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Bugatti type 57S 57C

The last and most successful Bugatti production car, the Type 57, can be regarded as the crown on Ettore's, and his son Jean's, work. The remarkable aspect of this range of models was the functional integration of race-bred engineering with luxury cars, well suited to everyday use as well as comfortably travelling at high speeds, combined with artful attractive styling. This makes the Type 57 the most complete Bugatti, with all of the factory's strong points and experience condensed into possibly the best "Grand Routier" of that era.

The Type 57 appeared in many different shapes, but the range can be divided into 6 main body styles, partly named after famous locations in the Alps.

the 3.3-litre Atalante 1937, possibly the most beautiful car in the world

It didn't bear any reference to the Alps, but "Atalante" was a wonderfully fitting mythological name for the 2-seater coupe models of the Type 57. It was presented in 1935, one year after the introduction of the Type 57 and from 1936 it was available on both the long and the short versions of the chassis. The Atalante was fitted with some of the most elegant and extravagant bodies from that era. Low slung and stretched, with voluptuous curves and often expressive paint jobs it represented artistry in true form, cars which could be enjoyed as much from the outside as by the driver inside.
The "standard" factory body on the long chassis, as seen on this picture, showed the hand of Ettore Bugatti's son Jean.

As standard the Atalante was powered by the normal straight 8-cylinder, 3257 cc engine shared by all Type 57 models. It produced about 135 hp @ 5000 rpm, enough for a maximum speed of around 160 kph and a 0 to 100 kph acceleration in 12.2 seconds. Optional a compressor could be installed (usually referred to as Type 57 C), increasing the power output to 160 hp @ 5000 rpm and the maximum speed to about 180 kph. And then it gets interesting: the lighter Sport version with the tuned version of this engine which was good for 175 hp @ 5500 rpm and 190 kph. This engine could also be fitted with a compressor, making it a Type 57 SC, and this supercharged version made 210 hp @ 5500 rpm and 200 kph possible. Think about it: this was about twice as much as a regular saloon car in 1936-1938 was capable of, so this was a true supercar.

Still, despite its good looks and its agility the Atalante wasn't much of a commercial success and so it disappeared from the Bugatti catalogue in 1938. It probably was too expensive, extreme and unpractical.

1937 Atalante

Next to the introduction of the Atalante model in 1935 an experimental model on the S-chassis appeared: the Aérolithe. This car created quite a stir with its unusual low, almost hunched body style and its ability to reach a maximum speed of 200 kph. It attracted enough interest to consider taking it into production, and so the Atlantic was presented in 1936 as the production version of the Aérolithe.

It was to become the rarest and most exotic of all Type 57 Bugattis. The Atlantic can be regarded as the sportscar version of the Sport Atalante, with innovative streamlined 2-seater fastback coupe bodywork on the short Sport chassis and with the tuned 8-cylinder 3257 cc engine, fitted with the compressor option.

The design of the Atlantic, again the work of an inspired Jean Bugatti, showed a resemblance with another contemporary French styling icon: the Talbot-Lago T150 SS "Goutte d'Eau" (teardrop) coupe by Figoni and Falaschi, but was in an unique way ahead of its time. It followed the essence of the Aérolithe, as the name indicates an aerodynamic lightweight car, without the magnesium alloy body construction (though at least one Atlantic had an "Electron" body, an aluminum alloy). There were similarities with aircraft construction, like its most distinctive feature: the ridge running from front to back over the middle of the car which was formed by the flanges with which the 2 halves of the body shell were riveted together. This not only added to the rigidity of the construction but also stabilized the car at high speeds. This feature was also repeated on the front fenders of the car. And it was the lowest of all Type 57 Bugattis, since the rear axle ran through the chassis frame instead of underneath

Other distinctive styling features of the Atlantic were the high sills (due to incorporating the chassis members within the body construction) which made it necessary to cut out the doors high on the sides and partly into the roof to allow for easy entering and exiting the car; the side windows which followed the roof line; the V-ed radiator shell which was placed low between the front fenders and the turtle-like rear deck. Altogether it formed a slightly bizarre but very impressive and appealing statement which inspired designers and cars for decades to come. It certainly wasn't like anything on the road in the 1930s and for the people at the time it might just as well have come from outer space.

This, and its exorbitant price, made the Atlantic hard to sell. Though its agility was undoubted, its pedigree revered and its design much acclaimed, only a few left the factory between 1936-1938. Apparently parts were made for 6 Atlantics but only 3 were sold, all fitted with compressor. Two of these have survived to this day and one was (re)assembled from remaining parts, so now 3 original Atlantics are extant.

After WW2 when streamlined design became rapidly accepted, the Atlantic soon was seen as a lighting example and a work of art. The value of the few cars left went sky high and now it's one of the most expensive classics in the world.

Identifying Features:
Vee radiator, low build; usually with rakish body; rear axle passing through frame, multiple exhaust pipes, dry sump

Years Made
(approx): T57S, 1936-38; 57SC, 1937-38

Number Made:

No of cylinders: 8
Bore x stroke: 72 x 100mm
Capacity: 3257cc
BHP (approx): T57S: 170; T57SC: 200
RPM Limit (prudent): 5500
Camshafts: dohc
Valves (per cylinder): 2
Camshaft drive: Rear, spur train, helical
Crankshaft bearings: 6 plain, plain rods
Lubrication: Dry Sump
Supercharger (Roots): 57SC only
Carburettor: Bugatti or Stromberg UUR2
Ignition: Scintilla Vertex
Plugs per cylinder: 1
Firing Order: 1, 6, 2, 5, 8, 3, 7, 4

Type: Dry, two plates

Location: Integral with engine, 4-speed and reverse
Gear change lever: Central, Top back

Rear Axle:
Normal Ratio: 11/46 = 4.18

Wheelbase: 117.3in (2.98m)
Track: 53.1in (1.35m)
Chassis Weight (approx): 2100lb (950kg)

Location and Type: 4-wheel, 1936-38 cable operated
Brake drum diameter: 350mm

Type: Rudge wire
Tyre size: original and modern fitment, 18 x 5.50, front; 18 x 6.00 rear

Crossbreeding with Other Types:
Derived from T57 and T57C; engine very similar to that of T59 GP car