Launched at the 1936 Paris Salon in supercharged form, the Type 57C was probably the most celebrated non-racing car that Bugatti ever produced, and regarded as the finest of all touring Bugatti models, following the established twin-cam straight-eight 3.3-litre Type 57 of 1934.
Driven by gearing from the camshaft drive, the supercharger gave the Type 57C a wonderful combination of performance and flexibility. Power output was boosted from 135 to 160bhp, with a corresponding improvement in acceleration. Top speed now increased from 95mph towards 120mph. The style of the Type 57 range showed a strong influence of Ettore Bugatti’s talented young son Jean (Gianoberto) and at last gave the Bugatti marque a civilised grande routier to match the rival products of Delage and Delahaye. Its success is revealed by the production figures. Some 680 examples of all models of the Type 57 produced between 1934-40, and the post-war T101 was based on the Type 57 chassis. The Type 57 was more or less new from stem to stern, only the six-bearing twin overhead cam engine having the same dimensions as the single cam Type 49. Continuing with the fixed head block, mounted on an aluminium crankcase, a single piece crankshaft was employed with plain bearings, pressurized lubrication and a wet sump. Moves by Jean Bugatti to manufacture an independently sprung front axle arrangment with the first fifty or so cars were blocked by father Ettore’s single minded approach that the car would remain a fine model with a solid front axle, sprung as it was. The gearbox was intregal with the engine with a single plate clutch unit, the gears being of constant mesh in second, third and fourth, engaged by dog-clutches. This 3.3-litre model was effectively the sole model built between 1934 and the outbreak of World War Two, the engine also used to power the Type 59, the last significant Grand Prix Bugatti. Combined with good roadholding, the Bugatti Type 57 had a smooth, torquey engine, with excellent steering that became lighter as the car increased in speed, an ideal car for those all-day runs. While several Type 57s were fitted with one-off bodywork, the most popular coachwork was built to Jean Bugatti’s designs by the marque’s preferred carrossier, Gangloff of Colmar, just a few miles from the Bugatti works at Molsheim.