Thursday, April 19, 2012

San Francisco Motorsports San Rafael - Ettore Bugatti's Personal Coupe

Ettore Bugatti's personal Type 57 C is a spectacular one-off Coupe Aerodynamique body that was styled by his son, Jean Bugatti, and built in-house.

The car was gifted to Le Patron by his workers as a very special birthday present. Owned by some of the most prominent collectors, the car has survived in remarkably original condition. It last changed hands in 2009 for an impressive $1.4 million.

Ettore Bugatti's birthday present was designed as a 'Coupe Aerodynamique' by his son, Jean Bugatti. (Photo: Wouter Melissen)
The Bugatti factory workers prepared the birthday present in 1938 for Ettore Bugatti, the one-off coupe penned by Jean Bugatti. The factory cherished Le Patron's personal Bugatti and carefully protected it during the World War II. Even after Ettore's death in 1947, the car remained in the hands of the works. Chassis 57335 received various upgrades in those years.

The unique Type 57 C eventually left the estate in the late 1950s, but since then has always been owned by great custodians.

We captured the unique Bugatti in full detail during Wednesday's Goodwood Press Preview, resulting in an exclusive, mouth-watering 18-shot gallery. In the coming days, we’ll have a full report from the press day and a preview of the two Goodwood events.

The Coupe was built on Bugatti's Type 57 chassis that became the basis for a full lineup of models. (Photo: Wouter Melissen)
Up until 1934, there was a separate Bugatti model for almost every body type. To cut costs, Ettore Bugatti decided to design one chassis that would be available with various body styles. Most of them were to be designed and constructed in the Bugatti factory.

In charge of the new model's design team was Ettore's son, Jean Bugatti. He was just 23 years old when the 'Type 57' project started in 1932.

Extremely expensive models such as the Type 41 Royale and the Type 50 had not been a success. With that in mind. Jean Bugatti designed a much smaller engine for the Type 57 than found in the Type 50 it replaced. The prototype engine displaced 2.8 liters, which was almost half that of Type 50's.

The new engine was equipped with double overhead camshafts, similar in construction to those found on the Type 50 and Type 59 racer. The production engine displaced just under 3.3 liters and produced 135 horsepower in naturally aspirated form.

The Bugatti's twin-cam straight-8 engine displaces just 3.3 liters. (Photo: Wouter Melissen)
In the first models, the engine was bolted directly to chassis, which added to the rigidity of the ladder frame. In 1936, a second series was introduced which featured a strengthened chassis because the engine was now mounted on rubber bushings.

When Ettore Bugatti saw the prototype's independent front suspension, he immediately ordered the installation of a solid axle, which was used in every other production Bugatti. Friction dampers were fitted on the first batch of cars; later models were fitted with telescopic shock absorbers.

At its launch, four body types were available for the Type 57. Three of these were named after mountain peaks in the Alps; the four-seater, two-door Ventoux, the four-door Galibier and the two-door Stelvio convertible. Unlike the other bodies, the Stelvio body type was designed and built by French coachbuilder Gangloff.

The fourth body was dubbed Atalante and was the two-seater coupe variant. With a price twice as high as that of the least expensive Type 57, the Atalante was the most exclusive body of the lot. Its characteristic features were the kidney-shaped side windows and the split rear window.

For the sportier clients, two improvements were added to the Type 57 lineup in 1936. First off was the addition of a supercharger that boosted the power to 160 horsepower. Secondly, a shorter and lower S variant was launched, equipped with more powerful versions of the naturally aspirated and supercharged engines.

The unique Bugatti Coupe remains remarkably original after careful stewardship since its construction. (Photo: Wouter Melissen)
Production of the S lasted just three years, but the “regular” Type 57 and 57 C lasted up until the outbreak of the Second World War. In total, 546 Type 57s and 96 57Cs were built.

Ettore's personal Bugatti has survived in stunning and highly original condition. It eventually entered the collection of Gary Kohs in the United States, who showed the one-off Type 57 C at such various events as the Pebble Beach and Meadow Brook concours d'elegance.

In 2009, Kohs offered the Coupé Aerodynamique at Gooding's Pebble Beach sale. It found a new owner in John O'Quinn for nearly $1.4 million. Unfortunately, he could only briefly enjoy his latest acquisition due to a fatal crash a few months later.

source: Wouter Melissen |

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