Bugatti Type 57C Drophead Coupe

It’s ironic that Ettore Bugatti’s most successful Le Mans car was intended as a Grand Routier, not an out-and-out sports car. Designed by his son Jean, the Type 57 used the eight-cylinder twin-cam engine of the Type 49 but with timing gears rather than chains. The prototype car had transverse-spring independent front suspension, but Le Patron demanded a return to the traditional beam axle for production cars. The model was introduced in 1934 and became the sole offering in 1936 when its siblings were discontinued. In an uncharacteristic bow to modernity, hydraulic brakes were ushered in during 1938.

A lowered chassis model, Type 57S, was available, and both could be had with a Roots-type supercharger, in which case a “C” suffix was used. So-called “Tank” versions of the 57C, named for their ungainly militaristic bodies, won the French Grand Prix in 1936 and Le Mans in 1937 and 1939. In all, 684 Type 57s were built, just 96 of them 57Cs.

As researched by French Bugatti historian Pierre-Yves Laugier, chassis 57809 was ordered on December 22, 1938 by M. Gerand Ankerman from Paris. The chassis was dispatched to Letourneur & Marchand in February 1939. It had been registered in Paris before being sent to the coachbuilder. The completed car was delivered on April 6th, bearing the handsome three-position drophead coupe body, coachbuilder’s number 2957. The last drophead four-seater completed by the coachbuilder in 1939, it had special chromed Cibie headlamps, a large STOP lamp at the rear and a central lamp in front. Painted black, it had black leather upholstery and a cream top. All four wheels had plain discs, the rears behind fender skirts. Delivered price was 133,455 FF (then equivalent to $3,350). The original engine number was 952C.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in January of 2011 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona.

160 bhp, 3,257 cc supercharged ohc inline eight-cylinder engine, four-speed Cotal preselector transmission, solid front axle and live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 130"

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel

Gallery: Bugatti Type 57C Drophead Coupe