English-Bodied 1937 Bugatti 3.3L Type 57

A truly unique history envelops this elegant Italian French sports car. The 1937 Bugatti Type 57 Surbaisse 3.3-Litre Four-Seat Sports Grand Routier called ‘Dulcie’ began life as one of three lightweight chassis built for Bugatti’s works team. One complete car survives, one is gone, and this one gained a gorgeous body crafted by London’s Coachwork by Corsica. Called “The Hidden Legend,” Dulcie heads to action at Bonhams in London on 19 February 2021. Get your popcorn and caviar ready because this No Reserve auction promises plenty of fireworks among Bugatti collectors of lofty means. Bonhams estimates a hammer price between $6.8 and $9.5 million US dollars.

The racing-bred 3.3L inline six cylinder engine differs from the full-race versions mainly by its lack of a supercharger. Still, with an estimated top speed of nearly 100 MPH, this world-class engine would have made this Bugatti one of the fastest cars around.

Corsica Coachworks built buyer-commissioned custom-bodied cars including a 1936 Bugatti 57 Aero Coupe. The floating fenders visually lighten the front while displaying the suspension. Largely unrestored, the car picked up the moniker “hidden” after vanishing into an English collection from 1969 until recently.

Glossy natural wood compliments the chrome and light interior finishes. Many adults of this car’s day could readily recall a time before automobiles. Commanding a machine that could exceed a mile a minute pace put the owner in rare company.

Ship line owner and Member of Parliament Robert Ropner shared my belief that amazing vehicles should be shared with more than a single passenger. Ropner commissioned this special Bugatti with what looks like a comfortable back seat. Simpler and less exotic options would have been plentiful, suggesting that Ropner enjoyed a spirited drive now and again. Fortunately the power to commission a car with no financial limitations resulted in a better outcome than the one designed by Homer Simpson of cartoon fame. What feature would you demand on YOUR custom-designed car?

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Comments

  1. Eric Chassignet

    Bugatti was a French car maker until 1963 – resurrected in Italy in 1987.

    Like 4
  2. Steve R

    Gorgeous car. Thank you for featuring it on this site.

    Steve R

    Like 9
    • Al

      I’ve decided to book a Bombardier 7500 from my closest airport and fly into FAB as in Farnborough Airport, Farnborough, United Kingdom for the awkshun at Bonhams London for 19.02.2021.

      I ruled on my exemption for getting Covid 19, so I don’t have to worry about that.

      The only thing remaining is winning the lottery.
      I’ve determined with much thot and konsideration, that its my turn to win.

      Now if only I find enuf change to by a ticket.

      This car is mine, I sea it.

      Like 13
      • Al

        Still haven’t found enuf change yet, but still ain’t over till the weight challenged female has sung.

        Like 1
  3. Blueprint

    Bugatti was a French manufacturer, not an Italian one. The pre-VW revival was Italian, but today even VW has their fabulous 400 km/h machines built in France.

    Like 7
    • Pietro

      Ettore Bugatti was Italian (born in Milano) and became French. He started as talentous mechanic in Milano building his first car here. He was eventually hired by a French coach designer in France and there he started to be a legend.

      Like 3
  4. JRHaelig

    This is not an “elegant Italian sports car.”

    Bugattis were made in Molsheim, France.

    Despite the elastic nature of that region’s border over the years, Italy has not claimed the Alcase region as theirs since the Roman Empire.

    Like 11
  5. Husky

    How about a 318 Poly Swap and a Torque Flite transmission?

    Like 5
  6. delboy

    Been in the passinger seat of a 1934 Lagonda sports car for a saturday afternoon drive. It had much lower bodywork than this machine. Absolutely nothing to hang on to on corners and precious little between you and falling out. The back bench seat was nicknamed the panty wetter because it was so precarious.

    Like 7
  7. DETROIT LAND YACHT

    This would be worth having a replica commissioned if you were merely rich… compared to the hyper rich types that’ll be bidding on this beauty.

    Like 2
    • Derek

      There’s a company in Argentina – Pur-Sang – who build replica Bugattis. Definitely Type 35s, but I daresay they’d have a go at a 57 chassis if you paid them enough…

      Like 2
  8. Pebblebeachjudge

    Simple formula: Italian chassis, Italian body. French chassis , French coach. At this level of investment money, formula rules. Some exceptions, sometimes. This isn’t one of them. Clumsy coach work on a fabulous chassis. Will always be deemed not (art de vivre), and will reflect collectors lack of knowledge that is embedded in the French culture of haute couture coach work.

    Like 6
    • 370zpp

      Mr Judge, Pardon me but could you pass the Grey Poupon?

      Like 4
    • Bill McCoskey

      Pebblebeachjudge,

      Until I read your comments, I thought I was the only person who had that thought. To me, the rear area has the look of a 1930s British saloon. It’s not a bad car, but the back half of the car does not match the rest of it.

      Like 2
  9. Chas H

    Bugatti type 57 have a straight 8, not a 6.

    Like 2
  10. Patrick Lambert

    LOL……”Ship line owner and Member of Parliament Robert Ropner shared my belief that amazing vehicles should be shared with more than a single passenger. Ropner commissioned this special Bugatti with what looks like a comfortable back seat.” Yea, so he could scare the pants off his friends. most people of that time had never ridden that fast in anything.

  11. Pete

    Clumsy coachwork I think NOT , Mr. Pebble beach pardon me judge ? .

    Like 4
  12. Dave Miltner

    its known as a type 57S. S = surbaisse or “lowered” or “on the base” due to the rear axle passing through the frame. Bugatti maintained Italian citizenship all his life but the car was made in France so, yes, its a French car. straight 8 3.3 litre splendor. Modern Bugs too today are French.

    Like 1
  13. Eric

    Hello to all car nuts
    Best wishes for a healty happy year from France

    Ettore Bugatti was born in Milan Italy, came to France – Alsace for to work for the automobiles pionniers De DIETRICH and MATHIS.
    He than founded 1909 BUGATTI in Molsheim.

    Bugatti applied for more than 1000 Mechanical Brevets
    Bugatti means 37 records, and 10000 race victories.

    The famous type 35 is the epitome of beauty on wheels for a prewar race car.
    Bugattis are automobile toroughbreds.
    If you have driven one time on BUGATTI you cannot forget this experience

    It is His son Jean Bugatti, who became the had of the design arround 1930, and created the Type 57.
    Real beauties on wheels; 690 type 57 have been made with different coachworks.

    Jean lost his life aged 30, while testing a 57G “Tank” race car on open roads here in Alsace (the car won the 24hours in LE MANS).

    Ettore got the french citizenship in 1946; and died in 1947 aged 65.

    I invite you to go further, and for those who want go deeper there is an wonderful Bugatti festival every year in september here in MOLSHEIM

    All the best for all of you

    Like 8
  14. Timothy Phaff

    Yes, this Gem is out of my reach but I still enjoy its presence and integrity. Can you see yourself as one of the gentlemen designing it then the builders? Or thinking of the new Bugittis if we could bring back the builders of this to see what their mindset has traveled to through the years and how they would be blown away at first glance.

  15. ERIC

    Hello Girls and boys

    Timothy,
    I remember the time when going to the Festival in MOLSHEIM, I had the chance to speak with the elderly technician who where involved in the process to manufacture this beauties…

    At one of this memorable days, I Had the chance to listen Robert AUMETRE, by the time (chief technician) in BUGATTI.
    He was present that ending day in August 1939, when Jean BUGATTI was driving the car on that small Road near Molsheim.
    Driving to the limits the type 57C while testings for a race to come, Jean lost the control at high speed 220km/h (imagine that scene on a small road 3km long); at one moment in a courageaous atempt not to hit an unexpected bicycle, he hit one of those platane tree along the road.
    Jean diden’t survived and died at his arrival in Strasbourg Hospital
    It was one terrible accident, and The comming VW2 was another tragedy that plunged Europe, and The world into War.
    Bugatti after the War was a broken man, the factory was a broken shell, and the time was over for the ‘FLANBOYANT’

    Now the time is long gone, and the skills all this artists had are memories of the past.
    Ettore BUGATTI was first an gifted artist, combined with exeptionnal talent. He found in Molsheim the place and the gifted mans to achieve his dreams.

    He loved the beauty of simplicity and purity, all this he put in his cars, if you have the chance to look closely on a Bugatti cars, you can just feel it.
    His son Jean walked in his footsteps for to create beauties on wheels.
    Put this in the period of the roaring twenties in France, and you can just imagine how it was while driving this super sports cars.

    BUGATTI Cars are and will remain at the height of exeption

    For those who are familiar with the “langue of Moliere”
    http://leroux.andre.free.fr/revivalbugatti.htm

    The very Best for you all
    Eric

    Like 3
  16. Jules

    I’m afraid you have the wrong Robert Ropner.
    Granted there were a few of them, but this owner was not a Member of Parliament. The one you point to was dead by 1924, well before the car was built. It is in fact this one:
    http://www.thepeerage.com/p24755.htm#i247543
    He is also known as the owner of a lightweight E type Jag.

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