The Type 57 in its various forms was the mainstay of Bugatti’s production car output from 1934 until the outbreak of the war. As such it was the last road-going Bugatti and, many would say, the best. Much of the design was the work of Jean Bugatti and it shows what a great talent was lost when he was killed while testing a 57G racing car in 1939.
It also shows that, in Jean, Ettore Bugatti had a worthy successor. That was not to happen and Jean’s death also killed the automotive side of the company. On the other hand, few men leave behind a memorial as excellent as the immortal Type 57.
Its twin overhead camshaft straight-eight engine derived from Bugatti’s competition engines and, while new to this model, was so good that is was used in the Type 59, Ettore Bugatti’s last successful Grand Prix car. Producing 135 bhp, it drove through Bugatti’s delightful four-speed non-synchromesh gearbox, which is one of the main reasons for wanting to own a Bugatti. Another reason, of course is its handling, which is the apotheosis of cars with a vintage-style chassis.
Jean Bugatti was responsible for the exquisite styling of the cars fitted with factory coachwork – the chassis was available for outside coachbuilders, but none really improved on Jean Bugatti’s work. The car we offer has the four-seat, four-light Ventoux “Coach” coupe body which derives directly from Jean Bugatti’s Coupe Profilee on the Type 50. These bodies were factory options usually built by the coachmaker, Gangloff, and they are the variants which the factory was most likely to exhibit at contemporary motor shows.
The Type 57 was more refined than previous road-going Bugattis and part of Jean’s genius was to achieve that without suppressing the fire in every Bugatti’s soul.
As a 1935 car, this example is a 1st Series model with the engine mounted rigidly in a chassis frame which was lighter than the 2nd Series cars with flexibly mounted engines.
The car pictured here was invoiced on 25 April 1935. Fitted with a Jean Bugatti-styled Ventoux fixed-head coupe body, it was delivered to a French Bugatti agent named Groslambert. Its first owner was M. St. Martin, but little else is known of its history until 1946 when it was registered in London. It is thought that it was then in the possession of a diplomat at the French Embassy who had brought it over as a personal import.
It was next owned by a great Bugatti enthusiast, Kenneth Bear of East Horsely, Surrey, until his death in 1949. It then passed to E.P.W. Stebbing of Chelsea until 1953 when it was acquired by R.D. Dunster of Bushey, Herts who kept it for over twenty years.
Its present owner, a very distinguished person in motor racing circles, has owned it for a similar length of time. During its life the car has been well looked after and it is beautifully finished in black on red which many would say is the perfect color combination for its superbly balanced lines.
In January 1996 the car was inspected by independent Bugatti consultant David Sewell, who reported that it remained in all-round correct and original order.
All Bugattis are desirable, none more so than the Type 57 and this is an exceptional example of a great motor car. In recent years it has been invited to the Louis Vuitton Concours d’Elegance and that says everything that a potential owner needs to know. It is a wonderful car in wonderful condition.