1937 Bugatti is “rolling art,” according to someone who would know

Jay Leno Bugatti Type 57 SC
Jay Leno's Garage

A Bugatti Type 57 SC is an Art Deco masterpiece that needs no introduction. When that Type 57 is wearing the automotive equivalent of a buttoned-up blue shirt? Well, it only makes sense that Jay Leno would own one.

Of course, wearing the same shirt as someone is no reason to get married, so there must be other reasons that convinced Leno to bring this 1937 Bugatti into his collection. Luckily, he decides to share the story on this week’s episode of Jay Leno’s Garage.

The Type 57 is widely regarded as a beautiful shape, which makes the story of how it got that silhouette all the more interesting. The car appears to be riveted together down the center, and it is. The original goal for the Type 57 was to be as light of a car as possible; Bugatti even built an “Aérolithe” version with a body built out of Elektron, a 90/10 mixture of magnesium and aluminum. This alloy is difficult to weld, so the hand-formed panels were riveted together and the seam became an iconic part of the design. So much so that even steel-bodied cars like Jay’s still wear the rivets.

The engine beneath the elegant shape is just as pretty when you consider the engineering involved. Bugatti was big on the blend of aesthetic and function, so the dual overhead-head cam, supercharged, 3.3-liter straight-eight wears turned-aluminum cam covers and smoothly puts out over 170 horsepower—some estimate up to 197. While that power figure is not earth-shattering, that engine is only pushing just 2400 pounds, and it is reined in by mechanical drum brakes.

These attributes make the Type 57 a delight to drive. Jay describes the Bugatti as “light on its feet” and says it is perfect for the tight, twisty canyon roads of southern California. A crisp early morning, when the heat coming up through the firewall would be welcome and traffic would be low, sounds perfect to us.

Too bad there are only four of these cars out there; I doubt many of us will be so lucky as to experience that drive. Luckily, one owner felt the need to share the experience. Thanks for the ride, Jay.


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    Someone might call it the original clown shoe, but that someone might get yelled at by the collector community so that someone isn’t me

    Someone might say put some carpet and floppy ears on it and Dumb and Dumber is ready for a sequel…. alright i’m done now… the rotten tomatoes are over there

    You are terrible but now it can’t be unseen.

    I also had the clown shoe thought but D&D is now floating there.

    Even as a child I recognized the art-deco-styled beauty of the 1937 Bugatti Tipo 57 and the 1937 Talbot Lago t150 ss. They still get my motor running, much like Ann-Margret does (in other ways). I’m a much younger vintage than either, but I can still recognize unique beauty when I see it.
    I saw Ralph Lauren’s Bugatti at the “Car as Art” show at the Boston Museum of Fine Art. A memorable moment.

    To suggest 170-197hp as “not earth-shattering” is to betray one’s ignorance to a time and place not of today. Those numbers were certainly impressive for the day. And still today.

    Want some laughs ?
    Look at the ads published in the back of the Car &Drjver and road & Track magazines in the 70s

    These and many other cars that are worth millions today , were for sale , for next to nothing .

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