Bugatti Type 57C Faux Cabriolet Charmaine
The Type 57 Bugatti, built from 1934 to 1939, was the most sophisticated and luxurious roadgoing model the celebrated French sports car company produced prior to World War II. Designed to compete with Delahaye and Delage, the Type 57’s development was heavily influenced by Jean Bugatti, son of “Le Patron” Ettore Bugatti and a brilliant design talent in his own right.
It was powered by a 3.3-liter, dual overhead camshaft straight 8 and built on two different high-performance chassis, one a standard version, and a lower one called the 57S (Sport). Eschewing hydraulics, Bugatti still persisted with his own highly-sophisticated, cable-actuated mechanical brakes. Available normally aspirated at first, and later with an optional Roots-type supercharger (57C) that ran at engine speeds and developed 3-to-4-psi boost, the Type 57 benefited from the finest factory coachwork, and was popular with coachbuilders.
Offered from late 1936 until the end of 1938, Series II Type 57s had rubber-mounted (as opposed to solid-mounted) engines, a reinforced chassis, a redesigned crankcase, and the camshafts and engine timing were up-rated. As 1939 began, Type 57s were built to Series III specifications with Lockheed-Bugatti hydraulic brakes and twin master cylinders. Alliquant interdependent hydraulic shock absorbers replaced the previous Hartford friction dampers and the self-adjusting De Ram units fitted to low-chassis 57S models.
The supercharged Type 57C engine developed 200 to 220 brake horsepower in its final form, and models with lighter coachwork could top 130 miles per hour, an extraordinary road performance for that era. In the late 1930s, the noted British racing driver and land speed record-setter, Sir Malcolm Campbell, called the Type 57, “...the best all-around super-sports car available” and insisted, “it is a car in a class by itself.”
This Type 57C, chassis no. 57787, was ordered by William P. Harges, a wealthy American living in England. A supercharged model, it was fitted with an elegant, one-of-a-kind custom body by British coachbuilders, James Young of Bromley, that was crafted to Rolls-Royce standards. It was delivered to Mr. Harges in March 1939 by the London Bugatti agent, Jack Barclay Ltd. This car was one of the last Bugattis to leave France before the Germans entered Paris.
A Faux Cabriolet (the roof does not fold), this Bugatti’s many intriguing features include a sliding sunroof, very thin windshield pillars for better visibility and more graceful lines, landau irons, dual enclosed side mounts (one is simulated and it contains a ‘hidden’ toolbox), illuminated vanities and folding picnic trays for the rear passengers, and a recessed tool tray. The rear seats resemble armchairs in a posh British men’s club, and the three-quarter top affords considerable privacy for rear seat occupants. The Bugatti’s chromed wire wheels accent its brilliant black finish. Chassis no. 57787 was given British registration number FXC66, which corresponds with its supercharged engine number: C66, and it retains those original British plates.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in March of 2009 at the The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida and in October of 2009 at the Battersea Evolution, London.
200bhp, supercharged 3.3-liter dual overhead cam inline eight-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, solid axle front suspension with twin transverse leaf springs, solid rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, Alliquant telescopic shock absorbers, Bugatti-Lockheed four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 130".
Source: RM Auctions