1934 Bugatti Type 57 Aérolithe
In 1935 Bugatti showed off their prowess at the 1935 Paris Motor Show with the prototype Aérolithe Compétition Coupé that was used an exhibition car and subsequently destroyed.
Bugatti intended to manufacture the Aérolithe and other prototype Type 57S cars from Electron, an alloy of magnesium and aluminum from IG Farben of Germany. Though it is strong, and up to one third the weight of aluminum, it is also highly flammable thus welding was not possible. This meant that each panel had to be riveted into place which posed a particular problem for traditional design. Therefore, Jean incorporated the rivet's aesthetic into the wings of the car and created a telling combination of function and form.
The Jean Bugatti style was a mixture of of the Couzinet 70 which Mermoz used to cross the Atlantic and the 1934 Mercedes-Benz 500 K Autobahnkurier which Bugatti saw at the Berlin Motor Show.
After appearing at the 1935 Paris Motor Show alongside an equally stunning Torpédo Compétition, an Aérolithe was shown in London and tested by Colonel Giles and Peter Hampton on the Barnet Bypass. In his run, Giles said "Very little noise from the engine, no noise from the exhaust, no sound from the exhaust and perfect gear changes and in an incredibly short time from 0-mph we were travelling 115 mph."1
As the Aérolithe was built on a prototype Type 57S chassis, it lacked the chassis records in Bugatti's archives. Author Julius Kruta believes that the car may have been actually made from aluminum and converted into one of the production Atlantics.
Sources & Further Reading
1. Simon, Bernhard & Julius Kruta. The Bugatti Type 57S. Monsenstein & Vannerdat: Germany, 2003.
Auction Sales History
1938 Bugatti Type 57 Auto Classique Touraine Roadster - sold for $671,000
Exquisite presentation in the style of Jean Bugatti's Roadster design. Excellent restoration by renowned Bugatti expert Jim Stranberg and High Mountain Classics. Well-known in the Bugatti Club and among marque historians. Driven on numerous International Bugatti Rallies. Quail and Amelia Island Concours Award winner.
Auction Source: The Scottsdale Auction 2015 by Bonhams