The success of the road-going Type 57 was crucial for Bugatti because it was their road car division who paid for their racing activities—the real passion of the French brand. The racing division in turn passed on competition-born innovations onto the road cars.
Their findings were not always in the area of performance—some were about comfort too. The Type 38, 40, 44, 49 and 50 were refined to provide Ettore Bugatti’s rich customers with elegant sports cars that would not disturb ladies’ hairstyles even at speed. The Types 30 to 50 models were all fitted with the Type 35’s eight-cylinder engine with adopted features like cable-controlled brakes as well as front and rear rigid axles.
From 1933, work began on a new model in Molsheim—the Type 57. Developed in parallel with the new race intended Type 59, they shared a common engine. At the time of the 57, both the factory and new projects were placed in the hands of Jean Bugatti, son of Ettore, who was in Paris working on his railcar. The prototype started life with independent front suspension, but “Le Patron”, as Ettore Bugatti was known did not like the idea, and replaced it with a rigid axle. “A Bugatti must have a Bugatti axle,” he is reported to have said.
The 3.3 litre eight cylinder in-line engine has a similar architecture to the Type 50, with its two overhead camshafts. It had a very respectable 135 horsepower and delivered it very smoothly.
As the perfect partner for the bold lines of the Type 57, its new eight cylinder engine was a brand new design, with five crankshaft supports and two overhead camshafts. The block, typically moulded as a single piece, was designed with hemispheric combustion chambers. The gearbox was also an evolved design. It had synchronization for second, third and fourth gears, and instead of being separated from the engine, as was usual, the transmission was mounted directly to it via a simple clutch enclosure. The simplicity of the clutch was somewhat of a deviation for Bugatti who often opted for multi-disc clutches.
Boasting chassis number 57411, engine number 331 and detailed in cream and dark blue, the imposing Bugatti Type 57 in the Museu do Caramulo has a Stelvio body stamped with the signature of the Franco-Swiss bodybuilder Gangloff—one of the most respected Bugatti body makers. Founded in 1903 by Georges Gangloff, the company gained its reputation before World War II, working on rolling chassis’ supplied by the likes of Rolls-Royce, Delage, Ansaldo, Hispano-Suiza, Isotta-Fraschini, Mercedes-Benz and Minerva. Given the relative proximity between the Gangloff factory in the French city of Colmar and Molsheim, Bugatti’s historic headquarters, the wagon builder was called on several times to help with the manufacture of Ettore’s models.
For customers who chose the Type 57, four different types of bodywork were available from the factory. They were the four-seat coupe “Ventoux”, the four-seat saloon “Galibier”, the “Atalante” two-seater and the “Stelvio” cabriolet. The first three were by the designer Joseph Walter. But in the case of the last, most were manufactured by Gangloff, one of Ettore’s favourite partners because of their artisanal excellence—a quality spectacularly present in the model exhibited here in the Museu do Caramulo.