1935 BUGATTI TYPE 57 CABRIOLET
COACHWORK BY GRABER
Chassis No. 57394
Engine No. 541
Silver and plum with tan leather interior
Engine: eight cylinders in-line, twin overhead camshafts, 3,257cc. giving c.140bhp at 4,500rpm; Gearbox: integral constant-mesh 4-speed manual and reverse; Suspension: leaf springs front and rear to beam front and live rear axle; Brakes: four wheel drum. Right hand drive.
Although Ettore Bugatti is perhaps best known for his racing cars, the Type 35, 51 and 59 Grand Prix models, of the six thousand or so cars produced at the Bugatti Molsheim factory, the majority were touring cars with a sporting flavor. None is more distinguished than the Type 57, 3.3 litre model that was produced from 1934 to 1939. The Bugatti philosophy of producing a touring car that was attractive to drive with excellent steering and brakes went back to his original 1910 car, but with the ever-increasing demand for greater performance, the logical move was to adapt the Grand Prix engines into road cars. This principle was ably demonstrated by the Type 43 and Type 55 Super Sport models which incorporated the Type 35 and Type 51 Grand Prix engines.
By 1933 Ettore's son, Jean Bugatti, was exercising considerable influence on future model policy and he contrived to build a single production engine model that would carry a variety of body styles. By the end of that year, a new Type 59 Grand Prix car and a prototype Type 57 Touring car had emerged - both using the same engine design that had been developed from the Type 51 Twin Overhead Camshaft race engine, but with increased capacity to 3.3 litres.
The Grand Prix model was probably the finest looking car of all time but lacked outright success due to the dominance, at that time, of Mercedes-Benz, where as the Type 57 soon established itself as the most popular of all Bugattis. The press of the time exclaimed the virtues of the superb roadholding and powerful brakes coupled to 100mph performance. The policy decision to standardize on Bugatti-built coachwork was an important factor in the sales success, although an individual chassis was available for specialized coachwork such as the model on offer here today.
This Type 57 carries very rare coachwork by Graber of Switzerland and was the first body they made for this model, completed in May 1935. It is believed that the first owner was Mr. Graber himself and that this car was exhibited at the Geneva Motor Show in 1935. The car has some interesting features for an early model, it was sent back to the factory to have the later soft mounted engine mounts fitted. We are also told that Mr. Graber requested that the car should have hydraulic brakes and that Ettore Bugatti refused to do this, Mr. Graber (who was also an engineer and race car driver) therefore did the conversion himself! (By late 1938 The Bugatti factory did introduce hydraulic brakes). Its original color scheme was red and beige, the chrome wire wheels were normally only available for the supercharged cars but being a show car they are correct. The first private owner in Switzerland was a Dr. Kalbern. Much of this early history was supplied to Dr. Riddell in a letter from Mr. Graber, sadly this letter was lost many years ago and it is thought may have been thrown out inadvertently. Probably in the late 1950s the car came to the USA and around 1962 the then current owner Michael Vernon suffered a blown up engine. He laid the car up for many years until Dr. Riddell purchased the car in 1972. He then commissioned a complete nut and bolt rebuild for this handsome Bugatti. Rather than attempting to repair the damaged engine a replacement engine (from chassis 57733) was fully rebuilt by Bunny Phillips who also rebuilt all the running gear and fitted a new radiator core and gas tank. Bodywork and paint were undertaken by Andy Alvarez and the fine top and upholstery work was done by Thornton of Santa Anna. When the work was completed this superb car won First in Class at Pebble Beach in 1975, a National Ist in the Classic Car Club of America followed by both Senior and Senior Emeritus awards.
While the restoration has mellowed a little this car is still in an outstanding clean condition and has probably driven less than 2,000 miles since the restoration. Fine and interesting details include Scintilla rear light/indicators, Marschal lights, trafficators (which work) and the chrome wire wheels and Dunlop tires. As with all the cars in this collection this rare and desirable Type 57 is on the button, fully sorted and ready to be driven. With the top down not only can open air motoring be enjoyed but also the wonderful exhaust note!