Engines

57SC Atlantic THE HOLY GRAIL OF MOTOR CARS

The Bugatti dynasty is rightly famous for the great artistic contribution it has made to the world. The grandfather, Carlo, made furniture unique in style; one son, Rembrandt, was a renowned sculptor and another, Ettore, founded the well-known automobile brand; and the grandson, Jean, designed the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, one of the most refined cars in history.

Its fascinating and unmistakable profile, its rarity (only two remain in existence today) and its unequalled value have turned it into the Holy Grail of the world of the motor vehicle.

The car, which was designed in 1936, was a special version of the legendary Type 57, that too the brainchild of Jean Bugatti.

Apart from its extremely audacious profile and performance, exceptional for its times, the car is distinctive on account of the riveted ‘fin’ which runs along part of it.

This peculiarity originated in the Aérolithe, a prototype designed some years earlier by Jean Bugatti. The shell of this vehicle was made with Elektron, an extremely light magnesium alloy used in the aeronautics industry. Elektron, however, was highly inflammable and impossible to weld. Hence the idea of rivets.

The Aérolithe prototype shared many features with the 57SC Atlantic but the main difference was that the latter was made of aluminium. Since this could be welded, the riveted fin lost its purpose. Luckily Jean Bugatti kept it for purely aesthetic reasons, thereby making it one of the distinctive characteristics of this car. 

Production of the 57SC Atlantic continued until 1938. Just four vehicles were produced: one disappeared shortly after the Second World War; another was seriously damaged in a train accident; and the other two have survived down to our times.

The example shown in the photographic gallery was produced for Victor Rothschild, a scion of that important family. Subsequently it passed from one owner to another until purchased by its current proprietor, Peter W. Mullin. Thanks to him the vehicle is now in permanent exhibition at the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, California.

Molsheim, June 2018