The Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance Blog

1990 Best of Show Winner

May 5, 2021

1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic shown by Ralph Lauren

With a dramatic riveted seam scaling its top, the Bugatti Atlantic is one of the most recognizable creations in the collector car world. The original concept for the model, the Aérolithe, was designed by Ettore Bugatti’s son Jean and built on a shortened Bugatti Type 57 chassis. It debuted in 1935, and four Atlantic Coupés followed.

This Atlantic (chassis 57591), the last built, was originally delivered to British tennis player Richard B. Pope. Ensuing owners included Barrie Price, Anthony Bamford, and Tom Perkins, who shared the car at the 1985 Pebble Beach Concours when all six Bugatti Royales were showcased with two dozen additional Bugattis surrounding them. The car placed Third in Class and also garnered the Briggs Cunningham Trophy on that occasion.

Lauren purchased the Atlantic in 1986 and asked Paul Russell to restore it, opting to change its exterior color amidst the process. The car was originally a French racing blue, but Lauren felt it would look better in black—and his decision was rewarded when the car was named Best of Show at Pebble Beach in 1990.

“Some might object to altering anything about such a rare car,” Lauren acknowledged in an essay he wrote for Art & Antiques a few months after the car’s win. “I sought to maintain the accuracy of the details of the body, the interior, and the engine, but to give the car a new sense of purity by making everything black.”

“It still takes my breath away every time I see it. . . . At age sixty it still looks as futuristic as ever.” The shape “is like no shape I’ve ever seen—the bold contours, the studded seam along the top. I sometimes think it belongs in a museum, but when it’s out on a racetrack it can still hit 110 mph.”

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