A 1936 Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic was last night awarded the Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award in Paris. Fast becoming regarded as the defacto world championship for concours cars, the Best of the Best Award pits the winning cars from each of the eight most important concours events around the world each year, and has them judged by a panel of experts, creating an annual champion of champions. This year it was predictably the Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic, one of the world's most valuable cars.
Now in its third year, the Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award brought together eight best of show winners to compete for the title of the most exceptional motor car in the world, though in many minds, the appearance of the Bugatti Type 57 SC made the third running of the event somewhat of a non-contest.
The winning Bugatti has always been regarded as one of the most valuable cars in the world, being sold at auction in 1971 for a then world record price of US$59,000. It was purchased by well-known car collector Dr. Peter Williamson and remained in the Williamson family until 2010 when it was privately sold to Walmart Chairman Rob Walton for a reported $40 million.
The Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award-winner is apparently now co-owned by Rob and Melani Walton and the Mullin Automotive Museum, where it is often on display. Its most recent public showing other than at the Mullin Museum and Chantilly Château in France last September, was at the Los Angeles-based Petersen Automotive Museum where it was one of the stars of the "Art of Bugatti" exhibit (pictured above).
It earned its finalist spot in the Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award when it was named "Best of Show Concours d'Etat" at the 2017 Chantilly Arts & Elégance Richard Millee.
The Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic Coupé was styled on the famous Aérolithe concept car designed by Jean Bugatti in 1935, and hence had the same "dorsal fin" design used in the concept car due to the Elektron magnesium alloy used, which could not be welded.
Though the Atlantic Coupés used aluminum, and could have been welded, the distinctive design endured and the three Atlantics extant (four were built) are among the most valuable in the world. One of the other two extant cars is owned by fashion magnate Ralph Lauren and like this car, whenever it is entered in a concours event, it generally wins.
The last time the Ralph Lauren Bugatti Atlantic was seen publicly was at Concorso Elegenza Villa d'Este in 2013, where it predictably picked up the top gong. Indeed, as we suggested in our preview of this event, if we were "framing a bookmakers market, this would be the car with the shortest price."
"The Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic is the crown jewel of the automotive circuit," said Bugatti Head of Tradition Julius Kruta. "This car was Jean Bugatti's masterpiece with its beautiful and breath-taking lines, plus its unmatched performance for the time. Today, it remains the ultimate expression of the Bugatti legacy: unparalleled power and beautiful design."
"This model, chassis number 57374, was the first Type 57 Atlantic produced and is the only surviving "Aéro Coupé, a designation given to the first two cars that were mechanically very similar to the Aérolithe [pictured below]," said Kruta.
"The Atlantic represents the pinnacle of everything I adore about French automotive styling and is widely described as the Mona Lisa of the automobile collector world," said Peter Mullin, Founder and CEO of the Mullin Automotive Museum. "From its signature curves to its aviation-inspired rivets, to the Jean Bugatti designed sleek all-aluminum body, the car is truly a remarkable piece of art. I'm very honored to have shared it with the world among other worthy 'Best of the Best' contenders."
"I second Peter's thoughts – the other seven nominees were simply stunning, which makes winning the award feel even more special," said Rob Walton, co-owner of the winning car. "What this award does is allow us to take a step back and admire the quality and beauty of the greatest classic cars in existence today. For an automotive fan like myself, it's a joy."
Previously presented during Monterey Car Week, the Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award moved to Paris this year to be presented during Rétromobile.
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