Bugatti Type 57

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Bugatti Type 57
Bugatti Type 57 Atalante 1936.jpg
710 produced
Body and chassis
ClassGrand tourer
Engine3,257 cc DOHC Inline 8
PredecessorBugatti Type 49
SuccessorBugatti Type 101

The Bugatti Type 57[1] and later variants (including the famous Atlantic and Atalante) was an entirely new design created by Jean Bugatti, son of founder Ettore.[2] Type 57s were built from 1934 through 1940, with a total of 710 examples produced.

Type 57s used a twin-cam 3,257cc engine based on that of the Type 49 but heavily modified by Jean Bugatti, unlike the single cam engines of the Type 49 and earlier models.[3] The engines of the Type 50, 51 used bevel gears at the front of the engine to transmit power from the crankshaft, whereas the Type 57 used a train of spur gears at the rear of the engine, with fiber gear wheels on the camshafts to achieve more silence in operation.

There were two basic variants of the Type 57 car:

The Type 57 chassis and engine was revived in 1951 as the Bugatti Type 101.

A rediscovered Type 57 sold for 3.4 million euros at auction on 7 February 2009 at a motor show in Paris.[4]

Type 57[edit]

Type 57 Coupé 1936.

The original Type 57 was a touring car model produced from 1934 through 1940. It used the 3.3 L (3,257 cc; 198 cu in) engine from the Type 59 Grand Prix cars, producing 135 hp (100 kW). Top speed was 153 kilometres per hour (95 mph).

It rode on a 3,302 mm (130 in) wheelbase and had a 1,349 mm (53 in) wide track. Road-going versions weighed about 950 kg (2,090 lb). Hydraulic brakes replaced the cable-operated units in 1938, a modification Ettore Bugatti hotly contested. 630 examples were produced.

The original road-going Type 57 included a smaller version of the Royale's square-bottom horseshoe grille. The sides of the engine compartment were covered with thermostatically-controlled shutters. It was a tall car, contrary to the tastes of the time.


  • Wheelbase: 3,302 mm (130 in)
  • Track: 1,349 mm (53 in)
  • Weight: 950 kg (2,090 lb)

Type 57T[edit]

Type 57T Tourer

The "tuned" Type 57T pushed the performance of the basic Type 57. It was capable of reaching 185 kilometres per hour (115 mph).

Type 57C[edit]

Type 57C

A Type 57C racing car was built from 1937 through 1940, with about 96 produced. It shared the 3.3 L engine from the road-going Type 57 but produced 160 hp (119 kW) with a Roots-type supercharger fitted.

Type 57C Tank[edit]

The 2nd incarnation Tank, this time based on the Type 57C, won Le Mans again in 1939. Shortly afterwards, Jean Bugatti took the winning car for a test on the Molsheim-Strasbourg road. Swerving to avoid a drunken bicyclist on the closed road, Bugatti crashed the car and died at age 30.

Type 57S/SC[edit]

1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Gangloff Drop Head Coupe from the Ralph Lauren collection.

The Type 57S/SC variants are some of the most iconic Bugatti cars. The "S" stood for "Surbaissé" ("Lowered") and the "C" for "Compresseur" (a supercharger introduced by Bugatti as a result of customers' desire for increased power). It included a V-shaped dip at the bottom of the radiator and mesh grilles on either side of the engine compartment.

Lowering the car was a major undertaking. The rear axle now passed through the rear frame rather than riding under it, and a dry-sump lubrication system was required to fit the engine under the new low hood. The 57S had a nearly-independent suspension in front, though Ettore despised that notion.

Just 43 "Surbaissé" cars[5] and only two supercharged Type 57SC's were originally manufactured. But most 57S owners wanted the additional power afforded by the blower. Therefore, most of the original Type 57S cars returned to Molsheim for the installation of a supercharger, pushing output from 175 hp (130 kW) to 200 hp (150 kW) and 190 km/h (120 mph). 2014 saw the unveiling of Ralph Lauren's unique $40 million version of this classic.


  • Wheelbase: 2,979 mm (117 in)
  • Track: 1,349 mm (53 in)
  • Weight: 950 kg (2,090 lb)

Type 57S/SC "Aérolithe" concept and Atlantic production cars[edit]

1935 Bugatti Type 57 Aérolithe.
1937 Type 57SC Atlantic No. 57591 from the Ralph Lauren collection.

The Type 57 Atlantic body featured flowing coupé lines with a pronounced dorsal seam running from the front to the back end of the vehicle. It was based on the 1935 Aérolithe concept car designed by Jean Bugatti. Like the Type 59 Grand Prix car, the Aérolithe used Elektron composite for its body panels, known for being a very lightweight and durable material, but also for being extremely flammable when exposed to high temperatures. Therefore, being unable to weld the body panels, the Bugatti engineers riveted them externally, technique frequently used in the aviation industry, thus creating the signature seam.

However, the production Atlantics, just four built, used plain aluminum, but the dorsal seams were retained for style and have led to the car's present fame. Also, the first and the second of the Atlantics were described as "Aéro Coupés", both based on the same mechanics as the Aérolithe concept.

Three of the original four Atlantic units are known to survive and each has been restored to its former glory. Two of them have been honored with "Best of Show" awards at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

Specifications Short description
1935 Bugatti Type 57S - Elektron Coupé/Aérolithe Chassis number 57331 Code-named the "Elektron Coupé", this Bugatti prototype had a very short future. It was finished around September of 1935 and only a month later it made its first public appearance at the Paris Motor Show. Due to its seemingly bizarre form, the vehicle has brought attention to a very limited audience. It was named "La Aérolithe" ("The Meteorite") after the phrase "Rapide comme une aérolithe" ("Fast as a meteorite"), a name later adopted by Bugatti. A few weeks later, the vehicle was displayed at the British International Motor Show in Olympia, London. The prototype remained in London until the spring of 1936, being frequently driven and tested by Bugatti racer, William Grover-Williams. Beyond this point historians lose its tracks, but as Bugatti's chief mechanic, Robert Aumaître, stated a few decades later, the car was, essentially, just a styling concept with no technical interest, thus being transported back to France at the Bugatti factory where it was disassembled for components. [6]
1936 Bugatti Type 57S(+C) - Aéro Coupé Chassis number 57374 It was completed on September, 1936 and sold to Victor Rothschild, 3rd Baron Rothschild.[7] The vehicle was restored over long term ownership of Dr. Peter Williamson in New Hampshire. The restoration culminated in Best of Show at the 2003 Pebble Beach Concours, shortly before Dr. Williamson's passing. 57374 was then sold (at a reported price over $30 million) to Peter Mullin of the Mullin Automotive Museum near Los Angeles. Lately, the vehicle had been transferred to the Petersen Automotive Museum where it is currently being displayed.
1936 Bugatti Type 57SC - Aéro Coupé Chassis number 57453 Also known as "La voiture noire" ("The black car"), this is the second Atlantic that was manufactured. Apart from its first years after production, the car's history is unknown. It was built by Bugatti and finished in October, 1936, later to be used for the company's brochures and exhibited at the 1937 Nice and Lyon Motor Shows. It was then driven by Jean Bugatti for some time until he took ownership of a Type 57S Atalante and lastly by Mr. William Grover-Williams and his wife. Even though the Atlantic 57453 had been frequently used, it never had a registered owner. After a few years, in 1939, The Grover-Williamses moved to England shortly after the World War II broke out and the car was lost. The last mention about this vehicle was on a list of cars that were sent to Bordeaux in February, 1941, during the french exodus. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the fact of what happened to this Atlantic during WWII. It is strongly believed that the car was taken by the Nazis as a war trophy and later scrapped for its aluminum components.
1936 Bugatti Type 57S - Atlantic Coupé Chassis number 57473 Succeeding chassis 57453, this second black Atlantic was finished in December 1936, and it was delivered to its first owner, Mr. Jacques Holzschuch. He eventually died by the end of World War II, and the car was sold to the renowned Paris coachbuilder Joseph Figoni. The vehicle received significant styling changes in the hands of its current owner, so 57473 differs from the other Atlantics. Its history takes a dark turn afterwards. After World War II it spent some time as a racecar and was then sold to Rene Chatard. He and a female companion were driving the car near Gien, France, when they were hit by a train. Neither survived the crash, and the car was confiscated by the French police. Most of the car survived, but what remained was purchased in 1965 by an enthusastic Frenchman, who began a full reconstruction. The car was finished in 1977 and then went on to several owners before the car underwent a full restoration by Paul Russell and Co. in 2006. The car has been restored to its Figoni specification and won acclaim at the 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
1937 Bugatti Type 57S(+C) - Atlantic Coupé Chassis number 57591 This final production Atlantic led a charmed life that continues to this day. It was originally sold to a Bugatti enthusiast from Great Britain in February, 1938, though it was completed in the fall of 1937 and used for numerous driving tests managed by the Bugatti engineers. It came under the ownership of Ralph Lauren, who then commissioned a full restoration with Paul Russell and Co. 57591 was unrestored at the time but had received multiple rebuilds and touch-ups through the years. Russell and Co. were able to cut through the past restoration work and revive the car back to its 1937 glory. They were rewarded with Best of Show at Pebble Beach in 1990 and Best of Show at Villa d'Este in 2013, along with many other top awards.

Type 57S/SC Atalante[edit]

57SC Atalante

The Atalante was a two-door coupe body style similar to and built after the Atlantic, both built on the 57S chassis, but with a single piece windscreen and no fin. Only 17 Atalante cars were made, four of which reside in the Cité de l'Automobile Museum in Mulhouse, France (formerly known as the Musée National de L'Automobile de Mulhouse).

One Atalante, chassis number 57784, a 3-seater vehicle version with aluminium bodywork made by Vanvooren of the iconic Bugatti Type 57S model, resides in the Museu do Caramulo in Caramulo, Portugal. Vanvooren would do two more bodies alike, one (Chassis 57808) for the French government, who gave it, in 1939, as a marriage gift of Prince Reza and Princess Fawzia, and another one (Chassis 57749). These two cars are in private collections in the United States.[8]

The name Atalante was derived from a heroine of Greek mythology, Atalanta.

Rediscovered Type 57S Atalante[edit]

In 2008 the Bugatti Type 57S with chassis number 57502 built in 1937 with the Atalante coachwork for Francis Curzon, 5th Earl Howe was discovered in a private garage in Newcastle upon Tyne, having been stored untouched for 48 years and known about only by a select few people.[9] It was auctioned in February 2009 at the Rétromobile motor show in Paris, France, fetching €3.4 million (~ US$5 million), becoming one of the highest valued cars in automotive history, owing much to its extremely low mileage, original condition and ownership pedigree.

Type 57S45[edit]

A special Type 57S45 used a 4,743 cc engine like the Tank.

Type 57G Tank[edit]

Type 57G 'Tank'

The famous, 57S-based, 57G Tank won the 1936 French Grand Prix, as well as the 1937 24 Hours of Le Mans. Three 57G Tanks were produced. Chassis number 57335, the Le Mans winner, is the only one known to exist and is currently on display at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia.[10]


  • Ray Bonds (2003). The Illustrated Directory of Sports Cars. Motorbooks. ISBN 0-7603-1420-9.
  1. ^ Barrie Price. Bugatti 57: The Last French Bugatti. ISBN 9781901295665.
  2. ^ Charles Lam Markmann, Mark Sherwin. The Book of Sports Cars - (France and Germany). ISBN 9788896365458.
  3. ^ Jarraud, Robert: Bugatti Doubles Arbres, Editions de l'Automobiliste, 1977, page 44
  4. ^ "Classic Bugatti makes 3.4m euros". BBC News online. 4 November 2008. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
  5. ^ 1937 Bugatti Type 57S. Conceptcarz. n.d. Retrieved 1 January 2009. The Type 57S was a short-wheelbase sport version of Bugatti's twin-camshaft, straight eight, 3.3 liter Type 57 model, and featured a 'V' radiator. Only 43 examples were built between 1936 and 1938, and this one was the last of 17 to be fitted with factory built black Atalante coupe coachwork...The Type 57S has been called the ultimate road going Bugatti. It is also one of the rarest...The Type 57 and its variants were intended for road going use...The catalogue bodies included two versions of the Ventoux Coupe, the Galibier four-door sedan, the Stelvio cabriolet, Atalante and Atlantic. The Atlantic, and its derivative the Atalante, were constructed in two-door coupe configuration.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "The Bugatti Revue".
  8. ^ "Bugatti 57C Atalante". Museu do caramulo. n.d. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  9. ^ "1937 Type 57S Atalante found in Tyneside garage". BBC Online. 1 January 2009.
  10. ^ Simeone, Frederick A. (2009). The Spirit of Competition. Philadelphia, PA USA: Coachbuilt Press. p. 229. ISBN 9780977980949.

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