Tim Scott ©2017, courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
Of all the factory-penned body styles built on Bugatti’s Type 57 chassis, perhaps none is as significant as the Atalante. The Type 57 Atalante is much rarer than the Stelvio, Ventoux or Galibier, and the design’s purposeful lines and proportions (credited to Jean Bugatti but perfected by in-house stylist Joseph Walter) provided sportier packaging for the 57’s advanced dual-overhead-cam engine and independently sprung chassis. Exceeded in cachet today only by the Type 57SC Atlantic, the Atalante is overwhelmingly regarded as the most sporting iteration of the celebrated Type 57. Chassis 57254 is one of the earliest Atalante examples built, being one of four prototypes of the rare body style. Bugatti originally designated this model as the “faux-cabriolet,” and this is how 57254’s body style is described in factory production records. Technically the third Atalante built, though bearing the second-lowest chassis number of the four, 57254 was assembled in the spring of 1935, ultimately one of just 10 examples built that year. Only three are still known to exist, of which this car is undoubtedly the most original. Currently displaying just 25,733 kilometers (15,989 miles) of actual use, this rare Bugatti has never left France, and accrued only 700 of those miles over the past 60 years. After a color change to two-tone black and red during a Mr. Dubreuil’s tenure, the car has now been repainted in its original monochromatic finish. Other than this alteration, the T57 is almost entirely original, including the original body panels stamped with the number 3 (representing the third Atalante produced). Also retaining the original matching-numbers engine and unmodified cable-actuated brakes, 57254 features its original door panels, seat back, and proper leather seat bottom in the original tan color, original gauges, and the extremely rare original factory-issued toolkit. This distinctive early Atalante is documented with factory paperwork, former owners’ correspondence, period articles and photographs, and a history with inspection notes by marque expert Pierre-Yves Laugier. Originally owned by the legendary Meo Costantini and ideally preserved by a single French family for 62 years, this extremely rare factory-bodied Atalante has been optimally prepared for future touring use or presentation at finer concours d’elegance the world over.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1935 Bugatti Type 57 Atalante Prototype
Years Produced:1935–39
Number Produced:23 (two Type 57, 17 Type 57S, two Type 57SC)
SCM Valuation:$4,500,000 (Type 57S Atalante)
Tune Up Cost:$6,000
Distributor Caps:$650
Chassis Number Location:Brass plate on left side firewall; on upper crankcase at engine rear
Engine Number Location:Brass plate on left side firewall; on upper crankcase at engine rear
Club Info:American Bugatti Club
Alternatives:1935 Alfa Romeo 8C2900, 1931 Bentley 4½ Liter, 1935 Delahaye 135S
Investment Grade:A

This car, Lot 136, sold for $3,385,670 (€3,024,000, €1=$1.12), including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Villa Erba auction in Cernobbio, Italy, on May 27, 2017.

Every other year, RM Sotheby’s comes to Lake Como and offers cars for sale in conjunction with the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este.

In my observation, 2017 was a bit of a challenging year here for the company, with an unaccustomed 62% sale rate. The last time RM Sotheby’s appeared on Lake Como in 2015, the sale rate was a stout 87% in a smaller sale — 33 sold of 38 on offer — as opposed to 41 sold on 66 offered this year.

Interestingly, here in Italy the big French cars did well, with this Bugatti the second highest lot of the sale, topped only by the 1937 Talbot-Lago T150C SS Teardrop Coupe at $3.761m.

This is still more evidence that today’s market is all about the individual car— and what it can do to meet the needs of a collector.

Still a blue-chip car

The Bugatti Type 57 remains a solid blue-chip collectible. While many still speak of generational shift and look for a waning interest in pre-World War II cars as the first generation of collectors pass away and their uninterested heirs collect the windfall benefit of the long-term ownership those vehicles enjoyed, it might be expected that prices would weaken.

That has not proven to be the case. A quick trip through the SCM Platinum Auction Database shows prices that have stayed buoyant for a decade, with extraordinary examples setting new market levels during that time.

A car with everything

In assessing its attributes of value, this car had it all.

One of the first of a small production of a very desirable model, almost insanely low documented mileage, a complete and very limited ownership history, no strange stories and quite original, having never been apart for restoration.

It was not a preservation car by current definition, as it had a color change and back — and parts of the interior refurbished. That refurbishment left the dashboard wood appearing a bit lifeless, but that’s preferable to concours-friendly mirror-like reflectivity given the overall presentation. The work on the headliner also seemed redone in a somewhat casual fashion, and the deep and shiny paint is also a bit thick, showing various stress cracks and some panel waviness.

I had the good fortune to have been able to spend some time with this car, before and during the preview — and a bit after the sale, and I can attest to the terrific presence it has.

I hope the new owner will leave it as it is, and not give it a super- glittery, fresh restoration. It has always been used and maintained as a driving car, and for me has its highest interest as just that.

Vintage Bugatti owners, like their Bentley cousins, are very partial to touring in their cars. Not just puttering around town but putting serious miles (or kilometers) climbing Alps and such. This would be an ideal car for such duties, even with the cable brakes.

A reasonable price for such a car

The weathered and worn — but largely original — Vanvooren Type 57 cabriolet sold at RM Sotheby’s 2017 Amelia Island auction for $7.7m.

In addition, a production Atalante sold for $2.4 million at Artcurial’s February 2017 Rétromobile sale in Paris. With both of those recent sales in mind, the price paid for our subject car was very reasonable for a car with such a compelling history.

It is also interesting to contrast this result with the $8.7 million a spectacularly restored original-engine Type 57SC Atalante brought at Gooding & Company Pebble Beach in August 2013.

The market for Type 57 Bugattis seems to favor later cars, especially hydraulic-brake examples and, of course, the “S” and “SC” high-performance models. That our subject car was a prototype actually may have hurt value a bit, as the later Atalantes were built on the Surbaissé chassis.

At just under the low estimate of $3.134 million, I think this car was a very good buy. This car should prove to be a continued good investment as the new owner enjoys and maintains it. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)

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