Bugatti Type 57G 1937 Le Mans

Shortly after the introduction of the road-going Bugatti Type 57 began traversing the roadways, racing versions were created. It was a temptation hard to resist, as they were well constructed and a very mature breed. Proper bodies were soon constructed to take absolute advantage of the cars mechanical prowess, and soon began competing on the worlds toughest stages.

A purpose-built version emerged in 1936 dubbed the 57G. It was given the nickname, 'the tank', in recognition of its fully enclosed bodywork. This was not the first time a car had been given this designation; that honor went to the Type 32. A few years later, legendary racer Briggs Cunningham would bring his own version of a streamlined body to LeMans, and the press called it 'Le Monster'. It had a similar, intimidating design that attempted to take advantage of aerodynamic principles.

The Type 57G featured a sloped front with adequate mesh grilles for allowing cool air to pass through the engine and front drum brakes. The aluminum body rested on a steel frame with drum brakes at all four corners. Mounted under the bonnet was an engine similar to the one found in the road-going versions. It was tuned to produce around 200 horsepower and mated to a four-speed gearbox.

The Type 57G enjoyed much racing success in Grand Prix racing and earned many podium finishes. Its aerodynamic body and lightweight construction gave it numerous advantages, including better fuel economy.

The Type 57G was brought to the 24 Hours of LeMans where it was driven by Jean-Pierre Wimille and Robert Benoist to an overall victory, having averaged 85 mph.

The Bugatti marque was absent from LeMans in 1938, but Jean Bugatti was able to convince Ettore to return in 1939. A single entrant was entered, a Type 57C, driven by Wimille and Veyron. It was driven to another victory for the Type 57 and Bugatti legacy, after a Delage driven by Louis Gerard was forced to retire. The winning car was later test driven by Jean Bugatti and wrecked. The accident claimed the life of Jean and the car was never rebuilt.

In total, there were three examples of the Type 57G created in 1936 and the example shown is the only one still in existence. It is part of the Simeone Foundation Museum in Philadelphia PA and carries chassis number 57335. It was the example that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1937, the French Grand Prix, the Grand Prix de la Marne and the Grand Prix de Pau.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2008

A racing success story with the Bugatti Type 57G Tank

The Type 57G Tank was built in Molsheim in 1936 and 1937. Only three cars were produced at the Bugatti manufacturing plant in the Alsace. With these racing cars, Bugatti aimed to lead the world of French motor racing to new victories, as at that time only foreign brands were constantly winning.

Jean Bugatti, son of the company founder Ettore Bugatti, pushed through an initiative to develop a sports car which could be used for long distance competitions. In order to ensure the lowest possible centre of gravity, it was decided to combine the standard type 57S chassis wîth the Bugatti 3.3-liter row eight cylinder and a wheelbase of 2.98 m. The engine of the 57G Tank delivers approximately 200 hp and, thanks to the aerodynamically designed body, could quickly reach higher speeds than that of the competitors at the time.

The car was on the road to success from the very beginning, wîth Jean-Pierre Wimille a fixture at the wheel. His first victories in the 57G Tank were won in 1936 at the Grand Prix de l'A.C.F in Montlhéry and the Grand Prix de la Marne.
For the Le Mans 24 hour race on July 19 and 20th, 1937, Bugatti registered two racing cars of this type. The first car was driven by test drivers Pierre Veyron and Roger Labric, wîth Jean- Pierre Wimille and Robert Benoist taking control of the second Tank. After only a short while, Wimille took the lead and ultimately won the race wîth an average speed of 136.99 km/h (84 MPH) and a total distance of 3,287.938 km (2,043 miles). Thus, he was able to claim Bugatti's very first victory in this legendary race, and became a brand legend himself.