replica of the Bugatti Royale cost a whopping 300,000 Swiss
francs in 1979! Six meters long, weighing almost 2.5 tons,
with two Rover engines, 16 cylinders and 320 horsepower. A car
The Royale was commissioned by Mr. Schnapka,
a German industrialist living in Berlin. Strictly speaking,
the car is not an exact replica of one of the Bugatti Royales,
but a sort of evocation reminiscent of the Royale Binder with
its wings and the Royale Parkward with its cabin. On the
brochures for the 1979 Geneva Motor Show, the Royale was
described as a "high-class car with styling faithful to the
famous Bugatti Royale". So let's be clear: this is not an
exact copy. By mutual agreement, the client and Franco Sbarro
chose to reduce the dimensions of the original by around 15%.
Nevertheless, the car is six meters long, 1.85 meters wide and
2.05 meters high, with a polyester body, as always with
Sbarro. But the thickness of the panels gives it rigidity and
strength. The hood alone weighs around 100 kg. The cockpit
seems too high, resulting in unharmonious proportions. This
was Mr. Schnapka's request for greater habitability.
Mr. Schnapka opted for armor
plating. The bodywork is therefore reinforced, and the windows
are made of a new material, a kind of synthetic fabric that is
lighter than armored glass. The armor chosen is not as
effective, but it is sufficient to attenuate the impact of
On board, comfort is royal: velvet, carpets, telephone
(unusual in 1979) and air-conditioning. But it's all rather
sober. The dashboard is rather uncluttered, with just the
essentials. No technological gimmicks or gadgets. A sobriety
that contributes to the luxury of the Royale.
The running gear is equally modern, with independent
suspension and power steering.
All this comes at a price. I'm not talking about money, but
weight. The Royale weighs 2500 kg. Four disc brakes are no
luxury, especially as the car can reach 180 km/h.
Unique 16-cylinder V engine
In order to create an
outstanding engine, Franco Sbarro decided to install a
sixteen-cylinder engine. As such an engine did not exist among
the major manufacturers in 1979, Franco took up an idea he had
already had for the SV1: to couple two engines. In this case,
two Rover V8s, each with a displacement of 3.5 liters.
AutoJournal wrote at the time that the two engines were
coupled "by adding a flector capable of absorbing distortions,
and shifted the ignition by 22.5° so that the two blocks ran
like a 16-cylinder, not two V8s". Such a set-up is obviously
not simple, as you'd expect. To hide this modern engine and
give the impression of an open hood, Sbarro designed an engine
cover in corked aluminum that mimics the V8 of the original
Royale. As a perfectionist, Franco Sbarro had a thousand
square-headed screws, typical of Bugatti, manufactured to
Sacrilege or masterpiece?
That's the title of the 1979
AutoJournal article. Purists don't understand a car like the
Sbarro Royale. Others marvel at Franco Sbarro's work.
Jean-Loup Nory, the author of the article, was able to drive
the Royale briefly. He was impressed by the silence: "not a
sound, not a single annoying part", he writes, "the comfort is
royal, you think you're sailing on calm waters". It's the
quality of manufacture that he highlights. And to conclude,
"sacrilege perhaps, but a work of art for sure".