Bugatti’s sure produced beautiful stylized cars that are appreciated to this day.
Yet it was an odd combination – an Italian born founder who set up an auto production company in the town of Molsheim located in the Alsace region of France. Bugattis were both technologically advanced and very aesthetic to gawk at. Along with that Bugatii earned a stalwart reputation by scoring well in early Grand Prix racing. The best of both worlds. It was a shame then that both father (founder and innovator of the Bugatti company itself) and later the son – both passed away leaving no heirs or members of the family to carry on the auto business. The company struggled until the early 1950’s when it was sold for its airplane parts business side. The Bugati marquee and trade market is currently owned by the VW Volkswagen group who use the nameplate for the production and sale of a very limited number of exotic sport car models. Interestingly the model known as the “Bugatti Type 57” also got the moniker of “Molsheim Buick”.
There is little doubt that although the Bugatti “Royale” model is the most famous of all Bugattis, that the “Type 57” is the most popular, and very deservedly so. Introduced in 1934 and running through until the outbreak of war in 1939 in all its varied forms it sold to the tune of over 700 cars. It was designed almost entirely new by Jean Bugatti (son of the founder Ettore). Even the twin-cam engine, with bore and stroke of a single-cam type 49 was quite unlike earlier twin-cam “eights” (as used in the Type 5ps and 51s), because its cams were driven by a train of gears at the tail of the crankshaft and cylinder block. The gearbox had constant-mesh gears, and was at first even intended to give the front axle a measure of independence between its wheels, although Ettore Bugatti himself forbade that.
There were several variations. The original Type 58 was in production until 1936, and was followed in 1957 by the Series 2 cars with engine improvements including rubber mountings. The Series 3 cars arrived at the end of 1938 with hydraulic brakes and telescopic dampers as the major changes.
The Type 57S (“S” for Sport) was announced in 1935, had a tuned engine with dry-sump lubrication, and a modified chassis frame, lowered to allow “sleeker bodywork” to be offered. The 57C version had a supercharged engine producing at least 200bhp, and the combination of this engine and the 57S chassis gave rise to the 572SC at the peak of Bugatti’s excellence. Cars with this engine setup along with Sports or Coupe body styles could beat 100 mile per hour ( 160.93 km/h) by a very good margin- even as high as 120 miles per hour ( 200 km/h).
Both Sports models were withdrawn fully in 1939 with the excuse and rationale being that manufacturing and production costs were too high and excessive yet the 57 & 57C continued to be good sellers for Bugatti.
Perhaps even more sensational even than the chassis was the type and nature of the coachwork fitted. Some was of actual Bugatti workshop and factory production – whereas other was outsourced by outside specialists. The “Atlantic Coupe’, a true fast-back vehicle with a pronounced dorsal fin, was perhaps the oddest and even most bizarre of all. Yet the Bugatti Atlantic Coupe was both rare and effective. The chassis was long enough for four-door saloons to be built – whereas this was not an option with any of the other Bugatti models and setups. Hence the model 57 chassis very versatile indeed.
Yet all in all the Bugatti 57 it can be said that they broke the mold. The Bugatti 57 was the very last of the production cars from Molsheim for production never got underway or ever returned after the World War 2 ended in France and Europe.
William B Cooper
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