1938 Bugatti T57SC Atlantic Coupe
Chassis No. 57591
Engine No. 57591
To build the forty-two Type 57S sports cars, Bugatti created a shorter and lower Type 57 chassis and fitted it with De Ram shock absorbers, split front axle, dry sump lubrication, higher compression pistons, distinctive 'V' radiator, and other modifications. The later addition by the factory of superchargers led to the Type 57SC designation.
For the T57SC Atlantic coupe, Jean Bugatti's goal was to design the ultimate high-speed grand touring car. The concept was for the body to be built from Elektron, an aluminum-magnesium alloy that was difficult to work with. Of the four Atlantic Coupes built originally, we have seen the remaining three and all are made from aluminum. Apparently, though no longer desired as a construction method, Jean Bugatti did not give up on the riveted flange design, hence the spines along the center of the body and fenders.
The challenge when restoring truly rare classics such as this Bugatti is to show restraint. The easiest method would be to replace everything, from the structural woodwork to the aluminum skin. The real skill and experience shows when the restorers are capable of disassembling, repairing, and rebuilding the car using the original components. Only in selected areas and only as absolutely necessary were new replacement parts created.
Keeping the long-term preservation of the car in mind, we removed all of the fifty-year-old rivets because their flange faces were beginning to corrode. The aluminum skin was treated to arrest the corrosion, and the newly reproduced aluminum rivets were installed individually, by hand, with a custom-made bucking tool.
The Atlantic had been serviced and repainted by previous owners but had never been fully restored, thus we were able to discover many of the construction details produced by the original builders. For instance, the camshaft boxes on Bugatti engines were finished with a decorative scraping in several distinctive patterns. The Atlantic's engine had suffered 'restoration damage' years before when all of its aluminum parts were highly polished, disguising the original pattern. We lightly block sanded the surfaces, which revealed enough of the scraping grid for us to duplicate.
This attention to detail has led to multiple honors and world-wide recognitions since the car was judged Best of Show at the 1990 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Years after the restoration was completed, the craftsmanship in this exquisite car is still awe-inspiring, as demonstrated at the Art of the Automobile exhibit at the Paris Musée des Arts Décoratifs in the spring of 2011 and most recently by the Best of Show award at the 2013 Villa d'Este Concorso d'Eleganza.