Its inline eight-cylinder engine was derived from the competition-made Type 59. The engine was not only smooth but was also considered very high performance for the time. Very much favoured by Ettore Bugatti, the front and rear suspension remained rigid on the Type 57.
In 1936, Bugatti launched the 57C which was fitted with a low-pressure Roots compressor, adding another 20 horsepower to the extraordinary engine. Hydraulic brakes were also introduced in 1938, making the 57C probably the best road-going Bugatti at the time. The Atalante was specially designed for long haul travel, and many wealthy families crisscrossed Europe in them at leisure between the two world wars —a very fashionable habit during that period.
Production ended in 1939 because of World War II, never to be resumed, making the Type 57 the fifth and last Bugatti to leave Molsheim—the Alsace factory where Ettore Bugatti was “Le Patron”. Between 1936 and 1940, Bugatti produced 82 units of a model based on the Type 57. Its sole aim was to be the world’s fasted touring car—something Ettore Bugatti was very eager to boast. That model, named the Type 57 Galibier, sporting four doors and four seats, achieved the record speed of 195 km/h in the hands of Robert Benoist on May 27, 1939.
The Type 57 Atalante in the Museu do Caramulo has a very unique aluminum bodywork. It was designed by Casa Vanvooren at the request of buyer Chaussivert, who wished to have a three-seater elongated Atalante. Measuring 5.37 meters between bumpers, it is 37 cm longer than the standard model.
The success of that first long body inspired Prandiéres, owner of the Vanvooren establishment to create two more, this time as convertibles. One of them was famously given to the Shah of Persia, Reza Palevi as a wedding gift in March of 1939 by no less than the French government. That car, with chassis number 57 808, finds itself today in the United States as part of the Ken Behring collection. The second convertible, with chassis number 57 749 is also in the United States, owned by R. Morgan.
Chaussivert sold his long body Bugatti In February of 1940, to the well-known sportsman from Porto, Alfredo Marinho, who, in turn, gave it to Bento de Amorim in 1948. João de Lacerda acquired it for the museum in November of 1975 after a complete rebuild.
The Bugatti has had a busy life since in competitions both in Portugal and abroad, having clocked more than 60,000 km on the roads of Europe—from Sweden to England, Austria and Italy.
Accolades for this very rare Bugatti include the first Elegance Award given in Montreux 1978, then in the Netherlands at Valkenburg in 1980 and Bagatelle Paris 1993. It was also selected by the Automobile Club of France to be among the 50 cars representing French industry at the official opening of the Channel Tunnel on 7 May 1994.