Perhaps the most beautiful and exotic (and certainly the most expensive) automobile in history is the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic. With graceful styling, a powerful engine, and lightweight construction, the vehicles were as impressive with the performance as they were with their design. The design was courtesy of Ettore's son, Jean Bugatti. It was influenced by aircraft styling and given an avant-grade tear-drop shape. In the front was a raked windscreen, kidney-shaped doors with matching side windows, and the memorable riveted fins in the back.
The riveted fins in the back were not just a design expression, they were a necessary part of the construction. The body was built from Electron, an alloy of aluminum and magnesium from IG Farben of Germany. It was lightweight and strong, but it was also very flammable. Thus, it was not able to be welded. The solution proposed by Jean was to use rivets.
The first example produced was finished in silver and introduced at the 1935 Paris Motor Show. Production began the following year, though only three orders had been taken. By this point in history, the company had decided to switch to aluminum, which was also lightweight - just not as light as the flammable electron.
Power was supplied from an inline eight-cylinder, supercharged engine fitted with Stromberg carburetors. The 210 horsepower was mated to a four-speed manual gearbox. Drum brakes were at all four corners, as was the Rudge Witworth wire wheels.
The prototype car - the 1935 Paris Motor Show car - is called the Aerolithe after the Greek word for meteorite. It was the only example to be constructed from the exotic material, electron.
Chassis 57591 was the final example produced of three aluminum bodied production bodied cars. Distinguishable features included the external headlights. It is also, perhaps, the most original of the three examples.
The car was first owned by R.B. Pope of London and finished in Dark Sapphire Blue. It was given EXK6 license plate as part of its original UK registration. It was given a supercharger in 1939. In the 1960s the car was sold to author Barry Price. In 1988 it was purchased by New York designer Ralph Lauren who commissioned a comprehensive restoration by Paul Russel. The work took two years to complete, and as many original parts as possible was used. After the work was complete, the car was shown at the 1990 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance where it won Best of Show.
Currently, the car is finished in black paint. By Daniel Vaughan | May 2013
Many manufacturers during this time produced multi-purpose vehicles that could be driven to a race track, raced, and then driven home. The Bugatti Type 57, however, was solely a road-going vehicle and is considered the most celebrated of all non-racing Bugattis. Even though the Type 57 was strictly a road-going vehicle, a racing version was created for the 1937 24-Hours of Le Mans race. This vehicle, based on the Type 57S chassis and named the 57G, won the race. A supercharged version was created for the 1939 Le Mans race and also was victorious. This is the legacy of the Bugatti heritage and the quality and innovative designs that were truly masterpieces in all respects.
In 1934, the Type 57C entered the scene, a project headed by Jean Bugatti, the son of Ettore Bugatti. The vehicle centered around refinement while focusing on the values that had made Bugatti successful.
Three 'factory' bodies were available and consisted of the Ventoux, a two-window and four window version, the Stelvio, and the Atalante. All of the Atalante bodies were produced and all were done in-house. The Atalante was named after peaks in the Alps and is one of the most exclusive bodystyles ever produced by Bugatti.
The Type 57 could also be ordered with Galibier four-door bodies. Ealier versions of the Galibier bodies had suicide-opening front doors with no pillar. Later versions had suicide-opening front doors and rear doors hung in the traditional fashion. The front and rear doors would share a common pillar.
Jean designed an indepenent front suspension to aide in the handling of the vehicle. This was not popular with Ettore Bugatti and had the traditional Bugatti front axle installed.
A 3.3 liter, twin-cam, straight-eight engine was used to power this vehicle. Even with the heavy saloon bodies, the engine could propel the vehicle to a speed of around 95 mph. A Roots-type supercharger was later added and the vehicle was given the designation 57C. The supercharger was quiet and provided between three to four pounds of boost pressure. The addition of the supercharger increased the horsepower rating to 175.
The Type 57S version was a 'sportier' version of the Type 57. The chassis was shorter, with the rear axle running through the frame. A slightly tuned engine with higher compression and a dry sump lubrication helped increase the performance of the car. The front and rear axles received de Ram shock aborbers, replacing the Hartford Friction dampers.
The Type 57SC was a combination of the 57C and 57S. The engine produced between 200 and 220 horsepower.
On August 11, 1939 while testing a Type 57C tank-bodied racer near Molsheim, Jean Bugatti was killed. This was the same day as the start of the 2nd World War, which inevitably meant that the race Jean was preparing the vehicle for would never be run. By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2006
Ettore Arco Isidoro Bugatti was born in Milan, Italy in 1881. His father, Carlo, was a furniture designer of some fame. The father's brother, Rembrandt, was a gifted sculptor of animals. When he was old enough, Ettore attended the Brera Academy of Art where he studied sculpture. Soon, he turned his attention to mechanical endeavors.
The first Bugatti motor car was built in 1899 though the first vehicle to bear his name was the Type 13 of 1910. Power came from a four-cylinder, eight-valve engine. The 1913 the radiators became more rounded and in the shape of a horse shoe.
The company's first eight-cylinder engine production car was introduced in 1922 and dubbed the Type 30. The engine had a single overhead camshaft and displaced two liters. The car had a drum brakes, solid axles and leaf springs on all four corners.
The Type 35 in all sequences, the A, B, C, and T, were some of Bugatti's early examples that made the marque famous. The Type 57 introduced in 1934 and continued in production until 1940. They were powered by a 3257cc straight-eight engine with double overhead camshafts that produced between 130 and 140 horsepower. There were four road-going versions of the 57 and these were the Type 57, Type 57C, Type 57S, and Type 57SC. The Type 57C was a supercharged version while the Type 57S was a sporty version based on a short and lower wheelbase. The Type 57SC was a combination of the 57S and 57C. A variety of body-styles were offered throughout the years.
The engine rested in a ladder-type frame and matted to a four-speed manual gearbox. The front had a tubular axle with the suspension comprised of longitudinally mounted semi-elliptic leaf springs. The rear axle was suspended in place by a pair of quarter-elliptic leaf springs. The early versions of the vehicle had cable-operated drums on all four wheels. Later versions were upgraded with Lockheed hydraulic brakes with twin master cylinder, which first appeared in 1938.
The Type 57 and its variants were intended for road going use. However, many made their way onto the racing circuit. Lord Howe drove a Type 57 to a third place finish in the 1935 Tourist Trophy. A Type 57G won the Monthlhery and Reims race in 1936. In 1937, Jean-Pierre Wimille and Robert Benoist drove a Bugatti to victory at LeMans.
Many of the cars were clothed by prominent coachbuilders such as Figoni, Van Vooren, Corsica, and James Young. Most of the chassis were bodied by the factory with coachwork in the style of Jean Buggatti. The catalog bodies included two versions of the Ventoux Coupe, the Galibier four-door sedan, the Stelvio cabriolet, Atalante, and Atlantic. The Atlantic and Atalante were constructed in two-door coupe configuration. Gangloff, a Swiss coachbuilder, was tasked with clothing most of the factory bodies. By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2007
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