult for automakers as 2020 was, if not much more so. The pandemic is still a major factor, and to make matters worse there's a global microchip shortage that heavily impacts automakers' ability to build tech-heavy vehicles. GMC has a big launch left to handle in 2021, and according to a recent call with journalists, it's proceeding as planned. On a recent call with reporters, GMC exec Duncan Aldred noted that Hummer EV pickup deliveries are on track to begin in December. He also elaborated on the truck's EPA range numbers.

2023 GMC Hummer EV The trucks will deliver up to 329 miles on a charge. GMC

The Hummer's EPA range lands at 329, not far from the 350 miles General Motors targeted for the vehicle. Those are the estimates for the limited Hummer Edition 1, which carries a six-figure price tag and gobs of bells and whistles. Aldred said that other models coming later on will offer longer range estimates when they hit the roads sometime in 2023.

A staggering 80 percent of reservations GMC has gathered so far are for the Edition 1 model. Almost half of the 125,000 people who have inquired about the Hummer EV have placed the refundable $100 deposit and the SUV's first year of production is completely sold out.

2023 GMC Hummer EV The Hummer EV's first year of production is sold out. GMC

When it hits the streets later this year, the Hummer EV will be just in time to face off against a growing crop of EV trucks and SUVs. Rivian recently began delivering the R1T electric pickup truck and will continue with the R1S SUV next year. The Ford F-150 Lightning is coming in 2022, and General Motors itself has a Cadillac EV rollout to handle in 2022. Chevy and GMC will show off electric versions of the Silverado and Sierra pickup trucks on January 5 and GMC will push the Hummer SUV EV in 2023.

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New Golf GTI and Golf R

The New VW Hot Hatches Do Almost Everything Well

The eight-gen Golf is coming soon.

Victoria Scott

It's undeniable that the Volkswagen GTI has always held an outsize spot in enthusiast culture despite its diminutive size. No other car near its price point has ever been able to so deftly blend the raucous fun of a turbocharged sports car and ironclad build quality in quite the same way as VW's halo hatchback, and the incredibly long and successful production run of the nameplate has meant that every generation has offered something desirable to buyers. From a young age, they were my aspirational car; when I got my first copy of Need For Speed: Underground as a ten-year-old, I excitedly chose the fourth-generation GTI as my starter car. It offered good looks, an incredible engine note, and even on my Playstation it was a joy to fling through the rain-soaked city streets of the Underground map. What other car could offer all that for twenty thousand "credits"?

Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R Western NC was the perfect playground for the hot hatches.Victoria Scott

Fast-forward fifteen years and three generations, and ten-year-old me would still be vindicated. Despite an onslaught of ever-tougher competition from Southeast Asia, the Teutonic GTI is still the standard-bearer of hot hatches. For good reason, as well - the outgoing MK7 GTI and Golf R still offer competitive specs, a fun driving experience, and a fantastic interior for their price, even six years after the generation debuted. So when Volkswagen announced the new MK8, they not only had a chance to improve upon their masterpiece decades in the making, but elevate the entire hot hatchback market, and the excitement I felt back at age ten was rekindled all over again when I had the chance to test it for myself.

Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R Trick handling tech makes any driver feel like a superhero.Victoria Scott

And on paper, the MK8's formula is familiar from the past three generations of GTI: mild revisions to a winning formula. The GTI gains a mild bump in power over the outgoing model, now offering 241 HP and a hefty 273 ft-lbs of torque from the 2.0L turbocharged EA888 four-cylinder. The differential gets an upgrade as well, with the innovative VAQ front diff now standard on all GTIs. The story for the rest of the GTI is more incremental improvements in typical VW fashion; standard heated seats and wireless charging, as well as stock 18" wheels, make the eighth generation base GTI a slightly more posh offering than its outgoing ancestor, while still coming in at just under $30K for a base model, at $29,545.

The MK8 platform Golf R is a bit more revised, but the underlying recipe is still the same that the Volkswagen halo car has always been known for: A damn fast AWD hatchback. The newest generation gets a 23 horsepower hp bump over its outgoing model, up to an impressive 315 HP and 295 ft-lbs of torque. Volkswagen was apparently worried about stopping all that power, so front brake rotors are now a whopping 14" in diameter, and front calipers are now twin-piston, instead of single. Most noticeably, the rear Haldex differential has been dropped in favor of a fully electronic diff in the back that can send 100% of the rear's power (so up to 50% of the car's total power) to a single rear wheel. With this new differential comes a special Drift mode, so those of us who aren't Tanner Foust can still feel like him. The standard features list is lengthier than ever, too, because all trims have been axed except the very top of the line, so if you want the newest Golf R, it'll set you back a stiff $43,645.

Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R VW gently massaged the Golf's appearance for the new generation.Victoria Scott

Aesthetically, revisions are minor; VW hasn't been too keen on messing with the form of their halo hatches since the late aughts. The sheet metal is a little cleaner, the available colors are great, and it looks buttoned up with a mild dose of aggression. In short, it's true to form for the restrained presentation of the Golf platform. Both cars are offered in the US with the option of either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 7-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic; international markets will have to make do with only the DSG-equipped Golf R, because Americans seem to be the ones craziest for three pedals. Because I am an American and crazy for three pedals, I asked for the manual transmission equipped test cars. The dirty secret of the VW hot hatches has always been that while the DSG is a perfected science, the manual transmissions have always left something to be desired, so I was excited to see if perhaps they'd finally dialed it in a bit more.

For my test loop, I was presented with one of the best roads East of the Mississippi: The Rattler, a 290-curve, 24-mile segment of North Carolina road that winds through the hills surrounding the Blue Ridge parkway, replete with both high-speed corners and treacherous downhill switchbacks. With its imperfect paving but incredible vistas and variety of corners, it was a perfect example of a spirited driving road that any sports car should come alive on.

Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R The new GTI isn't quite as engaging as its predecessor.Victoria Scott

The GTI certainly performed well on it, with a ceiling of performance that nearly outstripped my abilities. Chassis and suspension tuning has become even more precise than its predecessor; the top trim of the GTI now offers electronic adaptive-suspension, which my test car was equipped with, and it shone on the old rural roads of NC-209. The cabin was never jarringly rough even on the worst pavement, but there was no slop or body roll to be found when hard on the brakes and throwing the car directly into a hairpin. Turbo lag was virtually nonexistent - stomp on the pedal in any gear of your choice and torque will surge through the drivetrain to pull you out of it.

The manual transmission is improved over the outgoing model's, although the shifter throw was still long and a bit numb when tossing it through the gears. Steering was communicative and easy to judge right up until a fraction before the limit; I wished it would have understeered with a little more warning, but finding the outer limits of performance on the GTI takes a Herculean effort best not attempted on the streets, so I doubt it'll be a dealbreaker for most owners. Overall, the newest iteration of the GTI is fun to fling down sports-car roads, but I found it less engaging than the outgoing MK7. It's gotten quieter and less raucous overall; I enjoyed the slightly less precise but more communicative feel of the last generation, if only because it made the corners more engaging for the driver. The MK8 is certainly faster but it feels less fun on the whole, even if your lap times will improve by a few tenths.


And its Golf R sibling is similar - excellent suspension, incredible brakes, hardly any turbo lag to be found, similarly improved manual transmission - but it dials all of the traits of its less powerful brethren all the way to absurd levels. Yes, with the new rear torque-vectoring diff and over three hundred horsepower, the MK8 Golf R is damn fast in a way few cars under $50,000 are, but it's also unexciting.


As I navigated the twisting roads of The Rattler behind the wheel of the Golf R, I continually dared myself: alright, brake later, accelerate earlier, it has more in it. But no matter how terrifyingly close to turn-in I'd brake or how early before the apex I'd mash the accelerator, the Golf R simply would tear through every corner without breaking a sweat; any mistakes I would make would be compensated seamlessly with the smart all wheel drive or the instant torque from the lagless turbo. I found myself purposely making more complicated downshifts just to feel like I was actually part of the driving experience, because even while pushing it to the absolute limits of what I could manage on the streets, it seemed bored with me, and it rapidly became a reciprocal feeling. There is very little at this price-point that offers this level of performance, but it comes at the cost of a sterile experience that left me feeling like an afterthought as the driver.

And unfortunately, the rest of the revised platform is downhill from here. The arc of progress is not always in the direction of improvement, and the MK8's interior is a massive step backwards for Volkswagen. It's shared with the rest of the refreshed VW lineup, and it is frustratingly unusable in every car they have introduced with it, including the Golf R and GTI. There is not a button or knob to be found in the entire car; every conceivable functionality is embedded in the infotainment system. Would you like to turn on your standard heated seats? That will be three touchscreen pushes on the laggy 8.5" tablet embedded at a slightly uncomfortable distance in the dash. Changing from sport mode to comfort? I hope you enjoy menus.

Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R VW offers great colors for the new GTI and Golf R.Victoria Scott



The rest of the climate control and radio functionality is also buried in the touchscreen, unless you feel like hunting for the unlit, untextured piano black capacitive touch buttons for the temperature and volume control. I couldn't find them in broad daylight; those buttons are completely unusable at night. On top of the dreadful infotainment system, the steering wheel on both cars is now the overly-cluttered capacitive-touch style that I previously discussed ruining the otherwise brilliant Arteon. Why a wheel with such easily triggered buttons would be used in a sports car where presumably the driver will be working the wheel with gusto is absolutely beyond all logic, because I would find myself turning on the steering wheel heater or turning off my soundtrack as I'd whip the GTI into a hairpin and actually needed to grip the wheel.

And so it's hard to celebrate the coming of the MK8 platform as a step in the right direction. Despite the higher performance ceilings of the newest offerings, I already miss the MK7 generation, with its vastly more usable interior and less inhibited, modest sounds and handling. The outgoing cars were fast enough to be fun, they made the driver feel like more of the experience, and they were overall less buttoned up. The Golf name has aged and grown up, sure. Neither of us are in our Need For Speed years anymore. But did it have to mature so much it forgot how to relax a little and have some fun?

Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R The new cars are more buttoned up and tech-forward.Victoria Scott

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