Home Auto Blog Jay Leno Honors the Exalted Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic

Jay Leno Honors the Exalted Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic

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Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic

The high-stakes auction world is a sight to behold. When cars sell for six-figure sums, eyes bulge. When the bidding escalates to seven figures, jaws hit the floor. An eight-figure sale? That’s virtually unheard of. Yet the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic is among the elite few automobiles to have attained such a price tag. The last one went under the hammer in 2010, amid the world’s recovery from the global economic downturn, and astonishingly fetched over $30 million.

In a recent episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage,” Jay Leno himself sheds light on the fascination surrounding this vehicle. The show’s spotlight is cast upon a Type 57SC Atlantic replica, owned and maintained by Leno for three decades. This replica was built using an authentic Bugatti frame and runs on a Bugatti powertrain.

From 1936 to 1938, Bugatti produced only four of these alluringly streamlined coupes, which are today the epitome of Bugatti’s production vehicles. Jean Bugatti, Ettore Bugatti’s son, was the mind behind the creation of these models as he sought to modernize their fleet.

Instead of manufacturing numerous models, Bugatti opted to focus on creating one car in various iterations. The Type 57 gave birth to the Galibier sedan, Stelvio convertible, Ventoux two-door sedan, and the Atalante coupe. By 1940, Bugatti had stopped the production of this model after rolling out 800 units.

However, the Type 57SC Atlantic was in a class of its own. Jean, utilizing the Aérolith prototype designed in 1935, employed aluminum for the car’s body. The bodywork was also adorned with rivets, echoing the Atlantic prototype composed of aircraft-grade materials. The coupe was named ‘Atlantic’ in tribute to Jean’s friend, Jean Mermoz, who disappeared during a South Atlantic flight in 1936.

The Atlantic’s distinctively long hood concealed a 197-horsepower 3.3-liter inline-6 engine, a power figure that was unimaginable at the time when the Ford Model T had superseded horse-drawn carriages. The Atlantic was capable of achieving top speeds over 125 mph.

Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic

Out of the four Bugatti built, only three were sold to individual buyers. British banker Victor Rothschild purchased the first (chassis no. 57374), which was also the one auctioned off in 2010. The third (chassis no. 57473) went to Jacques Holzschuh from France. After a catastrophic train collision, the 57SC Atlantic underwent an extensive restoration, albeit with mostly new parts as the engine was beyond repair. British national R.B. Pope bought the fourth (chassis no. 57591), which now belongs to fashion mogul Ralph Lauren.

The fate of the second production model (chassis no. 57453) remains an enigma. As the only originally black-painted example, Jean Bugatti built it for his personal use and sometimes loaned it to Bugatti racers. Images exist for promotional purposes, yet there’s no trace of the car post-1938. Bugatti speculates it may have been sold to one of Jean’s racing associates or hidden during Germany’s invasion of France in World War II. While still lost, this car served as a muse for a contemporary successor, the unique La Voiture Noire.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic

How many Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantics were built?

Only four Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantics were ever produced between 1936 and 1938.

Who is the current owner of the fourth Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic?

The fourth Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, originally sold to R.B. Pope, is currently owned by fashion designer Ralph Lauren.

What happened to the third Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic?

The third Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, which was initially delivered to Jacques Holzschuh, was involved in a severe accident with a train that resulted in its complete destruction. It has since undergone a comprehensive restoration, despite the loss of the original engine.

What was unique about the second Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic?

The second Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, built for Jean Bugatti’s personal use, was the only one painted black originally. Its whereabouts after 1938 remain unknown, and it’s speculated that it may have been hidden during WWII.

What inspired the design of the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic?

The Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic’s design was inspired by the Aérolith prototype from 1935 and featured a body made from aluminum. The car was named ‘Atlantic’ as a tribute to Jean Bugatti’s friend, Jean Mermoz, who vanished on a South Atlantic flight in 1936.

What is the significance of the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic in the modern Bugatti lineup?

The second Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, despite being lost to history, served as the inspiration for a modern successor, the one-off La Voiture Noire.

More about Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic

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GearheadGary July 11, 2023 - 11:19 pm

Wow, just imagine owning a piece of history like that! 30 mil is a bit steep though, haha. Anyone got a spare few million lying around?

RapidRacer July 12, 2023 - 3:48 am

Mind-blowing to think this car could hit over 125mph back in the day. That’s some serious engineering.

PetrolheadPaul July 12, 2023 - 3:58 am

Man, that black one, the second one. it’s like a real-life ghost story. Where do you reckon it is now?

ClassicCarLover July 12, 2023 - 5:44 am

Bugatti has always been a brand of elegance and luxury. The Type 57SC Atlantic? Pure art on wheels, I tell ya!

WheelyBigFan July 12, 2023 - 1:19 pm

jay leno is so lucky, owning a replica of this beauty, wish i could get a ride in that beast.


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