Bugatti Type 57

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1936 Type 57
Bugatti Type 57
Manufacturer: Bugatti
Production: 19341940
710 produced
Class: GT car
Engine: 3257 cc DOHC I8
Predecessor: Bugatti Type 49
Successor: Bugatti Type 101
1938 Type 57SC Atlantic from the Ralph Lauren collection
1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Gangloff Drop Head Coupe from the Ralph Lauren collection
1938 Type 57SC Atlantic engine from the Ralph Lauren collection

The Bugatti Type 57 and later variants (including the famous Atlantic) was an entirely new design by Jean Bugatti, son of founder Ettore. Type 57s were built from 1934 through 1940, with a total of 710 examples produced.

Most Type 57s used a twin-cam 3257 cc engine based on that of the Type 49 but heavily modified by Jean Bugatti. Unlike the chain-drive twin-cam engines of the Type 50 and 51, the 57's engine used gears to transmit power from the crankshaft.

There were two basic variants of the Type 57 car:

The Type 57 chassis and engine was revived in 1951 as the Bugatti Type 101 for a short production.

Type 57G

The famous Type 57G tank-bodied racers used the 57S chassis in 1936 and 1937 and the 57C for 1939.

Type 57

The original Type 57 was a touring car model produced from 1934 through 1940. It used the 3.3 L (3257 cc/198 in³) engine from the Type 59 Grand Prix cars, producing 135 hp (100 kW). Top speed was 95 mph (153 km/h).

It rode on a 130 in (3300 mm) wheelbase and had a 53.1 in (1350 mm) wide track. Road-going versions weighed about 2100 lb (950 kg). Hydraulic brakes replaced the cable-operated units in 1938. 630 examples were produced.

The original road-going Type 57 included a smaller version of the Royale's square-bottom horseshoe grille. The sides of the engine compartment were covered with thermostatically-controlled shutters. It was a tall car, contrary to the tastes of the time.


  • Wheelbase: 130 in (3300 mm)
  • Track: 53.1 in (1349 mm)
  • Weight: 2100 lb (950 kg)

Type 57T

The "tuned" Type 57T pushed the performance of the basic Type 57. It was capable of reaching 115 mph (185 km/h).

Type 57C

Bugatti Type 57 C

A Type 57C racing car was built from 1937 through 1940, with nearly 750 possibly produced. It shared the 3.3 L engine from the road-going Type 57 but produced 160 hp (119 kW) with a Roots-type supercharger fitted.

Type 57C Tank

The famous 57C-based Tank won the 1936 French Grand Prix, as well as the 1937 24 Hours of Le Mans. It used a different 4.7 L (4743 cc/289 in³) engine.

1937 BUGATTI Coupé Ventoux 57 VUTOTAL 1

"Vutotal" (windscreen) Carrossery by Labourdette in 1937.

The most celebrated sports-touring model produced by Bugatti, the succes of the Type 57 is revealed by the production figures: some 680 examples of all models were produced between 1934-40, and the postwar T101 was based on the T57 chassis. This unrestaured example of one of the most elegant catalogued variants of the T57, the Ventoux fixed-head coupé, described by that great Bugatti authority the late Hugh conway as "a credit to Jean Bugatti'simagination and the skill of French coach-workerrs", left Bugatti's Molsheim works on 15 may 1936 destined for a M Kampman, who then commissioned his own personal touches to create a uniquely elegant machine. Worried by the thickness of the screen pillars framing the steeply-raked windscreen of his Ventoux, M Kampman entrusted his car to the aristocrat of French coachbuilders, Jean-Henri Labourdette, and requested him to modify the car in line with his brillant new "Vutotal"principle, revealed at the 1936 Paris Salon. At the same time Labourdette revised the shape of the wings, fitted extra brightwork and added front and rear bumpers. The Vutotal design used a hardened glass windscreen bolted to the scuttle and to the roof, completely eliminating the intrusive screen pillars "in the same way that reinforced concrete has allowad the construction of exhibition halls without columns... allowing you to admire without constraints the spectacle of nature". The Result was sensational - and at least as strong as conventional construction - but proved too revolutionary for more than a handful of enlightened customers. One other Bugatti with Labourdette Vutotal coachwork survives, in th French National Motor Museum at Mulhouse, making this Striking T57 the only known example in private ownership. this unique "Ventoux Vutotal" is finished in black, with beige leather interior - it' original specification - and is said to have free-turning engine and transmission.

Courtesy of

Type 57S

The Type 57S/SC is one of the best-known Bugatti cars. The "S" stood for "surbaissé" ("lowered"), though most felt it stood for "sport". It included a v-shaped dip at the bottom of the radiator and mesh grilles on either side of the engine compartment.

Lowering the car was a major undertaking. The rear axle now passed through the rear frame rather than riding under it, and a dry-sump lubrication system was required to fit the engine under the new low hood. The 57S had a nearly-independent suspension in front, though Ettore despised that notion.

Just 40 "surbaissé" cars were built.


  • Wheelbase: 117.3 in (2979 mm)
  • Track: 53.1 in (1349 mm)
  • Weight: 2100 lb (950 kg)

Type 57SC

Just two supercharged Type 57SC cars were built new, but most 57S owners wanted the additional power afforded by the blower. Therefore, most of the original Type 57S cars returned to Molsheim for the installation of a supercharger, pushing output from 175 hp (130 kW) to 200 hp (150 kW) and 120 mph.


Considered by many to be the most beautiful pre-war car, the Atlantic body Type 57S featured flowing coupe lines with a pronounced dorsal seam running front to back. It was based on the "Aérolithe" concept car of 1935. Like the Type 59 Grand Prix car, the Aérolithe used Elektron (magnesium) or Duralumin (aluminium) for its body panels, a combustible material. Therefore, the body panels were riveted externally, creating the signature seam.

The production Atlantics (just three were made) used plain aluminium, however. But the dorsal seams were retained for style, and have led to the car's present fame.

Dr. Peter Williamson won the 2004 Pebble Beach Car show with a SC57 Atlantic.

Type 57S45

A special Type 57 S45 used a 4743 cc engine like the Tank.

Type 57S Tank

Another Tank, this time based on the "surbaissé" Type 57S, won Le Mans again in 1939. Shortly afterwards, Jean Bugatti took the winning car for a test on the Molsheim-Strasbourg road. Swerving to avoid a bicyclist on the closed road, Bugatti crashed the car and died at age 30.

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