The epitome

This is a summary of what the Bugatti 57SC Atlantic represents to the history of the pre-war automobile. And then some. With the valuable support, depth of knowledge and illustrative talent of Prof. Massimo Grandi

Photo credit: Some images are taken from the book Asi Service "Quando le disegnava il vento" by Massimo Grandi

In a world troubled by great uncertainties, the 1930s heralded a decade of irrepressible folly that swept through Paris and across France: the desire to appear magnificent and “flamboyant” propelled the French automobile into a new dimension in which the forms, that were never straight and never edgy, followed the harmony of the curvilinee instrument, which was soon to become known as the “French curve”. Manufacturers and coachbuilders vied to see who could impress the most. The winner, thanks to a well-established and recognized blazonry, was Bugatti.

The top view of the design shows Jean Bugatti’s ingenious idea of combining the two parts of the body longitudinally with an exposed riveted dorsal spine that also hints towards a rear fin

In particular, Ettore’s brilliant and unfortunate son, Jean, who in the space of just a few years found glory with the magnificent 57SC Atlantic – and not only this model – successes at Le Mans and tragically met his death while driving the most prestigious of his cars, the Type 57 Tank.

The consecration of the young Bugatti came in 1936 when the Atlantic version of the Type 57 appeared. This car, designed by Jean and constructed by the coachbuilder “Gangloff Freres”, was the material representation of a dynamic expression. Magnificent for its ability to be a veritable sculpture of movement. A work of art that not even Futurism had imagined.

Low and beautifully profiled, the Bugatti 57SC Atlantic was immediately recognized as an authentic work of art

The brilliance of this model could also be found in its technical conception: the body was in fact composed of two equal and symmetrical parts connected longitudinally by an exposed riveted dorsal spine which, through the magic of beauty, makes the car magically unique. The rivets are also carried through to the domed fenders.

History says only four were produced. Legend, however, would have it that a fifth was buried to save it from the German invasion of ’39. Two are known to still exist, both in America: one belongs to the famous designer, Ralph Lauren, and the other the great collector Peter Mullin.

Bugatti’s racing experience contributed to the harmonious design of the rear. Curious the spare tire cover

The performance of the Atlantic, thanks in part to its highly aerodynamic profile, took it to a more than respectable top speed of 210 km/h. Its price, at auctions, rivals that of the coveted Ferrari GTO. But it is very unlikely that we’ll see one at an auction anytime soon: the two existing examples are jealously guarded by their owners.

Lights inserted into the rounded fenders, classic Bugatti radiator, a unusual door shape and use of rivets make the 57SC Atlantic truly unique