Classic AutoRAI 99: pre-war cars:
Not on the Classic AutoRAI
but on the regular AutoRAI in February 1999 was this beautiful Type 51, but it fits better
in this feature. It was placed there as an advertisement for a Bugatti exhibition
somewhere else in the city. This car is a far better example of the "essence" of
Bugatti than the Royale as far as I am concerned.
Meticulous engineering coupled to a purposeful yet elegant design made this car into a instant classic and a worthy successor to Bugatti's most successful racer ever, the Type 35.
This car is equipped for
road use, but the Type 51 was built as a Grand Prix car. In racing condition no fenders,
headlights etc. were fitted. It's most famous of course in the bright blue national French
The Type 51 has a 2.3 litre supercharged 8 cylinder in-line engine that produces about 180 hp @ 5500 rpm and gives the car a top speed of more than 200 kph. It's the first Bugatti racing car with twin-overhead camshafts. The mechanically driven compressor is a so-called "wet system", compressing the complete air-fuel mixture before it was injected into the cylinders. This system was outdated starting from 1937 when Mercedes-Benz introduced "dry" compressor systems on its racing cars. In this system only the air got compressed after which it could be intercooled for even better compression. Then fuel and the compressed air were mixed and injected into the cylinders.
The interior of the Type 51,
including the twin refueling nozzles on the bodywork behind the seats that are the main
exterior distinction between the Type 35 and 51.
The Type 51 was far less successful that the famous Type 35, mainly due to lack of horsepower. Contemporaries like the Maserati V4 (16 cylinder 295 hp @ 5200 rpm) and the Alfa Romeo B (8 cylinder 215 hp @ 5600) were more powerful and won more races. Therefore the 51 was relatively soon replaced by the 5 litre Type 54 Grand Prix car in 1932, which was a disaster, and the Type 59 in 1933, which was more or less the last Grand Prix car type to come out of the Bugatti factory.
streamlined Type 57 Ventoux was on display on the Classic AutoRAI quite in the vicinity of
the Royale "Esders", but displayed in a much more anonymous fashion. Still, it's
quite rare too.
It has customer ordered bodywork designed and built by a specialist coachbuilder, probably a one-off. Many Type 57s had extraordinary bodywork by renown (French) coachbuilders like Gangloff, Antem and Saoutchik, but it also could be delivered with factory produced bodywork.
The Type 57 was
introduced in 1933 at the Paris car show and was produced until the beginning of the
second world war, 1940. About 725 chassis of this type have been produced. There were
three versions of the Type 57: the "normale", the 57C, the 57S and ultimately
The "normale" (like the car on these pictures) had a 3.3 litre 8 cylinder in-line engine with twin-overhead camshafts that produced about 135 hp and gave the car a top speed of 160 kph. It made the car an excellent tourer, quite noiseless and sedate for a Bugatti. The 57C had an additional supercharger, giving it more power. The 57S (like the "Atlantic", one of the Bugatti icons) had a lower and shorter chassis and a higher compression engine. The 57SC, the finest of them all, combined the lower and shorter chassis and the compressor engine.
The Type 57 was the last real Bugatti car to go into "series production". After the second World War only a few dozen Bugatti cars were produced at the original Molsheim plant up to 1955; by then train and aircraft engine production had became far more important to the company.
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