1938 BUGATTI TYPE 57C CONVERTIBLE
COACHWORK BY GANGLOFF OF COLMAR
Chassis No. 57745
Engine No. 63C
Dark green with green interior
Engine: straight eight, twin overhead camshafts, sixteen valves, Roots-type supercharger with twin-choke updraft Stromberg UUR2 carburetor, coil ignition, 3257cc., 160bhp at 5000rpm; Gearbox: four speed manual; Suspension: beam front axle with half-elliptic springs, live axle with reversed quarter-elliptic springs; Brakes: four wheel drums. Right hand drive.
The Type 57 was the last model to be produced in significant numbers by the original Bugatti company, over 700 examples of all versions being built during the five and a half years between its introduction in early 1934 and the outbreak of war in September 1939. The original prototype designed in 1932 displayed several features which were not destined to survive the development period through to production, notably independent front suspension, a 2.8-litre engine, a particularly un-Bugatti-like radiator shell and alloy road wheels.
The production model reverted to a classic beam front axle mounted beneath an equally classic development of the traditional Bugatti radiator and the new five main bearing engine was increased in capacity to 3.3 litres, the same as the preceeding single overhead camshaft, but nine main bearing Type 49 unit. However, for the first time on a Bugatti the camshaft drive was by a train of gears at the rear of the power unit, in contrast to the shaft drive which passes up the centre of the Type 49 engine. This impressive new engine was fitted to a heavier and longer wheelbase, but still simple ladder design chassis frame.
Instead of the previous out-dated concept of a separate centrally mounted gearbox with direct-meshing straight-cut gears, the new design featured helical gears throughout with dog engagement in a casing attached to the engine by conventional bell-housing containing a single plate clutch. The rear axle unit, however, was closely related to earlier models, its basic design dating back to the Type 30 of 1922.
From the outset Bugatti offered their clientele a range of in-house manufactured coachwork, or alternatively new chassis could be supplied to the coachbuilder of one's choice. The standard range comprised the Galibier four-door coach, the Ventoux two-door sports saloon and the Stelvio drophead coupe, later to be joined by the Atalante two-seat fixed head coupe. Local coachbuilders Gangloff of Colmar liaised closely with the Bugatti factory and there is frequent confusion between the products of the two companies.
Some 225 examples of the Type 57 had sold by October 1936, and at that month's Paris Salon an extensively modified range was displayed. The Series II version of the standard model featured an improved, flexibly mounted engine in a strengthened cross-braced chassis frame, better brakes, a stronger rear axle, exotic de Ram shock absorbers all round and changed instrumentation. A supercharged Type 57C version was announced at the same time, together with the expensive new Type 57S sports car which featured a tuned development of the same engine in a far lower and shorter chassis frame. Only 42 Type 57S models were to be built.
The last version of the Type 57 was the Series III introduced for the 1939 model year. By this time about 350 Series II models, including some 50 examples of the supercharged Type 57C version, had been produced, and the various bodywork styles offered by the factory had been progressively developed over the years. The principal improvements on the Series III model were the adoption of Lockheed-based hydraulic brakes to replace the previous cable system and Newton telescopic shock absorbers to replace the expensive de Ram units. By the end of production in September 1939, the Type 57C had virtually supplanted the unsupercharged Type 57 and become the standard production model.
This particular Type 57C, Chassis No. 57745 fitted with Engine No. 63C, was invoiced as a chassis by the factory on 14th November 1938 for delivery to Gangloff, who constructed particularly elegant four-seat convertible coachwork upon it. According to Hugh Conway's 1962 register, the car, which was then already owned by Bunny Phillips, had previously been owned by de Chassagne. More recent American Bugatti Club registers state that Frenchman de Chassagne was the original owner and had taken delivery of his car from the factory, and that it had subsequently been imported to the USA at some unspecified date by Viviano Corradini. On the other hand, Type 57 authority Barrie Price in his book 57 - The Last French Bugatti indicates that the original owner was named Blanchet.
Whether de Chassagne was in any way related to the veteran French racing motorist Jean Chassagne, who had been one of the facotry drivers of the Type 35 Bugattis on their debut appearance at the 1924 French Grand Prix at Lyon, is not known. However, this Type 57C was reported in 1962 as having a number of Type 57S features such as might have been specified by a racing driver, including ignition by Vertex magneto, a 7.75 compression ratio, S-type camshafts, a twin-plate clutch and the five outlet S-type exhaust system. Another reference states that the original owner of this car was the well-known French collector Chassaing de Borredon of Bec Hellouin and that Viviano Corradini purchased it from him in Paris before it was imported to the USA for Bunny Phillips. But whatever its actual early history, it is apparent that this was a prepared car with enhanced performance over the already adequately swift and powerful standard Type 57C model.
The Bugatti does not have its engine fitted at present, as Mr. Phillips had taken it out for rebuilding; the car is offered with its correct, matching number engine, albeit disassembled. While we believe it to be complete, prospective buyers should please ensure they satisfy themselves as to the condition prior to bidding. Certainly the Type 57C Convertible is generally acknowledged to be the best and most highly sought after version of the touring T57 models.