During the late 1920s and early ‘30s the unmistakeably grand Type 41 ‘Royale’ topped the Bugatti range. With its staggering 4.3-metre wheelbase and a herculean straight-eight engine displacing 12.7-litres, the T41’s notoriety was assured. What’s more, it created an enormous void between itself and the company’s next largest model.
To bridge the gap Ettore Bugatti needed to build a car of similar appeal and distinction but with smaller proportions. Launched in 1929, the Type 46 met the brief perfectly. Although affectionately known as the ‘Petite Royale’, nothing about its 5,359cc straight-eight or 3.5-metre wheelbase chassis was small.
Jean Bugatti penned a number of in-house bodies for the car, most notably the Superprofilee, but approximately 40 external coachbuilders received commissions to work on a T46. A test performed by The Motor in 1930 reported that the car combined ‘the luxury of a large limousine and perfect flexibility and top-gear performance of a thoroughbred low carriage with the perfect road holding, speed and acceleration of the best type of sports model.'
With the Great Depression looming and contemporaries like Bentley being placed into receivership, Bugatti did exceedingly well to sell over 400 examples. Despite utilising torque through a three-speed gearbox customers craved more power, and an ‘S’ variant joined the range in 1930. The addition of a Roots-type supercharger and two Zenith carburettors provided an increase of 20bhp, but the significant price of the T46 S, and its largely unfelt improvement, put customers off. Ultimately, fewer than 20 were sold.
The Type 46 proudly offered by Fiskens (chassis 46525) is one of the ultra-exclusive S models sold new to Swiss Bugatti importer Bucar. Bodied in Switzerland by Reinboldt & Christie as a four-door cabriolet, 46525 eventually resurfaced in the USA.
Discovered and acquired in the 1980s by world-renowned collector Henry Petronis, 46525 began a 14-year long restoration in which key original parts were sourced to return the car to its former splendour. Finished in enchanting claret red with a complementary beige folding hood, this is believed to be the only open T46 S left in existence, and arguably the best restored example.
Type 57s receive the lion’s share of classic Bugatti attention, but the 46 is now unquestionably the connoisseur’s choice. What better car to offer than this beautifully presented and unique example of the rarest T46 S series?