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Drive a Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic

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One of the most bizarre, elusive and expensive of cars is the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic. With its low stance, powerful engine, lightweight construction, 123 mph (200 kph) top speed and influential teardrop body, many believe this is the ultimate Bugatti and the first supercar ever made.

There are only two Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantics in the world. The one from 1936 changed hands for $40 million, while the 1938 example belonging to Ralph Lauren’s collection just won the Concorso d’Eleganze Villa d’Este. This is what the fuss is all about.

The 57SC Atlantic was based on the Aerolithe Electron Coupe, a show car built for the 1935 Paris Auto Salon. The car’s low-slung, pontoon-fender design was the work of Jean Bugatti, son of founder Ettore Bugatti. The show car was fashioned out of magnesium panels that were difficult to weld, and so Bugatti employed the car’s distinctive riveted seams. And while the three production Atlantics were built of weld-able aluminum, the seams were retained as a design cue.

Two completely original Atlantics survive: the Williamson car and another owned by clothing designer Ralph Lauren.

The Mullin Automotive Museum, founded by noted car aficionado Peter Mullin and housed in a facility formerly owned by Los Angeles Times publisher Otis Chandler, is dedicated to the preservation of French classic cars of the 1930s, including marques such as Delahaye, Delage, and Talbot Lago. The Museum opened to the public in April.

The Atlantic’s price is, of course, staggering, even to automotive historians and experts.