Sbarro Royale -1979

This 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 of superlatives.

Two extremes on the Sbarro stand at the 1979 Geneva Show: a 328 baby and the Royale.


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.

Perhaps true luxury is sobriety.


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 bullets.
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.
Magnificent 16-cylinder engine consisting of two V8s combined under a typical Bugatti brushed aluminum cover.

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 assemble everything.
Press photo of the Royale. At the time, some journalists were bothered by the fact that the cabin was too high to improve interior comfort.

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".
In brief
1- Evocation of the most prestigious Bugatti, the Type 41 Royale
2- Unique 16-cylinder V engine
3- Undeniable build quality
Main sources
1- book "Franco Sbarro / concept cars" by Fabian Sbarro
2- catalog Royale
3- various articles from period magazines, including AutoJournal
4- book "Automobiles extraordinaires" by Peter Vann