Last revised: 26-1-2009

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Bugatti Type 57: the Ventoux


The most popular of all Type 57 Bugattis was the Ventoux model. It was a 2-door 4-seater sport coupe (or "coach" as the French called it) with a name derived from the Mont Ventoux, a mountain in the French Alps. Also this body style was introduced in 1934 and only available on the standard chassis.

Bugatti_T57_Ventoux_1934The body of the first series Ventoux, like you see here, was a clear evolution of the Type 50 coach profilé, a striking design of Jean Bugatti on the 5-litre engine chassis from the early 1930s.
Most noticeable features of this profilé type bodywork were the very raked front windshield and the notched rear end. The Type 50 also had a surprofilé body available, a flowing fastback style which unfortunately wasn't carried over to the Type 57.

Bugatti_T57_Ventoux_1937Where most Type 57 bodies gained appeal with each evolution, that of the Ventoux lost a bit in my opinion. The original profilé design was very strong and apparently tampering with it only made it less. Though the visible differences between the first and the second series (depicted here) were relatively limited, the full-skirted front end treatment of the second series wasn't very becoming and made the whole car look less interesting.
The substantial measurements of the Type 57 indicated that this was a grand tourer rather than a sports car. With a wheelbase of 3.3 m and a track of 1.35 m (total measurements depended on the type of bodywork) the Type 57 chassis allowed for roomy and luxurious interiors. The weight of the chassis however was relatively limited, it stopped the scales at 950 kg. That of the Type 50 for instance was more lumbersome at 1200 kg.

Bugatti_T57_Ventoux_by_Gangloff_1938Later series Ventoux usually featured headlights faired into the front fenders. Also the fenders are more rounded and flowing than those on the early series. Of course, as a result of customers wishes that doesn't always apply. The rather pleasing second series Ventoux shown here gives you a good impression however.

The series 3 version of the Type 57 chassis became available late in 1938 and provided updated mechanics. It featured the long awaited replacement of the obsolete cable operated brakes by a Lockheed double-circuit hydraulic brake system. Another important improvement were the use of telescopic Allinquant schocks which replaced the Hartford- or Ram dampers. Also a Cotal semi-automatic transmission became available as an option.

Bugatti_T57_Ventoux_1939The ride and handling of the Type 57, which was already very good for its time, improved considerably with these changes. It accelerated comfortably in 4th gear from 15 kph to maximum speed, the 350 mm drum brakes provided ample stopping power, the engine operated silently (except for those with superchargers) and the steering was direct and precise. Though there was a certain amount of flex in the chassis, thanks to its nimble construction and improved suspension it offered good roadholding. Downsides were relatively slow gearchanges and the heavy clutch. Altogether this meant that the Type 57 was very much at home at covering long distances at speed in comfort and less in city traffic and short stints.
The third series Ventoux shown here was once owned by King Leopold of Belgium.

The Type 57 proved to be Bugatti's most successful model, at 630 cars produced of the standard version and 40 of the SurbaissÚ version. The best sold version was the Ventoux, the Type 57 model which you're most likely to encounter these days.
Unfortunately this wasn't enough to survive. Bugatti tried to replace the Type 57 after WW2 (after the deaths of son Jean in 1939 and "Patron" Ettore in 1947) and but lack of funds meant that the company had to throw in the towel after a few produced cars. Final curtains for the original Bugatti company came in 1963, when it was taken over by Hispano-Suiza.

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