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Editor: Jaap Horst

Volume 26, Issue 1

Bugatti Type 57: first motoring press report

One of the earliest descriptions of the new Bugatti Type 57 was published in the May 1934 issue of Motor Sport. There are some errors in it as far as the details of the chassis, but it's the impression that counts!

“The existence of a new Bugatti sports car, said to have almost the acceleration of the blown ‘2-3’ up to 80mph, has for some time been known in England, and a visit to Molsheim to try the new machine seemed indicated. When we did get there we found that the Type 57, as the new model is called, was already in good demand and a number of chassis were coming through. In fact, with two other widely differing activities, that is, preparing the racing teams and building the new rail-cars, the famous factory was very busy indeed.

In appearance the new car is not unlike the previous 3-3 litre model Type 49 except that it has shutters on the radiator and a built-up front axle. Rudge Whitworth wire wheels are used instead of the aluminum type. The car we were to try was the one usually driven by Constantini, the first of its type and still used for testing purposes. René Dreyfus, for some years past one of the star performers in the Bugatti racing team was at the wheel.

After three minutes of warming up we took our seats and the car moved off smoothly. ‘Delightful cars, these’, said M. Dreyfus, and thereupon changed from bottom to top gear. In this ratio we burbled along perfectly smoothly to the factory gates and so out on to the fine straight road between Molsheim and Strasbourg. After a fast run up and down to get the oil circulating, Dreyfus pronounced himself satisfied. ‘First of all notice the flexibility’, he said and ran down to 10mph on top gear. ‘now the smooth pick-up’, and proceeded to put his foot down hard. The speedometer needle swung round at an ever-increasing rate without any trace of hesitation. ‘All-out speed’, and we reached 95mph. ‘Finally the road holding’, so we drove down a minor road at 75, slowed to 60 with a gentle application of the brakes and took a 60 degree bend without any reduction in speed. The car neither rolled, slid nor gave any indication that the manoeuvre was at all unusual. ‘Vraiment une voiture fantastique’, a remark with which we could not fail to agree as soon as we could think of an adequate reply.

The brakes were extremely efficient and from a speed of 40mph the car came to rest in approximately 53 feet, without any tendency to swing or for the wheels to lock. This test was, in fact, considered too tame, so we tried again, this time from 75mph. The retardation was equally safe and sure, the distance being about 70 yards. Instead of the shrill scream which usually comes from third gear on a Bugatti, on the ‘3-3’ there is a complete absence of noise. Constant mesh gears are used for second and third gears and the change is further simplified by having a single plate clutch lined with Ferodo in place of the multiple disc pattern which is usually fitted to Bugatti cars. The exhaust note is subdued and even when all out there is nothing more than a slight rumble. Owing to the limitations of the Works insurance policy, we were not able to drive the car ourselves, but the ease with which it cornered and the accuracy of the steering could not be doubted from what we saw. The suspension was good throughout the range, aided by friction dampers controller from the dashboard.

After lunch at the famous ‘Hostellerie du Pur-Sang’, that unique inn-cum-clubhouse which ‘M. le Patron’ has built to accommodate those who visit the factory, Jean Bugatti came with us instead of Dreyfus and we went out on to the high road to obtain a series of acceleration figures.

Without doubt this latest product of the Molsheim factory is ‘une voiture de pur-sang’, and no one can deny the benefits of racing when they experience the high performance and ease of handling which are directly derived from high speed international competition.

The maximum speed on the level is about 95mph with closed bodywork and would be comfortably over 100 in the case of an open car. 70 to 75 mph can be obtained in third gear and 50 in second and at 60mph on top gear the engine is doing approximately 2,500 rpm. A rev-counter is not fitted as no harm results even if the engine speed reaches 5,500 rpm.

In the course of the timed tests the car several times reached 105 mph on slight down-hill slopes and a flying kilometer was covered at over 100 mph. The standing kilometer was done in 39 seconds. All this was carried out with hardly a murmur from the engine and Jean Bugatti finds that a fast average, even of over 60 mph can be kept up with much less effort in a closed car than an open one.

After completing the tests we had occasion to go to Strasbourg, a drive which was performed with all the verve for which Jean Bugatti is famous. We arrived there too early of course, so the time was spent in driving through crowded streets of the town at 7 to 10 mph on top gear. Another feature was shown on the return journey, when the driver suddenly executed a series of zig-zags at 60 to demonstrate the absence of rolling, but our new passenger, which had not yet become accustomed to Jean’s virtuosity at the wheel, did not seem to appreciate it.

Turning to the technical side of the car, the engine is a straight-eight with two overhead camshafts and gives 140 horse power at 4,800 rpm. The valves ar inclined to one another at 90 degrees with the sparking plugs in the centre of the head, and the camshafts are driven by gears at the rear end of th engine. White metal is used in the nine (actually 5, ed.) main bearings and for the big-ends. The cylinder head and block are in one unit and the cam-cases are made in that hand polished aluminum which is the joy of every Bugatti owner.

The distributor and petrol pump are driven from the rear end of the offside camshaft and two coils are mounted at the rear of the dashboard. A single vertical Zenith carburetor is fitted on the offside. Water pump, starter and dynamo are all carried at the near side of the engine. The engine and gearbox unit has a rigid four-point suspension.

An open propeller shaft is used and the back-axle reaction is taken by the usual long torque member. The top line of the chassis runs straight as far as the back axle, where the side members are swept up, but from a depth of 10 inches at the rear engine mounting, the side members taper to the size of a normal dumbiron at the front of the chassis. The front axle is built up from two hollow sections with a shouldered shaft in the middle. A large nut with a right and left hand thread pulls the two sections up against the shoulder. The front springs are half elliptic, while the familiar reversed quarter-elliptic springs are used at the rear.

The brakes are of large diameter, cable operated, with the cycle chain compensators which have long been a feature of Bugattis. The engine sump holds 4 gallons of oil and the petrol tank 22 gallons of fuel.

Jean Bugatti has for some years been responsible for Bugatti coachwork, and has designed many striking closed bodies with ultra-sloping windscreens.”

First published in "Motor Sport", May 1934

Top image is from a 1933 or 1934 Bugatti T57 brochure, as published in the Bugatti Revue Volume 14, Issue 3

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