Chassis Num: 57766
Engine Num: C57
Sold for $2,035,000 at 2013 Gooding & Company
Bugatti's early history is filled with achievements on the grand prix circuits of Europe. And from out of that achievement on the track would come some truly remarkable touring automobiles blending together performance, handling and comfort. By the 1930s, when the intrigue of aerodynamics really came to the fore, Bugatti would really add the allure with its grand, stylish designs.
The canvas for this new enthusiasm of science-inspired art would be the Bugatti Type 57 chassis. By the time the Type 57 came into the public arena the luxury car market had greatly dwindled due to the Depression that had befallen much of the nations of the west at the time. But while many automobile manufacturers would see this as a time to cut costs and to reign in some creative efforts, Ettore, and his son Jean, would see this as an opportunity to create one of the most unmistakable cars of all time.
Only one source could inspire such imprudent behavior. Inspired by the grand legends of the Greek mythology, Jean would set about designing some truly astonishing bodies to set atop the Type 57 chassis. Influenced by the story of Atalanta, Jean would create his Atalante body style with its tall, proud Bugatti grille and beautifully-rounded fenders, cabin and rear end.
Only around 40 examples of the Atalante would ever be designed and built by Jean. One of them would be chassis 57766. And, fittingly, this chassis would be first delivered to a son of a Greek shipping tycoon.
Nicholas Stamati Embiricos used his family's wealth to fund his passion for automobiles and was himself a gentleman racer. Nicholas had a couple of cars which he used quite frequently in races. He would use a Corsica-bodied Bugatti Type 57S as well as an ex-works ERA. Nicholas' racing career would come to an end, however, when he would suffer an accident in the 1937 Florence Grand Prix that would nearly take his life.
Nicholas would decide to stay with a marque he had grown familiar when he decided to replace his 3.5-liter Bentley. Therefore, he would approach Colonel Sorel, the manager of the London Bugatti agency, to place an order for a Type 57C.
Chassis 57766 would be completed in Molsheim in November of 1938, and then, would be sent to Gangloff in Colmar, France where it received its Stelvio coachwork. Considering when it was built, the finished automobile would have some particular refinements over previous series of the Type 57C. It would be complete with Bugatti-Lockheed hydraulic drum brakes, tubular shock absorbers and rubber engine mounts.
Soon after completion, the car would be shipped to London where it would meet up with its new owner. Registered in the UK as 'FXF 55', 57766 would remain with Embiricos until he had it shipped to his vacation residence in Palm Beach, Florida in 1941. The Bugatti would soon find itself in a foreign land and all alone when, in July of 1941, Embiricos died in his Fairchild 24 Monoplane near Matunuck, Rhode Island.
Following Nicholas' death, the car would be sold to Ray Murray. Murray already had a Type 57 Atalante, just not supercharged. Liking the bodywork gracing his un-supercharged Bugatti, but liking the supercharged engine of the one he had just bought, would lead Murray to make the decision to have the two chassis trade bodywork.
Following the conclusion of World War II, Murray would decide to sell both of his Type 57s. Some point before the decision would be made Murray would decide to switch the coachbodies back to their original chassis. Now once again whole, 57766 would be sold to Al Garthwaite of Malvern, Pennsylvania.
Garthwaite was well known amongst the ARCA and SCCA ranks and would later own ALGAR, a major Ferrari importer. Known as a man that enjoyed refined automobiles, the Type 57C fit in well with his impressive collection.
57766 wouldn't just sit around as part of some collection, however. And, in June of 1949 it would be one of just 17 cars ready to take part in the 100-mile Bridgehampton Road Races. Relying on the power from the supercharged 3.3-liter engine, Garthwaite and the Atalante would be impressive but would ultimately fail to reach the end as a result of a broken connecting rod.
The car would be repaired and would end up being just one of a handful of pre-war cars to enter the Mt. Equinox Hillclimb in Vermont on the 29th of July in 1950. Despite being at an age disadvantage, the Atalante would perform well setting the 8th fastest time.
The car would continue to take part in competitive races and hillclimbs and would continue to see regular use while in Garthwaite's possession. However, the car would not remain with Garthwaite forever and Dr. Samuel Scher would be its next owner. Soon after, Scher would part with the car, deciding to sell it to John Wendell Straus, the grandson of the founder of R.H. Macy & Company.
The purchase of the Bugatti by Straus certainly seemed to make sense given his vast interest in French culture and anything French. 57766 would remain part of Straus' extensive collection of automobiles until 1962 when it was parked in a suburban garage and practically forgotten about for nearly 50 years.
Chassis 57766 would remain hidden until 2007 when the Straus estate needed to be settled. The garage would be opened and the Bugatti discovered all over again. Completely intact and well preserved, the Type 57C Bugatti seemed ready to run, just after several layers of dust had been blown from its Atalante body.
Following its discovery, an east coast collector would come and quickly snap the car up. Though unrestored, the car would be presented as part of the Pre-war Preservation class at the 2007 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and would later be honored in a special 'barn find' exhibit at the Saratoga Automobile Museum.
One year later, 57766 would be sold to its current owner and would be immediately entrusted to Sargent Metalworks of Fairlee, Vermont for a complete restoration. This would prove to be a 'really exciting opportunity' for Sargent Metalworks as this particular Bugatti would be surprisingly untouched and sound. Sargent would recall, 'It had been painted several times and, due to storage, was mechanically fragile, but everything was there.'
Not only was everything there, but it matched. The engine, rear end, transmission and front-axle all had matching number components still fitted! On top of that, the Atalante body would be found to be highly original inside and out. Sargent would exclaim, 'I have never seen Bugatti coachwork that was so correct and original throughout.' He would go on to state that this Bugatti 'is definitely one of the very best representatives of Jean Bugatti's classic Atalante. In my opinion, it is one of the all-time great automotive designs.'
Original interior fittings would need to be simply cleaned and re-veneered to look practically brand new. A good amount of the wood framework even had the preservative paint covering it, and therefore, enabled the restoration process to proceed quickly and without much trouble.
O'Donnell Classics would then be contracted to finish the car when it had been finally prepped for paint. O'Donnell Classics would then make the decision to finish the car in a black and blue livery giving 57766 a very period-correct appearance.
Every detail would be addressed throughout the restoration. The result would be a highly-original car brought back to the peak of its appearance, complete with a highly-preserved interior, re-tuned engine and rebuilt gearbox, rear end, suspension and braking system. Even the proper etching on the window glass to the correct hand-scraped finishes in the engine bay would be applied to the car.
When it was all said and done, 57766 would emerge at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, the same event it had appeared un-restored four years earlier. The reaction would be nothing but praise and great acclaim. By the end of the event, 57766 would garner Second in Class and would have the honor of besting two other Bugatti Type 57s.
Just as soon as it emerged from hiding and restoration, the Type 57 Bugatti would be hidden away. Its only other appearance since Pebble Beach includes the 2012 Saratoga Invitational. This would be a special moment and would be rewarded with a Best in Show honor.
But now, at the 2013 Gooding & Company auction in Scottsdale, Arizona the 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atalante, chassis 57766 will be appearing once again. However, this time, this timeless classic will provide an individual a great opportunity to own one of the most original Bugatti Type 57s in all the world.
Obviously a classic automobile in all points and an extraordinary example in every way, this Type 57C must be considered amongst the very best of all the pre-war Bugattis. And as such, 57766 is estimated to draw between $1,400,000 and $1,800,000 at auction.Sources:
'Lot No. 025: 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atalante', (http://www.goodingco.com/car/1938-bugatti-type-57c-atalante). Gooding & Company. http://www.goodingco.com/car/1938-bugatti-type-57c-atalante. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
'1937 Bugatti Type 57S News, Pictures and Information', (http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z13374/Bugatti-Type-57S.aspx). Conceptcarz.com: From Concept to Production. http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z13374/Bugatti-Type-57S.aspx. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
'1938 Bugatti Type 57C News, Pictures and Information', (http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z11694/Bugatti-Type-57C.aspx). Conceptcarz.com: From Concept to Production. http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z11694/Bugatti-Type-57C.aspx. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
'Tradition: History', (http://www.bugatti.com/en/tradition/history.html). Conceptcarz.com: From Concept to Production. http://www.bugatti.com/en/tradition/history.html. Retrieved 16 January 2013.By Jeremy McMullen