The Type 57S (S for sport) Bugatti together with the preceding Type 55 model are the two ultimate and most sought after sporting Bugattis of the '30s, with only about forty examples of each being built. While the Type 55 was closely related to the Type 51 GP with roller-bearing crankshaft and supercharger, the Type 57S derived from the proven Type 57 touring model and proved to be a far more civilized, yet equally high-performance, road-going sports car. The Type 57S was introduced at the Paris Motor Show in 1936, featuring a shorter chassis with the rear axle passing through the chassis rails for a lower stance, a distinctive V-shaped radiator and a 180 hp dry sump version of the Type 57's 3.3-liter straight-eight dual overhead camshaft engine. The popular press of the day exclaimed the virtues of the superb road-holding and powerful brakes with 110+ mph performance. With a price almost twice that of the standard model, sales were inevitably modest and production continued only until early 1938 by which time just forty-two examples of both Type 57S and 57SC (supercharged, 200+ hp) had been produced. This example, chassis number 57482, fitted with engine number 13S, was invoiced by the factory on May 14, 1937. Nothing further is known of its history until after WWII. By 1955, it had arrived in the US where it was owned by Charles Chayne, the Engineering Vice President of General Motors, also at one time, the owner of the Bugatti Royale chassis 41121 (Dr. Josef Fuchs' cabriolet by Wienberger). Chayne had GM update and restore his classic cars and this Type 57S was the recipient of a prototype of the aluminum "B-O-P" 215 ci engine ultimately to power the compact Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile F85 and Pontiac LeMans before being licensed to British Leyland where they still make Range Rovers today. GM's shop's work is of the highest standard and includes a three-speed Hydramatic transmission with its control cleverly incorporated into the original Bugatti ignition advance lever on the dash, A/C, power steering, mono-leaf springs and hydraulic brakes. The original engine number 13S now survives in the South of France in a Bugatti replica framed Type 57S. Overton A. ("Bunny") Phillips acquired 57482 in 1975 as a present for his wife who used it sparingly until her death in 1979 and essentially has been unused since. This spectacular 57S drophead must rank as one of the finest yet to be restored pre-war sports cars. It is presented here with spare 57/57SC engine parts including an upper SC crankcase (numbered 57561) and an SC blower. It is one of only a handful of genuine open 57S and SC cars in existence today.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1937 Bugatti Type 57 S
Years Produced:1936-1938
Number Produced:approx. 42 T-57S and SC
Original List Price:$3,659 chassis only
Tune Up Cost:$300-$400 (Type 57S)
Distributor Caps:None (Type 57S)
Chassis Number Location:firewall brass plate, and on left rear engine leg
Engine Number Location:left rear engine leg
Club Info:American Bugatti Club, 4484 Howe Hill Road, Camden, ME 04843
Alternatives:Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B, Duesenberg SJ, Lagonda V12

The car pictured sold at Christie’s auction at Pebble Beach on August 29, 1999, for $1,267,500 including commission. Among the four Bunny Phillips Bugattis sold here, this is the only example that is remotely called “running and driving.” The years this car spent in Phillips’ barn clearly show and it needs “everything” before being driven. Its unique history also confirms its value and it is unlikely to be worth more than this price, even with its original engine.
Presented in the catalog as a Molsheim “Atalante” cabriolet, American Bugatti Club Registrar Andre Rheault, advises that a coterie of Bugattist have concluded the coachwork is actually by Van Vooren. If it were ugly, its origin would be material, but among the few originally open-bodied Type 57S and SC chassis, this example is exceptionally handsome and characteristic of Bugatti. Whether Molsheim, Gangloff, Van Vooren, Graber or otherwise, its coachbuilder is of little more than academic interest.
As with many other big-buck motorcars it’s likely 57482 will someday be reunited with its original engine (as was the Alfa 2.9 ten years ago also sold this day at Christie’s for $4.1 million) and will, pristine and spotless, grace the lawns at Pebble Beach with its proud new owner. This will cost 57482 its singular history conferred by Charles Chayne and the GM prototype shops, but will probably enhance its value, even beyond the substantial investment required.
It’s a beautiful car with a great history, no matter what the origin of the eight cylinders under the hood.
(Photos and data courtesy of auction company.)

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