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 d’Elegance.
There were a number of concept cars, old and new, not included in the judging. Gale and Lutz decided that next year, Chrysler was going to have a concept car that would put all the other concepts “back on their trailers.”
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 (Delahaye, Bugatti, Talbot-Lago, and Delage) to come up with a knock-out 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 was claimed to be two hundred inches long, 76 inches wide, and nearly 52 inches tall; riding on a 126 inch wheelbase, it used 21” wheels in front and 22” in the back (either the length or the wheelbase is likely incorrect). Power was provided by a 4.0 liter straight eight, built from two Neon engine blocks, arranged nose-to-tail.
Its features were pure 1995: four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, automatic transmission with Auto-Stick, and neon brake and interior lights.
The Atlantic was a part of the Walter P. Chrysler Museum collection, and was sometimes put onto the show and museum circuit.
One of the influences on the Atlantic was Ettore Bugatti. In his French factory, he built boats and aircraft engines and at least one airplane, but his first love was automobiles. He is generally considered an artist, more so than an engineer, which may explain why some of his designs were “a bit wacky” while others were inspired.
Ettore Bugatti 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 car.
The Type 57 sported a 3.3 liter straight-eight engine with double overhead camshafts and hemispherical combustion chambers, with a 90° angle between intake and exhaust valves. The block and head were cast integrally, and bolted to a cast aluminum crankcase/transmission housing; the Type 57S was equipped with a Rootes-type supercharger. With 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 the most popular Bugatti, with an estimated 750 made; there were a variety of body styles, and the chassis was
available to independent coach builders. One of the weirdest was
an open sports body with fully skirted, steering front fenders. The
one most commonly associated with the Type 57 is the Atlantique coupe.
Its most noticeable feature is the
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 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 is 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 [as of 2016 there were four models, none available]. 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,
Chrysler Atlantic Concept cars