Coachwork: Vanden Plas
Chassis Num: 57541
Engine Num: 29S
Sold for $9,735,000 at 2016 Bonhams
The Bugatti Type 57 was introduced in 1934 and was the first new model built under his direction and it incorporated many new features new to Bugatti. Power was from a dual overhead camshaft eight-cylinder engines that had dimensions of 72x100mm, offering 3257cc displacement, with a five main bearing crankshaft. The camshafts were driven by a train of helical-tooth gears at the engine's rear with a further crankshaft bearing behind them.
The Bugatti Type 57 was given a transmission fixed to the engine crankcase and a single plate clutch - another first for Bugatti. The four-speed gearbox had constant mesh on the top three gears. In the front was a hollow tube live axle suspended by semi-elliptical front and reversed quarter-elliptical rear leaf springs with cable-operated mechanical drum brakes.
The supercharged Type 57C was introduced in 1936. Driven by the camshaft drive at the rear of the engine, the Roots-type supercharger ran at 1.17 times engine speed, providing a 5-6 psi boot. Horsepower rose to 160 BHP and top speed approached 120 mph.
The Type 57S, with the S representing surbaisse (or lowered), was virtually a Grand Prix car in touring car guise. Although there were several differences between the Type 57 and the 57S, the fundamental difference was the Type 57S models low-slung frame design with its shorter wheelbase. The rear axle passed through the frame, while de Ram shock absorbers provided damping.
The Type 57S also had a modified crankcase with dry sump lubrication derived from the Type 59 Grand Prix car, including separate scavenge and pressure oil pumps supplied from a 20 liter tank. The engine received an increase in performance thanks, in part, to high compression pistons. The clutch was reinforced to cope with the additional output produced by the engine. Ignition was by a Scintilla Vertex magneto driven from the left-hand camshaft.
Production was limited with just 48 examples of the Type 57S chassis built before the outbreak of war. Two of these were Type 57SC models, fitted with a supercharger by the factory. Along with the Alfa Romeo 8C 2900, the Type 57SC was the fastest road car in the world.
Vanden Plas bodied just two Type 57S chassis. It is believed that this example, chassis number 57541, was ordered by George Rand via Colonel Sorel, the London agent on Brixton Road. Rand had recently been appointed Bugatti agent in New York. It was given a four-seat touring roadster body by Vanden Plas and finished in gray with red accents. It was given cut-down doors and an appearance that was similar to the Vanden Plas 4-1/4-liter Bentley Tourer body delivered to Malcolm Campbell in April of 1936. Its design is also similar to the 4.3-liter short chassis Alvis body built in 1937.
The completed car was shipped to New York where it may have been used in the A.R.C.A. races on September 25, 1937. After Rand was unable to find a buyer for the car, it was sent back to England and shown on the Bugatti stand at the London Motor Show held at the Olympia from October 13 to 22, 1938. It was given registration number FGW 384 on November 3rd of 1938.
The first English owner is not known nor is the length of time that it stayed in England. Bugatti expert Pierre-Yves Laugier suggests that it may have come into the care of Herman H. Harjes, Jr. of Paris by the end of 1938.
During the war, its whereabouts vanished. Near the close of the war, it appeared for sale at the Continental Car garage which was owned by Rodney Clarke. In 1947, it had no less than three owners, namely Rodney Clarke, Brian Finglass, and Sir Alfred McAlpine, all of whom were managers of Continental Cars. It was later sold to Jack Robinson, who exported it to Trinidad, where it was registered as PB 371.
According to Pierre-Yves Laugier, when Robinson purchased the car, it was equipped with a Type 35B 3-blade racing supercharger. Additionally, major work had been done to the car including fitting a new crankcase, cylinder block, crankshaft, pistons and connecting rods.
The car remained in Mr. Robinson's care for more than three decades. It was sold to Peter Agg in 1985. A complete restoration soon followed. The work included removing the Type 35B supercharger and replacing it with a correct Type 57, bringing it up to factory correct 57SC specification. Hydraulic brakes were fitted and the car was repainted in the light metallic blue color that it wears today.
The current owner acquired the car in 1995.By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2016