Page 1 of 2 Next >> Bugatti struck gold with the introduction of the Type 57 early in 1934. In one big sweep, it replaced all existing road going models in the Bugatti line-up. The eight-cylinder engined machine was available with a choice of standard coach-work, ranging from a formal four-door sedan to a sporty roadster. The most exclusive of these Jean Bugatti designed bodies was the 'Atlantic' two-door coupe. Only four were built and the two that have survived in largely original condition are today among the most sought after and valuable cars in the world.
The story of the Atlantic begins with the even more elusive 'Aerolithe' prototype shown at the Paris Motor Show in 1935. Named after the Greek word for 'meteor', the car sported a beautiful aerodynamic body with a highly unusual construction. This was needed because of the extensive use of the magnesium alloy 'Electron'. Developed in the aeronautical industry, this material was as light as it was strong but had one major drawback; it was also very volatile. As a result welding the panels was not an option. Instead they were riveted together, giving the body a very distinct look with a 'spine' running front to back and over the front and rear fenders.
Some historians doubt Electron was really used for the Aerolithe but what is certain is that the subsequent Atlantics all featured aluminium bodies. They nevertheless featured riveted panels, presumably for aesthetic reasons. A more noticeable change was the switch to the latest evolution of the Type 57 chassis. This featured an underslung rear axle and deeper mounted radiator and was appropriately known as the Type 57 S for 'sousbaissé' or lowered. It shared the same short wheelbase as found on the special chassis used for the Aerolithe. Especially the drop in radiator height and the resulting smaller front-end improved Jean Bugatti's design. Page 1 of 2 Next >>