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Remembering The 1938 Bugatti Type 57C

1938 Bugatti Type 57C

The iconic automaker Bugatti is best-known for its models with amazing mechanical features and sculptural body shapes. For example, the 1938 Bugatti Type 57C is as much automotive art as an automobile can be. Between the years 1908 and 1952, Bugatti released approximately 8,000 models, with most of them being Type 57. Presented publicly for the first time, the Bugatti Type 57C comes equipped with elegant machining over the aluminum engine and an externally stylish horseshoe grill. Other notable design features of the 1938 Bugatti Type 57 include a gently sloping tail with a dramatic drop towards the rear, a complex double-tone color theme that perfectly highlights the vehicle's distinctive lines, gorgeously arched fenders, and a slender body frame with a curved roofline. The 1938 Bugatti 57C embodies a perfect blend of technology and art, such that it was considered the pride of the country. Here, we will take a closer look at the 1938 Bugatti Type 57C.


According to Robbreport, the 1938 Bugatti Type 57C was designed by Jean Bugatti, the son of Ettore Bugatti the company's founder and the chief architect of the French automaker models. Compared to the Bugatti Type 41 "Royale," of which only six were produced, Type 57 was received positively by the masses, and the company decided to release about 710 models. These Type 57 models were initially known as the "Bugattisti" and ushered in a new era for Bugatti vehicle production. The Bugatti Type 57C was available for sale between the years 1937 and 1940, with only 96 cars produced. It comes powered by a 3.3-liter engine (3,257 ccs), delivering an impressive 160 horsepower and maximum power output of 119 kW.

The Original Version

The original version of the Bugatti Type 57 model featured a smaller version of the Royale's stylish square-bottom horseshoe grille. Moreover, the sides of the engine compartment were fitted with thermostatically-controlled shutters. Thanks to high road performance, the Type 57C won the Le Mans back in 1939. The designer Jean Bugatti took this car for a road test on the Strasbourg road but was involved in a bad accident as he was trying to avoid hitting a drunk cyclist. Ettore's eldest son Jean was pronounced dead at the age of 30. The Bugatti Type 57 also included the S and SC variants, with only 17 models produced. The S and SC variants were regarded as one of the most beautiful offerings of all Bugatti's, evoking incredible speeds and the stylish Art Deco style. The 1938 Type C model pays a true homage to the French automaker's mechanical prowess. It is unrivaled in almost every aspect, including; chassis design, engine, and body aesthetics. Moreover, the Bugatti Type C model was constructed in several configurations best suited for the race track and the road. There are no straight lines in the Type 57C bodywork, and several decently sloped curves make up the car's overall profile. The 57C model was also viewed as an art and was displayed in the French Pavilion at the World's Fair back in 1939.

Engine, Power, and Transmission

The 1938 Bugatti Type 57C is powered by a 3.3-liter supercharged DOHC engine with 8-inline cylinders. The engine also has double overhead camshafts and a total power output of 119kkW. The 57C model is the first new model by Bugatti to incorporate the dual overhead camshaft 2,257cc eight-cylinder engine paired with an Electro-magnetic gearbox. The camshafts are driven by helical-tooth gears placed at the engine's rear designed to help minimize the side thrust on the valve stems. Unlike the Bugatti Type 50 and 51 that came with chain-drive twin camshaft engines, power in the 57C is transmitted by the rear-wheel-drive with a four-speed manual gear transmission.

The First Ever To....

The Bugatti 57C was also the first-ever model produced by the French automaker that used a single-plate clutch and had a gear transmission fixed to the engine crankcase. Jean designed the Type 57C with five main bearings in the crankshaft and three gears in the four-speed gearbox. Additionally, this model was fitted with the Royale's stylish square-bottom horseshoe grille and thermostatically-controlled shutters covering the sides of the cast aluminum engine compartment. The Roots-type Supercharged engine worked effectively in improving the car's road performance and was capable of reaching top speeds of 110 mph.


The design of the 1938 Bugatti Type 57C was reminiscent of that of a teardrop with an elegantly sloped rear and a long nose. Under the flat, curved end was a spare-wheel compartment and an eye-catching fin-like appearance across the car's roof and back. The Type 57C bodywork was designed entirely from a lightweight, flammable magnesium alloy known as Elektron. In addition to the six stainless steel exhaust pipes, the 1938 Bugatti features fine-wire magnesium wheels that are perfectly kept in position by a single log nut. Regarding the interior, the Type 57C model has a sleek interior with two comfortable seats and a shelf behind them for your cargo. There is also a big, four-spoke steering wheel that is similar to the one used in Bugatti race cars. Underneath the neatly arranged dashboard is a long gear lever conveniently angled towards the driver seat.

Final Words

As mentioned above, the 1938 Bugatti Type 57C is best-known for its beautiful design and incredible mechanical features. With its decently curved body lines and well-balanced proportions, the 57C model is one of the prettiest offerings by the French automaker. This model is also a limited edition vehicle with only 17 models produced. According to Topspeed, it is believed that the 1938 Bugatti Type 57C is currently worth a whopping $114 million.

Benjamin Smith

Written by Benjamin Smith

Benjamin Smith is one of the managing editors of Moneyinc. Ben's been focusing on the auto and motorcycle sector since 2005. He's written over 1000 articles in the space and continues to learn about it each day. His favorite car is "any Bugatti" and he's a die hard Harley Davidson fan.

Read more posts by Benjamin Smith

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