Lot 20

1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atalante

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$2,400,000 - $2,800,000





Car Highlights

Outstanding Example of the Ultimate-Specification Type 57

One of Three Supercharged Examples Originally Fitted with Alloy Atalante Bodywork

Delivered New to Paris Finished in Royal Blue over Havana Leather

Displayed on the Bugatti Stand at the 1948 Paris Motor Show

Well-Documented Provenance with Just One French Owner for Six Decades

Retains Matching-Numbers Engine, Coachwork, and Beautifully Preserved Upholstery

Technical Specs

3,245 CC DOHC Inline 8-Cylinder Engine

Single Stromberg UUR-2 Twin-Choke Carburetor

Roots-Type Supercharger

160 BHP at 5,000 RPM

4-Speed Manual Gearbox

4-Wheel Bugatti-Lockheed Hydraulic Drum Brakes

Front Solid-Axle Suspension with Semi-Elliptical Leaf Springs

Rear Live-Axle Suspension with Reversed Quarter-Elliptical Leaf Springs

Albert Cahen, Paris, France (acquired new in 1938)

Bernard Greyfie de Bellecombe, Paris, France (acquired circa 1952)

Roger Berthet, Paris, France (acquired from the above in 1953)

Christian Prevost-Marcilhacy, Paris, France (acquired from the above in 1953)

Jean Piger, Beaulieu, France (acquired from the above via Francis Mortarini in 1954)

Henri Chambon, Monte Carlo, Monaco (acquired from the above in 2014)

Private Collection (acquired from the above circa 2016)

Current Owner (acquired from the above)

Paris Motor Show, 1948

Chantilly Arts & Elegance, France, 2014

Introduced in 1934, the Type 57 is widely regarded as a masterpiece by the hand of Jean Bugatti. The successor to the popular Type 49, the new Bugatti was powered by a jewel-like 3.3-liter, twin-cam, straight-eight engine and represented the ultimate in automotive design. Like all Bugattis that preceded it, the Type 57 handled with finesse and possessed a delicate feel characteristic of these magnificent automobiles. Graceful, exquisitely made, and incredibly exclusive, the Type 57 was instantly recognizable as a conveyance of the highest quality and performance.

Bugatti continually refined the Type 57 throughout its production run, resulting in three distinct series of chassis. The second- and third-series chassis benefit from a strengthened rear-axle, cross-braced frame, rubber engine mounts, and upgraded brakes, among other improvements.

To further enhance performance, Bugatti introduced a supercharged version in 1937 – the Type 57C – the “C” standing for compresseur. Equipped with a Roots-type blower, magneto ignition, four-wheel hydraulic brakes, additional instrumentation, and other subtle upgrades, the 160 hp Type 57C was among the finest high-performance automobiles built prior to WWII, boasting a top speed well in excess of 100 mph, with commensurate roadholding and braking. Of the approximately 710 Type 57s built, just 96 left the factory in supercharged 57C form.

In typical Bugatti practice, the Type 57 was sold either as bare chassis, ready for outside coachwork, or supplied with one of several attractive body styles built at the Molsheim works. Styled by Jean Bugatti and Joseph Walter, these bodies include the Galibier sedan, the Ventoux coupe, the Stelvio cabriolet, and the magnificent Atalante, a striking two-door sports coupe named for a heroine of Greek mythology. In total, Bugatti built just 33 Atalante bodies for the Type 57 chassis; of these, only 16 were fashioned from lightweight aluminum alloy, while the remainder were rendered in much heavier steel.

The Type 57C presented here, chassis 57767, was originally supplied with engine no. 62C and Atalante body no. 31. As such, it is an exceptionally rare machine. Of the 33 Atalantes produced, it is one of only five built on the supercharged chassis and just three that combine the supercharged chassis with lightweight alloy bodywork, making this car the most desirable and best performing of all Type 57 Bugattis.

This unique Bugatti was originally ordered by Albert Cahen of Paris, the proprietor of a successful coffee roasting and distribution business. On the same day in September 1938, M. Cahen placed his order for this Atalante and another Type 57, a Ventoux, with local agent Bugatti Magasin d’Exposition, located at 116 Champs-Élysées. Factory records confirm that the Atalante was originally specified in Royal Blue with Havana leather and show the original price as 116,160 francs – an extraordinary sum for the time. Completed on December 7, 1938, chassis 57767 was then driven from Molsheim to Paris by M. Touissant, Ettore Bugatti’s personal chauffeur. M. Cahen collected his new supercharged Atalante on December 10 and registered it in Paris as “1916-RM1.”

According to an accompanying report by Bugatti historian Pierre-Yves Laugier, the Atalante was stored for the duration of WWII, likely in the Bugatti service garages in the Parisian suburb of Levallois-Perret. It reappeared next in October 1948 at the glamorous Paris Motor Show, where it was offered for sale on Bugatti’s stand.

Little is known of the car’s whereabouts from 1949 to 1952, as Paris registration archives from this period were destroyed. However, on September 11, 1952, the Atalante was re-registered as “2358-BM75” to its new owner, Bernard Greyfie de Bellecombe, who lived at 7 rue Beethoven in Paris. On June 3, 1953, the Bugatti was sold to another Parisian, Roger Berthet.

That October, 57767 was sold to Christian Prevost-Marcilhacy, a 22-year-old student and avid Bugatti enthusiast who had owned two Type 40s and had recently purchased the very first Type 55 Jean Bugatti Roadster, chassis 55201. His time with these cars was cut short when he was conscripted into military service in November 1953 and consigned 57767 for sale with Francis Mortarini, the well-known exotic car dealer in Neuilly-sur-Seine.

In August 1954, M. Mortarini sold the Type 57C Atalante to Jean Piger, whose residence was Château de Margeaix in the Haute-Loire region. Soon after acquiring the Bugatti, he re-registered the car as “999-X 43” and retained it for the next six decades. M. Piger was an employee of Schlumberger, the French energy firm, and used his Bugatti for many years, later retiring it to a heated barn on his property that also contained the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL and E-Type Jaguar that he had purchased new. During his ownership, the Bugatti was maintained by a Parisian firm called Hauswald. At some stage, he applied contrasting yellow flashes to the body, as commonly seen on other Atalantes.

When M. Piger finally decided to part with 57767 in 2014, it was sold to connoisseur collector Henri Chambon. After purchasing the Atalante sight unseen, M. Chambon entrusted it to respected Bugatti specialist Laurent Rondoni for a sympathetic mechanical recommissioning, with the goal of returning the Atalante to running order without disturbing its exceptional originality. During his ownership, the Type 57C was displayed at the exclusive Chantilly concours.

As offered today, 57767 remains in highly original, largely unrestored condition. The alloy-paneled Atalante coachwork, repainted black in the 1940s, has been fortunate to survive with its magnificent original Havana leather upholstery and carpets intact – even the delicate rear-window shade mechanism remains in place. The interior possesses a beautiful, inviting patina of age, and this is surely one of the only Atalantes that features such well-preserved factory finishes.

A recent inspection by noted American Bugatti specialist Scott Sargent of Sargent Metal Works confirmed that the body number is present in multiple locations – engraved in the wood structure, stamped on various aluminum panels and trim pieces, and written on the back of the dashboard. A few undisturbed sections of the car’s original Royal Blue paint are visible in areas and the original Molsheim data tag is still affixed to the elegant, machine-turned firewall. Mechanically, 57767 retains its original, matching-numbers engine (no. 62C) and Type 57C-specific components such as its supercharger, Scintilla magneto, and hydraulic brakes.

In 1938, as today, there is little that compares – both in terms of performance and style – to a Bugatti. As an original Type 57C possessing its matching-numbers engine and original-alloy Atalante coachwork, this is an exceptionally rare and immensely desirable example of what is undisputedly one of the greatest prewar automobiles.


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