Historic ‘1-of-1’ 1935 Bugatti Aerolithe Coming to Atlanta Concours
Rare re-creation stems from perhaps the greatest car mystery of all time, with all to be revealed in October.
When David Grainger, Bugatti expert and owner of The Guild of Automotive Restoration in Bradford, Ontario, Canada, was commissioned to re-create one of the most famous pre-war European vehicles ever to exist, he was determined to take history to a new level and both Grainger, and his Bugatti Aerolithe Type 57, will again make history this October when the one-of-one handcrafted art deco vehicle is displayed on the field of one of the most historic spots in Atlanta, the original Fort McPherson Army base, and for 2019, the new home for the Atlanta Concours d’Elegance.
“With embellishment comes art,” said Grainger, referring to the magnificent artistry he and his team created during a seven-year process of building the all-new, yet period correct, Aerolithe. “We had the original chassis, #57104, along with the original 3.3-liter, 8-cylinder DOHC engine and its perfect rear axle,” continued Grainger. However the vehicle lacked a body and the team at the Guild had only 11 photographs to go on to create the same perfection of its original predecessor — one that had been shown at only one auto show in Paris in 1935, taken to one show and on one road test in the U.K., never sold by the factory – and as legend states — never to be seen again.
According to Grainger, the Type 57 was the ‘car that started it all’ but became the greatest automotive mystery of all time. After it vanished, Bugatti used the prototype’s unique features as the precursor to the legendary Atlantics, and European coachbuilders took on its styling cues and curves to update their own design direction — but nothing matched the exquisite beauty of Aerolithe’s sensual teardrop fenders and coupe and overall chassis design.
Grainger’s re-creation was built to perfection, utilizing the very same standards and coachbuilding techniques originally used in the 1930s. And thanks to Chris Ohrstrom, the very patient and exemplary patron of the project, Grainger was indeed able to move forward. “We were charged with the inability to use modern day technology, tools or materials such as carbon fiber, and instead relegated to what would have been the strongest material of that timeframe – magnesium,” said Grainger. Lightweight but increasingly hard to work with, magnesium was only one of the many challenges the project entailed noted Grainger. “We had to duplicate something you just can’t see – and that was the greatest challenge of all.”
With no modern processes or conveniences to be utilized, the Aerolithe project became a fastidious, research-driven venture and marked one of the most innovative re-creations by any restoration house or manufacturer to date. In addition to the bodywork, the artisan approach was incorporated into all phases of the interior, including the center-aligned Jaeger instrumentation panel, and the beautiful, yet remarkably simple green leather seats.
When approached by the Atlanta Concours to display, Grainger found a perfect fit based on the show’s reputation for innovative program elements and unique collections as well as a highly regarded team that for 2019 will include honorary judges Ed Gilbertson and Ken Gross.
Now in its fourth year, the Atlanta Concours gains increased global recognition with the showing of Aerolithe, which has been selectively displayed at world renown venues including Amelia Island; The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering; Kuwait Museum; and several prestigious art galleries. Additionally, to further promote the upcoming Atlanta event, Aerolithe and Grainger will be featured within a full segment on Jay Leno’s Garage, where Jay became the first and only individual to ever drive the re-created model on the road.
Other responsibilities for Grainger during the Atlanta Concours weekend will include his role as a celebrity judge during the weekend’s “Cars and Classics Invitational,” where only 200 cars will be pre-selected to partake on the parade field, with models ranging from 1900-1970.
He will also be the head judge for the day’s “Magnificent Seven” competition–a highlight which debuted in 2017, drawing a total of 14 winners from these 200 vehicles, creating two specific groups of seven stand-out vehicles that will be invited to return on Sunday to be displayed within their own class among the field of spectacular concours vehicles. One “Magnificent Seven” class will remain the “best seven” overall from Saturday’s field, with an addition this year of a second group offering the ‘best seven’ preservation/survivor cars.
Grainger’s keen restoration and historic automotive knowledge is a given, based on his long-standing as host of Restoration Garage, now in its fifth year on MotorTrend TV.
Bill Wallet, co-chairman for the Atlanta Concours, is excited for the opportunity to bring a world-class car like the Aerolithe to his growing show. “From the very beginning, we have sought to produce a show of innovation coupled with historic value – and the Aerolith is a very special example of both.”
General admission and VIP tickets for the Atlanta Concours, which is set for October 19-20, can be purchased online here, with discounts applied if purchased before August 30.