The concept for the Atlantic was first shown in 1935 at both the Paris and London auto shows. Called the Competition Coupe Aerolithe (using the French word for "meteor"), it rode on a prototype chassis from a Bugatti Type 57S and was powered by a normally aspirated, 3.3-liter, DOHC straight-8. Historians are certain that two Aerolithes were built as prototypes, but they did not exist simultaneously and neither survives.
Although other manufacturers were experimenting with aerodynamics, Bugatti's outrageously curvaceous Aerolithe proved to be a design sensation. In production, it became known as the Aero, and Jean Bugatti set out to make the body from Electron, an alloy of magnesium and aluminum. When welding proved difficult, Jean Bugatti and assistant Joseph Walter united the sections with rivets, which explains the spinelike center rib dividing the svelte body, a theme repeated in its teardrop-shaped fenders.
Production Atlantic bodies were aluminum. The rivets were no longer needed, but they looked exotic, so the illusion of a riveted spine was retained. Close-coupled, cramped, poorly ventilated and quite impractical, the sexy lightweight coupe was nevertheless an enthusiast's delight and one of only a handful of sports cars of the era that could top 125 mph.