by Pete Hagenbuch
Legend has it that, in 1994, one-time Chrysler design chief Tom Gale and then Chrysler president Bob Lutz served together as judges for the Pebble Beach Concours
The classic cars to be judged were located on the
18th fairway, but arranged on the lawn around the club house were a
number of concept cars, old and new, not included in the judging. They
decided that next year, Chrysler was going to have a concept car that
would put all the other concepts “back on their
The legend says that Lutz sketched his ideas on a
napkin which he gave to Gale. Gale gave his design staff the
assignment but without the sketches, explaining that he
didn’t want to give his designers any preconceptions which
would stifle their creativity. They were told to use ideas and features
of the curvaceous French coupes of the thirties (Bugatti,
Talbot-Lago, Delahaye and Delage) to come up with a knock-out retro
design that would mix the best of the old with the newest of the new.
The result, designed by Bob Hubbach, is the 1995 Chrysler Atlantic.
The car is 199.5”
long, 75.8” wide, and stands 51.6” tall. Its
wheelbase is 126”, and it rides on 21” wheels in
front and 22” in the back. Power is provided by a 4.0 liter
straight eight which consists of two 2.0 liter Neon 4 cylinder blocks
arranged nose-to-tail. While its styling is an obvious blend of old and
new, its list of features is cutting edge. Brakes are four-wheel discs
with ABS. The transmission is automatic with Auto-Stick. Neon lighting
is used for brake lights, CHMSL, and interior dome lighting.
The Atlantic is a part of the Walter P. Chrysler Museum collection; indeed, the Museum opened in October 1999 with an honored spot reserved for it, just to the right of the rotating pedestal. The graphics were in place for the Atlantic, but in its place stood the bright red 1941 Newport dual cowl phaeton. The car itself was in great demand on the show and museum circuit; it came home in the summer of 2004, but just for a visit. It was a part of the Museum’s “Chrysler Design Excellence” show, which
highlighted the Chrysler brand and some of its most beautiful examples.
Ettore Bugatti was a builder of things mechanical. In his factory in
Molsheim, France, he built boats and aircraft engines and at least one
airplane and but his first love was automobiles. He is generally
considered an artist, more so than an engineer. This might serve to
explain why some of his designs were characterized as “a bit
wacky” while others were inspired. He produced two
outstanding Grand Prix cars, his Types 35 and 59. His engines were
works of art, as were a number of his cars. One of his last designs is
considered by many to be his best, the Type 57 sports and sports racing
It was in the realm of body
design where he produced his most bizarre creations. The Type 57 sported a 3.3 liter straight eight engine with
double overhead camshafts and hemispherical combustion chambers. The
angle between intake and exhaust valves was 90 degrees. The cylinder
block and head were cast integrally and bolted to a cast aluminum
crankcase/transmission housing. The Type 57S was equipped with a
Rootes-type positive displacement supercharger. The Type 57S was a
potent performer and in a streamlined body christened “the
Tank” by the motoring press, it won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in
1937 and again in 1939.
The Type 57 was produced in
greater quantity than any other Bugatti, with an estimated 750 in all.
Bugatti offered a variety of body styles, and the chassis was
made available to independent coach builders. One of the weirdest was
an open sports body with fully skirted, steering front fenders. But the
one most commonly associated with the Type 57 is the Atlantique coupe.
It is hard to describe this one but its most noticeable feature is the
very large spot welding seam which runs from the windshield header to
the tailend of the body.
The photos of the blue
Atlantique posed with the Chrysler Atlantic are obviously models, the
Bugatti a rather poor one in 1/24 scale from Burago of Italy. Though
lacking in fit and finish (the right hand door won’t stay
closed), it does appear more or less accurate in its basic shape.
Chrysler is a 1/18 scale by Guiloy of Spain, considerably better in
quality. I tweaked the smaller model so a comparison could be
made. If you’re interested in obtaining the Guiloy model, the scale18.com* site had one left in
stock for $69.95. They don’t show it as out of production.
Also, check the WPC Museum Gift Shop; I’ve seen them there
from time to time. I’m sure they can
still be found since Guiloy doesn’t retire their models the
way some manufacturers do.
As for the Bugatti model, I’ve
never seen it in stores. I bought mine by mail order sometime in the
*Scale18 is the website of Kevin’s Hobbies of Anmore, British Columbia,
Canada. Kevin claims that his “Huge List” contains every 1/18 scale
diecast model car ever offered for sale. He includes not only all that
are 1/18 scale, but all those that claim to be 1/18 scale. I’ve tried
to find one that’s not on the list but so far no way. Kevin also has a
huge inventory along with very competitive prices.
Pete Hagenbuch, not content with designing the engines and fuel systems used in the actual cars, or in being a well-known slot car performance pioneer, has written reviews of numerous models:
Pete Hagenbuch, Mopar engineer Pete Hagenbuch Interview Models and promos Model forum
Concept cars are often made so a car’s feel can be evaluated, problems can be foreseen, and reactions of the public can be judged. Some concepts test specific ideas, colors, controls, or materials — either subtle or out of proportion, to hide what’s being tested. Some are created to help designers think “out of the box.” The Challenger, Prowler, PT Cruiser, and Viper were all tested as production-based concepts dressed up to hide the production intent.
Concept cars • popular: Firepower • Tomahawk • ME412 • M4S • Mighty FC • Gladiator
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Chrysler Atlantic Concept cars