1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic
One of the most bizarre, elusive and expensive of cars is the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic. With its low stance, powerful engine, lightweight construction, 123 mph (200 kph) top speed and influential teardrop body, many believe this is the ultimate Bugatti and the first supercar ever made.
Ettore’s son, Jean Bugatti, who played a large role in the development of the Type 57 series, personally styled the Atlantic. Jean’s lines draw an interesting mix of aircraft style together with the avant-garde tear-drop shape. Design highlights include a heavily raked windscreen, riveted fins and kidney-shaped doors with matching side windows.
Momentum behind the style was structured by a design concept of incorporating Electron, an alloy of magnesium and aluminum from IG Farben of Germany, in the design. Though it is strong, and up to one third the weight of aluminum, it is also highly flammable thus welding was not possible. This meant that each panel had to be riveted into place which posed a particular problem for traditional design. Therefore, Jean incorporated the rivet’s aesthetic into the wings of the car and created a telling combination of function and form.
As the first car to bear fins, the silver Electron Aerolithe Prototype debuted as a possible sport model of the Type 57 series at the 1935 Paris Motor Show. As much of a sensation as the car must have been, it only drew three orders. By the time production commenced in 1936, standard aluminum was chosen over the flammable electron and the specially lowered Type 57S chassis, with its smaller, V-shaped radiator was used.
The engineering on these Atlantics was similar to the other Type 57s which formed a basis for Bugatti competition and grand touring. Chassis arrangements included Rudge Witworth wire wheels, complex De Rams shocks absorbers, fifteen inch drum brakes and a strong, uncluttered chassis. The Type 57SC chassis was the combination of the supercharged 57C engine with the low and short 57S chassis used for racing.