One car in particular, the coupe Type 57 SC Atlantic, that was produced a mere four times stands out. It’s a medley of power, sportiness, luxury and elegance – the design of a century and one of the most valuable vehicles in the world. About eighty years ago the Atlantic set the base for the current Bugatti hyper super sports cars Chiron, Chiron Sport and Divo¹.
The Type 57 SC Atlantic is one of the models that has the French company looking back with great pride and awe, referring to it in the company’s current hyper sports car. “Ettore and Jean Bugatti were perfectionists and pioneers in the quest for superior power-to-weight ratio and sophisticated refinement. That can be seen in every model, the Atlantic in particular. We are continuing this tradition”, says Bugatti President Stephan Winkelmann. "It has always been our aspiration to approach perfection as much as humanly possible, in the spirit of Ettore Bugatti. As a French luxury brand, we owe it to our tradition and to our customers,” explains Stephan Winkelmann.
Bugatti is a Brand of Revolutionary Concepts
Bugatti was and remains a brand whose vehicles evolved from revolutionary technical concepts and are unrivalled in luxury and exceptional design. Modern, sleek lines and stylistic elegance make up the designs of Bugatti. The performance, speed and elaborate processing can be found once again in the current hyper sports car models of the Bugatti in the French headquarters in Molsheim.
The Type 35 was what Bugatti presented in 1924 as the racing car that was powerful, fast and above all, beautiful. The for-those-days wide track and long, tapering tail gives it a sporty look even for today’s standards. Up until the mid-1930s, the Type 35 won nearly 2000 races, making it the most successful racing car of all time.
However, Bugatti did not only build extremely sporty vehicles, but also highly exclusive ones. The Type 41 Royale to this day ranks among the most luxurious and comfortable cars in the world. His handcrafted bodies, some by Jean Bugatti, were and still remain the most beautiful brass works. Only six models were created between 1928 and 1933; each a unique design masterpiece with a 12.8 litre eight-cylinder in-line engine and a power output of 300 hp.
It was with the Type 57 SC Atlantic that from 1936 onwards Jean Bugatti created the perfect combination of sports car and luxury car. When it comes to driving, it is an eight-cylinder in-line engine, supercharged up to 200 hp, which powered the coupe to a top speed of mor than 200 km/h. It was a sports car ahead of its time with the comfort of a Grand Tourisme, unique in design performance and workmanship. A remarkable feature is the comb that runs vertically from the hinge of the divisible bonnet in the rear end and is decorated by rivets. In the prototype model the body was made of electron, a magnesium-aluminium alloy that couldn’t be welded. This is the reason behind the riveting of the body panels leading to the creation of such unique lines. It is nothing short of a design manifesto, winning several awards in international design competitions for historical automobiles such as the California Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California.
Like Ettore, Jean Bugatti drew inspiration from architecture, sculpture and furniture in his automotive artistry. For the Bugattis, their vehicles were more than mere means of transportation. Each delivered car was a work of art on wheels.
The Design Manifesto by Jean Bugatti
Since its founding on 1909, design and art have played major roles at Bugatti. Ettore Bugatti comes from a Milanese family of artists. His grandfather, Giovanni Luigi, was an established sculptor. His father, Carlo, crafted ornate pieces of furniture as well as designing attire and room facilities. His brother, Rembrandt, carved extraordinary and detailed sculptures.
Ettore Bugatti was also expected to become a creative artist, but opted for technical constructions. As a young man at the Milan Art Academy, he studied the profession of sculpting but chose to do an apprenticeship with a bicycle manufacturer, where he, not too long after, went on to design a motorised tricycle. In his creations the Bugatti’s origin can be easily depicted. Each of his technical products beam with artistry. Even the engines and attachments designed by him portrayed stunning aesthetics, all while he ensured lightweight construction and power.
Technique with Aesthetic Appeal
All Bugatti models in general – and the Types 41 Royale and 57 SC Atlantic in particular – are proof that machines can demonstrate aesthetic appeal. The technical beauty and the quality of the used materials broke the standard status quo. Even the eight-cylinder engine that lay hidden under the long bonnet, is in no way inferior in terms of aesthetics and form.
“The vehicles produced in weeks of handcraft are objets d’art on wheels. Perfectly shaped and masterfully crafted with a defined line – this is especially true for the Atlantic”, says Achim Anscheidt, chief designer at Bugatti. In this aspect they do not differ from the current hyper sports cars Chiron, Chiron Sport and Divo. “Each element of the vehicle not only is easy on the eye, but also has a practical function behind it. This becomes apparent, for instance, on the famous Bugatti line; the C-shape along the B-pillar” Achim Anscheidt goes on to explain. This is also an homage to Ettore Bugatti whose signature the same shape.
Today, the C-line catches air for combustion and cooling of the hyper sports car motor; an extraordinary engine and the heart of the current models. Its 16-cylinder engine draws 1103 kW / 1,500 hp out of an 8-litre displacement and 4 turbochargers, and provides 1,600 Newton meters of torque. From 0 to 100 km/h, the hyper sports cars accelerates in 2.4 seconds, to 200 km/h in 6.1 seconds and to 300 km/h in 13.1 seconds.
No Compromise on Material Selection
The outer appearance and form follows the function of the invisible, of an extremely powerful engine with the highest precision in craftsmanship. Ettore Bugatti’s goal was to make each part aesthetically and technically perfect, to create a defined line and to achieve an appearance second to none in terms of beauty. “Unlike a mass-produced car, a Bugatti must always be an icon in the automotive industry and be perceived as a monumental car with authenticity in 50 years to come and beyond”, explains Stephan Winkelmann. This includes even the cooling grill. For decades Ettore Bugatti focused on refining that grill. The Bugatti horseshoe cooler, however, is not based on horseshoes but on an egg. For Carlo Bugatti, Ettore’s father, what his son had opted for the front of his vehicles was the perfect shape.
Bugatti never made compromises when it came to selecting the materials. This has not changed to this day. Only fine and exquisite materials find their way in and on the vehicle. It is in the French studio in Molsheim that a car is assembled, controlled and tested during weeks of manual effort. Bugatti is the brand that combines the artistic approach with superior technical innovations from the world of sports. “Our customers experience this in the elaborate workmanship, sheer power and the comfort it provides”, says Stephan Winkelmann. It does not matter from which decade a Bugatti is.