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 Bugatti Type 57 photo

1938 Bugatti Type 57

Bugatti introduced the Type 57 in October of 1933 at the Paris Motor Show and is considered by many the epitome of 1930s sport chassis design. It had impeccable road manners, sharp handling, and a powerful and smooth engine. Production continued from 1934 through 1939 with approximately 670 examples of the Type 57 produced prior to the outbreak of World War II.

Power was from a dual overhead camshaft eight-cylinder engine with a slim squared-off block and angular machined cam covers. The cams were operated by a set of helical-toothed gears, finger cam followers minimized side thrust on the valve stems, and the long crankshaft was supported by five main bearings. Camboxes made by factory artisans in a bright-cut pattern concealed the dual overhead camshafts. The engine was backed by a gearbox that used an unconventional design for Bugatti and marked the first time the company employed this arrangement. The gearbox was fitted to the crankcase and serviced by a single-plate clutch, and the top three gears in constant mesh.

Bugatti's dual overhead camshaft design was inspired by a pair of front-drive Miller 91 racing cars Ettore Bugatti had acquired from Leon Duray. Duray had briefly campaigned them on the Continent but had little success due to not have the proper multi-speed gearboxes that were needed on European circuits. Bugatti's version of the Miller's DOHC setup first appeared on the Type 50, followed by a similar design for the 3.3-liter straight eight that powered the new Type 57.

In 1936, Bugatti offered a supercharged version of the Type 57, dubbed the 57C, with a Roots-type compressor driven off the camshaft drive at the rear of the engine, running at 1.17 times engine speed. With a five-to-six psi boost, the 3.3-liter rubber-mounted engine developed 160 horsepower. To help cope with the increase in power, modifications were made to the chassis to increase its strength and rigidity.

Many aspects of the Type 57 were advanced and at the forefront of technology, however, Ettore stubbornly refused to deviate from certain tried-and-true traditional practices. He rejected hydraulic brakes and refused to adopt independent front suspension for the Type 57, instead used a solid front axle setup with twin transverse leaf springs, and a solid rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs. He was also committed to his single-cam engine, only adopting the more advanced DOCH method of valve actuation, after much insistence by his eldest son Jean. From that point forward, Jean took greater responsibility for design, his first car being the Type 55 roadster of the 1930s. This design was followed by the larger and more powerful Type 57.

The Type 57 was clothed in a variety of styles from elegant formal designs to high-speed, lightweight coachwork that helped the company capture victory at Le Mans. The Type 57 was solely a road-going vehicle, though a racing version was created for the 1937 24-Hours of Le Mans race. Based on the Type 57S chassis and named the 57G, it won the 24-hour race. A supercharged version was created for the 1939 edition of the race and was also victorious.

Many Type 57s received bespoke bodies, including those built to Jean Bugatti's design by the marque's preferred carrossier, Gangloff of Colmar, just a few miles from the Bugatti works at Molsheim. The list of factory offerings on the Type 57 chassis includes the Stelvio cabriolet, four-seater Ventoux coupe with a steeply raked windscreen, Galibier four-door saloon, and two-seater Atalante faux cabriolet (coupe). The name Atalanta comes from Greek mythology, named after an athletic huntress who would only marry a man that could out-run her. The Ventoux was named after the forbidding Provencal mountain known for its long-established motoring hill climb and a regular Tour de France stage. The Aravis, also named after an Alpine mountain range, was a companion design to the more common four-seat cabriolet model the Stelvio. The two-seater Aravis had a dramatically sloped tail that featured a small central dorsal fin. Its design, created in 1938, was courtesy of Jean Bugatti and the Molsheim bodywork leader Joseph Walter. It is believed that no more than 12 examples of the Aravis were built at Colmar by Gangloff, and just three are known to exist today. Several more cars were built to specifications very closely resembling the factory-contracted Aravis, including as many as six by Letourneur et Marchand, albeit of a three-seat version, and D'Ieteren of Belgium built a single example in a similar style.

Encapsulating both form and function, the Bugatti Type 57 ranks as one of the most significant automobiles of its era.


by Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2020

Related Reading : Bugatti Type 57 History

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,....
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Related Reading : Bugatti Type 57 History

Ettore Arco Isidoro Bugatti was born in Milan, Italy in 1881. His father, Carlo, was a furniture designer of some fame. The fathers 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....
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1938 Vehicle Profiles

1938 Bugatti Type 57 vehicle information

Ventoux Coupe

Ettore Bugatti can certainly be considered one of the more colorful characters throughout automotive history. Though born in Italy, Bugatti spent most of his life in France. Nearly 8,000 cars bearing the Bugatti name were produced at the Molsheim fac....[continue reading]

1938 Bugatti Type 57 vehicle information

Drophead
Designer: Letourneur et Marchand

Chassis Num: 57649
Engine Num: 466

This 1938 Bugatti Type 57 Three Position Drophead Coupe has coachwork by Letourneur & Marchand. It carries chassis number 57649 and engine number 466. It is finished in blue owner white with a tan leather interior. Under the bonnet is a straight-e....[continue reading]

1938 Bugatti Type 57 vehicle information

Cabriolet
Coachwork: D'Ieteren

Chassis Num: 57589
Engine Num: 464

The coachbuilding firm of D'Ieteren was founded in 1805 by Jean Joseph D'Ieteren, who started his career as a wheel-wright. Thus D'Ieteren, which is located in Brussels and still exists today, is one of the oldest automotive firms in the world. From ....[continue reading]

1938 Bugatti Type 57 vehicle information

Monoposto

Chassis Num: 57478
Engine Num: 354

This Alfa Romeo, chassis number 57478, wears replica coachwork similar to the body of the Type 59/50B found in the Schlumpf Museum. It was produced in November of 1936 and built to the requests of its original owner, Fernand Huck. It originally wore ....[continue reading]

1938 Bugatti Type 57 vehicle information

Atalante Coupe
Coachwork: Gangloff

This supercharged Bugatti Type 57C Atalante has been referred to as 'the greatest barn-find ever,' and its story is certainly remarkable. John W. Straus, the grandson of the founder of Macy's department stores, parked this Bugatti in a Pound Ridge, N....[continue reading]

1938 Bugatti Type 57 vehicle information

Atalante Coupe
Coachwork: Gangloff

Chassis Num: 57633-463
Engine Num: 463

This Bugatti was originally ordered by wealthy French Industrialist Fernand Crouzet and has a custom body by Gangloff that features unique bumpers and wheel discs.....[continue reading]

1938 Bugatti Type 57 vehicle information

Drophead
Designer: Letourneur et Marchand

Chassis Num: 57567
Engine Num: 57567

This pre-war Bugatti was acquired by its current owner in 2003 who promptly returned its original engine to its chassis, No. 57567. Its Letourneur & Marchand coachwork was a precursor to the famed 'Aravis' Bugattis they built along with Gangloff.....[continue reading]

1938 Bugatti Type 57 vehicle information

Stelvio Cabriolet
Coachwork: Gangloff

Chassis Num: 57569

Ettore Bugatti had founded the company bearing his name in 1909 in Molsheim, Alsace. While the company would be founded and grow because of the prowess of Ettore, his son Jean, would also go on to show off his talents by fashioning one of the more ic....[continue reading]

1938 Bugatti Type 57 vehicle information

Ventoux Coupe

The Bugatti Type 57, introduced in 1934, was both beautiful and powerful, and it provided a much-needed boost for the Bugatti Company during the difficult economic climate of the time. Five body styles were offered - most named after Alpine mountain ....[continue reading]

1938 Bugatti Type 57 vehicle information

Drophead
Designer: Letourneur et Marchand

Chassis Num: 57587
Engine Num: 458

This Bugatti Type 57, built in September 1937, was delivered to Letourneur et Marchand to be fitted with this rare two-door, four-seat, three-position cabriolet body. Letourneur et Marchand, located in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, construct....[continue reading]

1938 Bugatti Type 57 vehicle information

Monoposto

Chassis Num: 57410

This Type 57 Monoposto was imported into the United States in the late 1960s. Jim Hull purchased the car in 1981 and with the help of David North completed the car just in time to compete in the Monterey Historic Races in 1981. Starting from the back....[continue reading]

1938 Bugatti Type 57 vehicle information

Ventoux Coupe

Chassis Num: 57599

The final Bugatti production car, the Type 57, combines race-bred performance with distinctive styling and driver comfort in a true high-speed touring car. ....[continue reading]

Ventoux Coupe
 
Drophead
Chassis #: 57649 
Cabriolet by D'Ieteren
Chassis #: 57589 
Monoposto
Chassis #: 57478 
Atalante Coupe by Gangloff
 
Atalante Coupe by Gangloff
Chassis #: 57633-463 
Drophead
Chassis #: 57567 
Stelvio Cabriolet by Gangloff
Chassis #: 57569 
Ventoux Coupe
 
Drophead
Chassis #: 57587 
Monoposto
Chassis #: 57410 
Ventoux Coupe
Chassis #: 57599 

Recent Vehicle Additions

Performance and Specification Comparison

Type 57

Year
Production
Wheelbase
Engine
Prices
130.00 in.
8 cyl., 201.38 CID., 135.00hp
129.90 in., 130.00 in.
8 cyl., 201.38 CID., 135.00hp
117.50 in.
8 cyl., 198.75 CID., 170.00hp
129.90 in., 130.00 in.
8 cyl., 201.38 CID., 135.00hp
8 cyl., 198.75 CID., 160.00hp
130.00 in.
8 cyl., 198.75 CID., 160.00hp

Industry Production

#1#2#3Bugatti
1942Chevrolet (254,885)Ford (160,432)Plymouth (152,427)
1941Chevrolet (1,008,976)Ford (691,455)Plymouth (522,080)
1940Chevrolet (764,616)Ford (541,896)Plymouth (430,208)
1939Chevrolet (577,278)Ford (487,031)Plymouth (423,850)
1938Chevrolet (465,158)Ford (410,263)Plymouth (285,704)
1937Ford (942,005)Chevrolet (815,375)Plymouth (566,128)
1936Ford (930,778)Chevrolet (918,278)Plymouth (520,025)
1935Ford (820,253)Chevrolet (548,215)Plymouth (350,884)
1934Ford (563,921)Chevrolet (551,191)Plymouth (321,171)
1933Chevrolet (486,261)Ford (334,969)Plymouth (298,557)

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