When Bugatti’s spectacular Type 57 debuted in 1934, it would ultimately prove to be the final all-French design in the marque’s short but brilliant history. Company patriarch Ettore Bugatti was fully committed to developing the petrol-powered rail cars ordered by the French government, so design of the new high-performance touring car was handed over to his talented son, Jean – who was just 23 years old at the time. Jean and senior engineers Pichetto and Domboy were wholly responsible for the specification of the car from the ground up, including the chassis, engine, and factory coachwork designs. To compete in the market, Bugatti needed a fresh design; one that retained the performance and style for which Bugatti was known, while offering new levels of comfort and easy operation.
The Type 57 was based around an all-new twin-cam, inline eight-cylinder engine displacing 3,257 cubic centimeters. Only the basic layout was shared with earlier models, as the block (with integrated head) and crankcase were all new items. A series of bevel gears drove the camshafts, which offered superior refinement over the previous straight-cut style. In standard form, the new engine was capable of a highly respectable 135 horsepower. While the Type 57 was not officially raced, the fundamental engine design was shared with the Type 59 Grand Prix cars. The chassis featured Bugatti’s traditional solid front axle which had been highly developed and well-proven by hundreds of racing victories. Bugatti further refined the ride and handling to suit the Type 57s intended purpose as a fast yet luxurious touring car. While American companies like Packard and Cadillac had begun to offer synchronized transmissions, Bugatti retained a non-synchro gearbox, but with quieter helical cut gears and a smoother change from the older dog-type gear-change of older models. This fabulous chassis were then clothed in a series of factory-designed saloon, coupe, and cabriolet bodies in addition to some of the most spectacular art-deco coachwork by coachbuilders including Figoni et Falaschi, Gangloff, and Saoutchik. The factory offered four distinct styles; the Galibier Saloon, Ventoux four-passenger coupe, four-seat Stelvio cabriolet, and the two-seat Atalante coupe. The Bugatti Type 57 and its derivatives are counted among the most important collector cars of all time, offering stunning looks, electrifying performance and the historical importance that only comes with the great cars from Molsheim.
Presented here is a 1934 Bugatti Type 57, equipped with stunning Atalante coachwork. The Atalante is one of the most sporting and stylish of all the Jean Bugatti-designed bodies. Featuring a distinct close-coupled roof line, long, flowing tail and distinct sweeping feature line down the body, the Atalante is a visually arresting design. Bugatti continually refined the styling, and each car was built to individual client specification, meaning very few cars were identical in detail. This stunning automobile is chassis number 57167, an early example of the Type 57 chassis. Factory records show this car was delivered new on May 14, 1934 via French dealer Moneshier. The first owner is listed as a Monsieur Cabaud, though little more of this car’s early history is known at this time. In the late 1980s, the car is believed to have been found in Central France where it was shipped to the UK, needing restoration. While there, it belonged to a respected Bugatti enthusiast who produced a number of high-quality engine parts for fellow owners. He intended to restore car at that point, though it seems the project took some time to get off the ground.
Today, this magnificent Type 57 has been fully restored to a high standard and is presented in stunning colors. The two-tone green livery is exquisitely judged, and paired with a gorgeous saddle-tan leather interior. The body is finely detailed with a mix of crisp edges, well-defined coach lines and a soft, flowing profile. It is truly one of the most beautiful and elegant sporting designs of the thirties as well as one of the most instantly recognizable.
Aside from its meticulous cosmetic restoration, this Bugatti Type 57 benefits from a complete mechanical overhaul, and it has been beautifully dialed-in by its most recent owner for use on tours and rallies. The eight-cylinder engine emits its distinct growl through the exhaust, accompanied by the whine of the valvetrain for that signature growling soundtrack. The car successfully completed the week-long International Bugatti Owner’s Meeting on the island of Sardinia in 2107; a testament to the quality of the restoration, as well as the incredible capability these cars have always had.
In many ways, the Bugatti Type 57 is the ultimate collector car. It represents the pinnacle of refinement and performance from Molsheim, and is the last of the great machines from the most fabled of all the French Grandes Routieres.