Mona Lisa. This 1937 Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic Coupe is literally the Mona Lisa of the automotive world, both in its raw artistic beauty and in its collector status. It is one of just two of the original four Atlantic Coupes known to survive, and if either were to go up for sale the dollar figure could easily be the highest ever seen for an automobile.
This blue Atlantic is owned by the Mullin Museum in California and the other (black) Atlantic is currently owned by fashion mogul, Ralph Lauren. I’ve now had the pleasure of laying my bare eyes on both of them and each occasion has been tremendous for me.
The Type 57 SC Atlantic is such a striking car, as Art Deco as Art Deco gets on four wheels. Its definitive styling trait is its riveted dorsal seams that extend along the entire spine of the car and on each of its fenders. On the Aerolithe show car (on which the Atlantic’s design was based), the riveted dorsal seams were necessary for its construction due to its magnesium body, which couldn’t be welded. All of the Atlantics were aluminum bodied, but they retained the dorsal seams for their unique styling appeal. There is nothing else like it, and mixed with the Atlantic’s elegant curves, it will leave your jaw on the floor every time.
This is very much a “hypercar” circa 1937, in prestige, stunning beauty, unique craftsmanship, and raw speed. In fact, while the Jaguar XK120 was hailed as the fastest production car in the world in 1949 with a top speed of 124mph, these Bugatti Type 57 SCs were said to be capable of cracking 120mph more than a decade earlier. The superchargers took their straight-eight engines up to 200hp, and they only weighed around 2,000lbs. That’s not a bad power-to-weight ratio at all at around 10lbs per horsepower, similar to a Lotus Elise (on paper at least), though with vastly older technology. The point is the Bugatti Type 57 SC in 1937 was very much equal to the Chiron today, and if you’re looking into the history of the hypercar it may be one of the first clear examples you’ll find.
Naturally, early hypercars such as these would have only been owned by the fabulously wealthy and famous, and this Bugatti was no exception. According to sources I’ve seen, its original owner was a member of the prominent Rothschild family in Europe. They always seem to have such great taste in cars.
It was such a thrill to finally see the blue Atlantic Coupe in person. The show at Lime Rock was astonishingly good this year, but it would have been worth the 3-hour ride just to see this car alone. Enjoy the gallery of this unbelievable machine!