Bugatti’s brilliant Type 57 made its debut in 1934, marking a significant milestone for the storied French marque. After years of building a varied mix of touring, sports, and racing cars, the Type 57 consolidated the lineup, allowing Bugatti to offer a broader range of motorcars based upon a single platform. Company patriarch Ettore Bugatti was fully committed to developing his petrol-powered rail cars ordered by the French government, so the design of the new high-performance Type 57 touring car was handed over to his talented son, Jean – who was just 23 years old at the time. Jean and senior engineers Pichetto and Domboy were wholly responsible for the car’s ground-up specification, including the chassis, engine, and even most of the factory coachwork designs. To compete in the market, Bugatti needed a fresh design; one that retained the performance and style for which Bugatti was known while offering new levels of comfort and smooth operation. Type 57 would prove to be the final all-French design in the marque’s brief but brilliant history.
Central to the Type 57 was an all-new twin-cam, inline eight-cylinder engine displacing 3,257 cubic centimeters. Only the basic layout was shared with earlier models, as the block (with integrated head) and crankcase were all new designs. A series of bevel gears drove the camshafts, which offered a level of refinement superior to the previous straight-cut style. In standard form, the new engine was capable of a highly respectable 135 horsepower. While the Type 57 did not officially race, the Type 59 Grand Prix cars shared its fundamental engine design. Bugatti’s traditional solid front axle was retained due to cost and development time, while the ride and handling were dialed to suit the Type 57s purpose as a fast yet luxurious touring car. While American companies like Packard and Cadillac had begun to offer synchronized transmissions, Bugatti retained a non-synchro gearbox, but with quieter helical cut gears and a smoother change from the older dog-type gear-change of older models. This fabulous chassis was four distinct factory body styles; the Galibier Saloon, Ventoux four-passenger coupe, four-seat Stelvio cabriolet, and the two-seat Atalante Coupe. Bugatti produced more than 700 Type 57s, yet, sadly, it would be the final all-French Bugatti as the company faltered in the face of yet another World War. The Bugatti Type 57 is counted among the most important collector cars of all time, offering stunning looks, electrifying performance and the sense of occasion that only comes with these incredible automobiles from the storied Molsheim Works.
It is with great pleasure we offer this 1935 Galibier Saloon, a handsome and usable example that is wonderfully suited for touring in the grand tradition of the Bugatti T57. It has been treated to recent mechanical care courtesy of a West Coast specialist and is presented with a charming patina that encourages enjoyment on the road. According to the car’s history file and correspondence with American Bugatti specialists, it is based on an early Series 1 chassis and running gear, while the body originates from a later Series II car. Such combinations are not uncommon in the Bugatti world, as many cars were separated from their original coachwork during WWII, or utilized for parts over the years. Little is known of this car’s earliest history, though it is understood that this Galibier body came from a later chassis. In the 1970s, the Bugatti was in France, owned by Adrien Maeght. Mr. Maeght was part of a famous family of art dealers and patrons, who maintained a spectacular collection of artworks, held across galleries in Paris and Barcelona, and Nice. In addition to priceless works of art, Adrien collected automobiles, with a particular fondness for Bugattis. He maintained a private motoring museum, and he published Antoine Raffaelli’s fabulous book, Memoirs of a Bugatti Hunter. A copy of a French registration in Maeght’s name is included in the history file. It was sold from the Maeght collection in 1994, purchased by A. Arman, also of France, who preceded two additional short-term owners.
By 2013, this Galibier Saloon was in the hands of the most recent owner on the West Coast of the USA. There, it received expert sorting and care at a specialist restoration shop. Recent work has included a brake adjustment, magneto rebuild, and extensive water pump rebuild. It remains in very good working order and is very enjoyable to drive. With its engine-turned alloy cam covers and firewall, the presentation of the engine is tidy, appearing well maintained and consistent with a great, usable road car.
Cosmetically, the classic black and red livery, which has acquired a moderate patina through the course of time and careful use, is very appealing. The paint is in fine condition overall, with admirable body fit and doors that open and shut with satisfying precision. The coachwork features plenty of period-correct details including dual trumpet horns, Marchal Aerolux headlamps, and Klaxon semaphores. Brightwork is consistent and in good order, from the prominent horse-collar grille to the polished sills and fender stone guards. The style is understated yet handsome, riding on silver-painted wire wheels shod with appropriate black-wall Michelin rubber.
The beautifully appointed cabin features natural tan leather on the seats and door cards. The upholstery remains supple and appealing, with the feel and character of a favorite pair of leather gloves. Tan carpets the wool broadcloth headlining are in good order. Jaeger instruments and switches are fitted to the wood dash, and the driver is treated to the iconic four-spoke, wood-rimmed steering wheel.
This handsome Galibier Saloon is an excellent selection for touring with the always-enthusiastic American Bugatti Club. It is also an approved CCCA Full Classic and thereby eligible for CARavan events. A practical, comfortable, and exciting touring car, this Bugatti Type 57 is sure to reward its next owner with the kind of enjoyment that only the great motorcars from Molshiem can bring.