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By the late 1920s, Bugatti had cemented itself among the most sophisticated and successful manufacturers of racing and road cars, competing for market share with Alfa Romeo, among others. The ambitious, if ill-fated, Type 41 Royale project was intended to showcase the company’s abilities and produce the world’s most luxurious road car, but when the extraordinary cost of the Royale collided with the economic times of the era, Bugatti needed to shift to a more profitable and affordable option.

The Type 46 debuted for the 1929 model year as Bugatti’s largest production model to date, the Type 41 notwithstanding, and was soon being referred to as “La Petite Royale.” The model’s 5.4-liter, SOHC straight-eight engine used three valves per cylinder, and is often referred to as the last new Bugatti engine from the period, as later models used evolutions of earlier designs. Its three-speed manual gearbox was built in unit with the rear axle, and its impeccable road manners were due to the innate flexibility of the drivetrain. Even in a recessionary economy, demand for the Type 46 was robust, and roughly 450 examples were built through 1933. Most of the Type 46s left Bugatti’s Molsheim factory as bare frames, and no fewer than 45 coachbuilders are thought to have bodied the model in period.

The example offered here, chassis 46136, is documented by the American Bugatti Club, and has a known history from new. According to a copy of its American Bugatti Register and Data Book entry on file, it was ordered on October 22, 1929 by its first owner, Dr. Vladimir Boruvka, the owner of a famous sanatorium in Prague, through Czech Bugatti agent Vladimir Gut. The Type 46 left the works without a body and the style of its original coachwork is not documented, but by 1934 the Bugatti was sent to Czech coachbuilder Oldřich Uhlík, who built a coupe body of his own design, and showed his creation at the Concours d’Elegance at Poděbrady in 1936. Uhlík bought the Bugatti from Dr. Boruvka in 1937 and used it as his company car.

The Type 46 went through a succession of owners in Europe, being imported to Switzerland in 1960, and by 1973 was owned by Walter Grell of Rheinfelden. Mr. Grell’s estate was sold at auction in 2000, and the car was purchased by noted collector and dealer Jack Braam Ruben of Maastricht, Netherlands.

Braam Ruben set about creating a Type 46 of great desirability, and over the ensuing years replaced the Bugatti’s engine with an NOS unit from the estate of Udo Rand, which was disassembled for cleaning and reassembled. A Transaxle was sourced from Charles Renaud to replace the damaged original. Appropriate cast-alloy wheels from Crosthwaite and Gardiner were installed, and Harry Kouwen was contracted to produce a replica of perhaps the most beautiful coachwork to be installed on a Type 46, the Semi Profilée. This seven-year restoration also included a mechanical rebuild by Simon Klopper. John Ridings Lee purchased the Bugatti from Braam Ruben in 2008 and in 2011 it was added to the Mullin Collection, where it was displayed alongside some of the most exquisite examples of the marque.

This achingly gorgeous creation benefits from known ownership history from new, and offers incredible value when compared to similarly styled examples. Whether for show or tour use, it will undoubtedly be the center of attention at any gathering.

*Please note that all of the Lots in this Auction have been in long-term static storage at the Mullin Automotive Museum and may not be currently operational. They will require mechanical attention and in some cases significant restoration prior to any road use.

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