Type 57 (Atlantic)
Got a spare 30 or 40 million US dollars? Then you too could be the proud owner of a Bugatti 57 Atlantic. Whether or not you would get good value for your money is perhaps debatable.
Many people find the art deco styling of the Atlantic to be absolutely beautiful; some think otherwise but art is in the eye of the beholder. Jean Bugatti, Ettiore's son, designed it and it had a curious birth.
Originally the body was made out of an alloy called elektron. This is a mixture of mainly magnesium and aluminium with a few other trace elements usually included. It's main advantages as a material for building a car body is that it is light, strong and resistant to corrosion. Unfortunately it is also highly inflammable if heated to a high enough temperature. This meant that it could not be welded and so it was riveted together instead. This created a ridge running along the body but for some strange reason when aluminium was used instead for the bodywork the ridge was kept in. They must have thought it improved the appearance.
This would not be a Bugatti if it did not have superb performance. A 3257 cc straight 8 cylinder engine that produced 175 brake horsepower was fitted but there was also an optional supercharger which could push the output to 200 brake horsepower and the car up to 124 mph. However on the negative side suspension was by leaf spring and the rear axle was solid.
It was first exhibited late in 1935 at the Paris motor show where it did not exactly set the world alight and only 4 of them were ever made. The staff at Bugatti shrugged their shoulders and claim that it was only an experimental car anyway and that they never intended to seriously sell them.
Three of these four cars are still believed to exist. One of them was sold to the 3rd Baron Rothschild and in 1939 he had a supercharger fitted to it. This proved to be a bad idea since 2 years later this supercharger malfunctioned causing the engine to explode. He sold it to a mechanic and then it passed through several hands before going up for sale at auction in 2010 where it sold for a reputed figure of around US$30 million!
Another one is owned by Bugatti fan and international designer Ralph Lauren; if he ever gets short of a bob or two perhaps that will come on the market one day as well. Whether or not anyone else will want to pay that sort of money for it remains to be seen.