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1936 Bugatti T57S Atlantic Coupe

The third of four Atlantic coupes built by Jean Bugatti, this one is famously known for having been hit by a train at a railroad crossing in the French countryside in 1955. Much has been written regarding this car’s authenticity, and it is true that not every panel is original. Yet before that tragedy this car had experienced a storied and historically important life. Many a race car has been saved from the scrap heap because it had a unique provenance. This car was worth preserving for its unique beauty alone, as well as for the same reasons that any unique historical object is saved: to continue its history, to honor the craft of the original builders, and to illustrate it’s story to those who may not already know it.

This car is uniquely different from the other Atlantics as it had been restyled soon after it was built. The evidence indicates that the styling changes had been commissioned by the car’s original owners and completed by renowned coachbuilder Joseph Figoni, who had his own singular ideas about flowing surfaces and shape.

The first owners, Jacques and Yvonne Holtzschuch, took delivery of 57473 in 1936. In the earliest known photograph of the car, taken at the Concours d’Elegance de Juan les Pins in 1937, the body was black with a light beige pigskin interior. In the next known photograph, taken in 1951 at the Circuit International de Vitesse de Nice, the body and interior had been significantly restyled. In order to participate in the race, the body had also been repainted blue in accordance with the Code Sportif International de la F.I.A. After changing hands several times, the car was eventually purchased in 1952 by René Chatard, who had it repainted gray near the end of 1954. Chatard and a female companion were driving near Gien, France when they were struck and killed by a train on August 22, 1955.

Paul-André Berson recovered the remains in 1965, and started a decade-long project to rebuild the car. In the restoration he chose to work with the intact right-hand coachwork, and replaced the damaged parts. Upon completion in 1977, he sold the car to collector Nicholas Seydoux, who later had it restored again by André Lecoq. In 2006 the current owner purchased the car from Seydoux, and the unused dashboard, trim pieces, engine block, mechanical parts and original damaged body panels from Berson.

We were commissioned to take the car back to its Figoni configuration: precisely true in every detail of line and color, as the car existed before the accident. Extensive research was necessary, utilizing the excellent period photographs from the Bugatti Trust and the Pierre-Yves Laugier collection, the evidence obtained from the original parts and panels, and consultation with French automotive authority Christian Huet. The whole process was inspired by a very enthusiastic and involved owner, who studied the photographs and offered his own insights and sketches on many authenticity details.

One of the significant style differences is in the configuration of the door windows, which were converted by Figoni to a wind-up operation. This feature necessitated a change to the depth of the doors. The re-installation of the original instrument cluster was defined by the discovery of the dashboard’s original leatherette covering. The seat construction, door panels, interior window trim, and teardrop rear fenders illustrate Figoni & Falaschi’s visual stylings.

While most of the attention has been on the visual beauty of this car, we also gave the appropriate attention to the chassis underneath. The entire drive-train: engine, transmission, brakes, suspension, and wheels, was rebuilt to period specifications, using the original parts when available. The success of the project was displayed by the smile on the owner’s face as he participated in the 2010 Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance. The car was then on display at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the perfect environment for the world to rediscover this very special car.

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Featured Articles & Publications

1936 Bugatti T57S Atlantic Coupe

Ivar Engerud, “Automobil Kunst”
Finansavisen Motor, 24 December 2011 [Norway]

Paul Russell, “Restoring History: My Insights on Resurrecting a Bugatti Atlantic”
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance Insider, June 2010

Michael T. Lynch, “T57S Bugatti Atlantic Reappears at Pebble Beach”
velocetoday.com, August 4 2010

“ The original car was the vision of one of the automotive world’s great artisan families. Moreover, this car differed from the other Atlantics—it was unique—because it had been restyled in period, and evidence indicated the restyled car was done not merely by a local body shop, but by a set of renowned craftsmen who had their own unique ideas about flowing surfaces and shape. We had an opportunity to bring back the car and honor these craftsmen by bringing their vision back to life, thereby allowing the world to appreciate it in the present and the future. ”

Paul Russell, “Restoring History: My Insights on Resurrecting a Bugatti Atlantic”, Pebble Beach Insider

The Mercedes-Benz factories sustained massive damage from Allied bombing during World War II. Utility vehicles were the first post-war product, and helped the company toward recovery. But something more spectacular needed to be done to attract the world’s interest. In 1951, it was decided to re-enter the racing circuit. In order to do so with the least financial strain, a sports car was developed using the existing 300 engine. Because of the relatively heavy weight of that engine and drivetrain, an unusually light body needed to be constructed. And so, the tubular steel framed, aluminum bodied 300SL (Sport Light) was born. Approximately fifteen of these race cars were made, winning many events and earning the world sports car championship.

In 1952, the 300SL caught the interest of racing fans in the United States. New Yorker Max Hoffman was one such enthusiast, who used his car dealership to bring many of the European makes into this country. One might even say that he is responsible for the creation of the 300SL, as his order for 1,000 cars convinced the Mercedes-Benz officials to go ahead with the production of a street car based upon the 300SL racing sports car. The prototype 300SL was shown at the International Motor Sports Show in New York City in February 1954.

The first production car with a fuel-injected gasoline engine, the 300SL was one of the most reliable sports cars of the ’50s and ’60s. The proven 300 engine was tilted to the left to accommodate a lower hood line. The body style was designated Sport Leicht (Light) due to its aluminum doors, hood, decklid, rocker panels and belly pans, though the main body shell was constructed from steel. Unusual for the period, 300SLs came equipped with dependable heat, defrosters, and wiper motors.

Ultimately, three different versions of the 300SL were offered. The 300SL Coupe was produced from August 1954 to May 1957, during which time twenty-nine all-aluminum bodied cars were made as well. Production of the Roadster version was between February 1957 and February 1963. Whichever style is your preference, they are now highly valued for their pure driving pleasure in the Mille Miglia, Colorado Grand, and other vintage events.

Factory photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Archives.

Pininfarina or Pinin Farina? In 1930, Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina founded Carrozzeria Pinin Farina. This company designed and built car bodies for a number of manufacturers, including Alfa Romeo, Hispano Suiza, Lancia, Fiat, and, most notably, Ferrari. Battista is quoted as saying “The interrelation between the body of a beautiful woman and that of a Farina-designed car is that both have simplicity and harmony of line, so that when they are old one can still see how beautiful they were when they were young.”

In conjunction with Battista’s retirement in 1961, the President of the Italian Republic authorized the family name to be changed to Pininfarina “in consideration of his achievements in social and industrial activities”. As a result, the correct usage of the family name as Pininfarina or Pinin Farina depends upon the year it was used.

The Mercedes-Benz factories sustained massive damage from Allied bombing during World War II. Utility vehicles were the first post-war product, and helped the company toward recovery. But something more spectacular needed to be done to attract the world’s interest. In 1951, it was decided to re-enter the racing circuit. In order to do so with the least financial strain, a sports car was developed using the existing 300 engine. Because of the relatively heavy weight of that engine and drivetrain, an unusually light body needed to be constructed. And so, the tubular steel framed, aluminum bodied 300SL (Sport Light) was born. Approximately fifteen of these race cars were made, winning many events and earning the world sports car championship.

In 1952, the 300SL caught the interest of racing fans in the United States. New Yorker Max Hoffman was one such enthusiast, who used his car dealership to bring many of the European makes into this country. One might even say that he is responsible for the creation of the 300SL, as his order for 1,000 cars convinced the Mercedes-Benz officials to go ahead with the production of a street car based upon the 300SL racing sports car. The prototype 300SL was shown at the International Motor Sports Show in New York City in February 1954.

The first production car with a fuel-injected gasoline engine, the 300SL was one of the most reliable sports cars of the ’50s and ’60s. The proven 300 engine was tilted to the left to accommodate a lower hood line. The body style was designated Sport Leicht (Light) due to its aluminum doors, hood, decklid, rocker panels and belly pans, though the main body shell was constructed from steel. Unusual for the period, 300SLs came equipped with dependable heat, defrosters, and wiper motors.

Ultimately, three different versions of the 300SL were offered. The 300SL Coupe was produced from August 1954 to May 1957, during which time twenty-nine all-aluminum bodied cars were made as well. Production of the Roadster version was between February 1957 and February 1963. Whichever style is your preference, they are now highly valued for their pure driving pleasure in the Mille Miglia, Colorado Grand, and other vintage events.

Factory photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Archives.

In March of 1926, Felice Bianchi Anderloni founded Carrozzeria Touring in Milan, Italy. A “gentleman” race driver and coachbuilder for 1930s Isotta-Fraschini and Alfa Romeo, Felice was well respected for creating beautiful, aerodynamic designs. He developed the patented “superlight” Superleggera construction method, a marvel of metal tube frames welded to a solid chassis, then skinned with aluminum body panels.

When Felice died suddenly in 1948 it was up to his son Carlo Felice, known as “Cici”, to save the business. Cici did so in no uncertain terms, when he presented his 1/10-scale model of the distinctive Barchetta to prospective client Enzo Ferrari. Enzo accepted the “little boat” design as presented. The superleggera concept became so closely associated with Touring that it was incorporated into the name of the company, becoming Touring Superleggera Milano in the 1950s.

Pictured: Cici Anderloni proudly displays the original Barchetta model to Paul Russell. Lake Como, 1998.

Scraping is done with a long, wood-handled chisel. First, the surface is cleaned, made level, and marked in pencil with a grid pattern. The chisel is held with both hands, with further pressure applied by the shoulder pushing against the wooden handle. As the blade of the chisel digs into the aluminum surface, the chisel is pushed and ‘flicked’ with a rotating motion. Once this is repeatedly accomplished in one direction, the part is turned 90 degrees and the entire process repeated again. Finally, the part is hand-sanded with a very fine-grade paper to remove the aluminum shards and burrs.

For many years, conventional wisdom had it that there were 3 Atlantics built. Fortunately enthusiasts like L.G. Matthews and historians like Pierre-Yves Laugier continue to study all things Bugatti, and new information and analysis becomes known and shared. The revival of the Bugatti Marque in the ownership of the Volkswagen Group has facilitated a reorganization of the company historic archives, in the hands of the esteemed Julius Kruta.

It is now acknowledged that there was a prototype (pictured here) named the Aerolithe built on a modified T57 chassis and later disassembled to form the basis for the first production car, now on the S chassis number 57374. This first car was labeled the Aero, and resides at the Mullin Automotive Museum.

Chassis 57473 was the second car produced and the first to be called the Atlantic. There were two more Atlantics made, one of which has not been seen since it disappeared in Belgium in the 1940s. The last of the Atlantics produced is chassis number 57591.

Professor Ignacio Barraquer who owned the Autobahn-Kurier for more than 60 years, was not just any eye doctor, but possibly the most famous ophthalmologist who ever lived. He developed procedures and surgical instruments that are standard to this day, mostly associated with cataract surgery, and many named after him. His father was Professor of Ophthalmology at the School of Medicine in Barcelona, Spain, a position Ignacio was appointed to following his father’s retirement. Ignacio’s son, José, developed the keratomileusis, or LASIK operation, today a common surgical procedure.

Born into an Italian banking family, Count Carlo Felice Trossi was an amateur inventor and a noted motor sportsman of the 1930s. Known as ‘Didi’ to his friends, he enjoyed racing boats and airplanes in addition to his pursuits in the field of engineering. As an early financial backer of Enzo Ferrari, he become President of Scuderia Ferrari in 1932 while continuing to be a primary driver for the team.

Reproduced here is a picture dated 1932, and supplied by his family, of his SSK in front of Castello di Gaglianico. The records of the Automobile Club of Italy show that Count Trossi sold and bought back this singular car several times from 1931 until his death in 1949.

In March of 1926, Felice Bianchi Anderloni founded Carrozzeria Touring in Milan, Italy. A “gentleman” race driver and coachbuilder for 1930s Isotta-Fraschini and Alfa Romeo, Felice was well respected for creating beautiful, aerodynamic designs. He developed the patented “superlight” Superleggera construction method, a marvel of metal tube frames welded to a solid chassis, then skinned with aluminum body panels.

When Felice died suddenly in 1948 it was up to his son Carlo Felice, known as “Cici”, to save the business. Cici did so in no uncertain terms, when he presented his 1/10-scale model of the distinctive Barchetta to prospective client Enzo Ferrari. Enzo accepted the “little boat” design as presented. The superleggera concept became so closely associated with Touring that it was incorporated into the name of the company, becoming Touring Superleggera Milano in the 1950s.

Pictured: Cici Anderloni proudly displays the original Barchetta model to Paul Russell. Lake Como, 1998.

For many years, conventional wisdom had it that there were 3 Atlantics built. Fortunately enthusiasts like L.G. Matthews and historians like Pierre-Yves Laugier continue to study all things Bugatti, and new information and analysis becomes known and shared. The revival of the Bugatti Marque in the ownership of the Volkswagen Group has facilitated a reorganization of the company historic archives, in the hands of the esteemed Julius Kruta.

It is now acknowledged that there was a prototype (pictured here) named the Aerolithe built on a modified T57 chassis and later disassembled to form the basis for the first production car, now on the S chassis number 57374. This first car was labeled the Aero, and resides at the Mullin Automotive Museum.

Chassis 57473 was the second car produced and the first to be called the Atlantic. There were two more Atlantics made, one of which has not been seen since it disappeared in Belgium in the 1940s. The last of the Atlantics produced is chassis number 57591.

In March of 1926, Felice Bianchi Anderloni founded Carrozzeria Touring in Milan, Italy. A “gentleman” race driver and coachbuilder for 1930s Isotta-Fraschini and Alfa Romeo, Felice was well respected for creating beautiful, aerodynamic designs. He developed the patented “superlight” Superleggera construction method, a marvel of metal tube frames welded to a solid chassis, then skinned with aluminum body panels.

When Felice died suddenly in 1948 it was up to his son Carlo Felice, known as “Cici”, to save the business. Cici did so in no uncertain terms, when he presented his 1/10-scale model of the distinctive Barchetta to prospective client Enzo Ferrari. Enzo accepted the “little boat” design as presented. The superleggera concept became so closely associated with Touring that it was incorporated into the name of the company, becoming Touring Superleggera Milano in the 1950s.

Pictured: Cici Anderloni proudly displays the original Barchetta model to Paul Russell. Lake Como, 1998.

Born into an Italian banking family, Count Carlo Felice Trossi was an amateur inventor and a noted motor sportsman of the 1930s. Known as ‘Didi’ to his friends, he enjoyed racing boats and airplanes in addition to his pursuits in the field of engineering. As an early financial backer of Enzo Ferrari, he become President of Scuderia Ferrari in 1932 while continuing to be a primary driver for the team.

Reproduced here is a picture dated 1932, and supplied by his family, of his SSK in front of Castello di Gaglianico. The records of the Automobile Club of Italy show that Count Trossi sold and bought back this singular car several times from 1931 until his death in 1949.