The Bugatti Type 57S or ‘Atlantic’ was one of the most admired motor cars of its age. But its high cost combined with the economic climate in pre-war Europe resulted in only four examples being built between 1936 and 1938 (one works’; three factory-sold). Its avant-garde looks evoked opulence, speed and glamour while at the same time it emulated some cutting-edge aircraft styling of the period made topical by many ‘transatlantic firsts’. The Atlantic’s external body seams and visible rivet lines reflected contemporary aircraft construction methods. It was even rumoured that the bodywork was made from a superlight wonder material called ‘elektron’, a mixture of aluminium, tin and magnesium, but in fact that material was only used on the Atlantic’s earlier prototype: the ‘Aerolithe’ (or ’Meteor’).Each car has a romantic and intriguing story. The works’ car was mysteriously lost during the war. The ‘Black Car’, as it was commonly known, and sold originally to Jacques Holtzschuch, was destroyed in a level crossing accident in 1955. [Though it was subsequently reconstructed.] The other two remaining factory cars — originally sold to Victor Lord Rothschild and R. B. Pope — are housed in private collections and remain among the most prized and unobtainable cars in the world.
The historical importance of such cars has spawned the building of exact replicas, otherwise known as ‘Toolroom’ copies or ‘Continuation’ cars. Such a build is not for the faint hearted, however: the amount of work is immense and the costs can run into seven figure sums.
The car on display was commissioned in 2013 by East Sussex car collector Mike Timms who has long admired the Atlantic. Built by automotive project engineer Russell Pain, it is the result of four years’ painstaking work incorporating a variety of required disciplines. These included CAD modelling and other computer skills along with traditional restoration experience, and a profound understanding of manufacturing methods of the day. Work started after lengthy research of the last factory car—before it was changed forever by restoration. Of the project Russell is on record as saying: “Attention to detail is everything. A car like this is only special if it utterly conforms to every photograph and drawing of the original car, down to the last Bugatti pattern nut and bolt.”
Displayed courtesy of Mr Mike Timms from Monday 15th April to Sunday 28th April 2019.