We know her initial number- 57453, we know that she was nicknamed “La Voiture Noire”. Sometimes we even call her “la voiture de Monsieur Jean”, although this expression has also been used for the Type 55 and for the sole preserved example of Type 64.
However, we often fail to realize that the Aéro Coupé which carried the chassis numbers 57453, 57222 and 57454 has been mentioned, three times, in the Bugatti factory documents as the “Belg. Coupé”. The authors of “The Bugatti Type 57S” book, Dr. Bernhard Simon and Mr. Julius Kruta suggest that the name, linked with the chassis number 57454, actually refers to the Type 64. However, Mr. Pierre-Yves Laugier, who found a mention about the “Belg. Coupé” in a document from the 1939, sees it as another name of the missing Aéro Coupé/Atlantic.
I discussed it with a great collector of Bugatti books and photographs, Mr. Uwe Zummach, who deserves the name of Heinrich Schliemann of the Molsheim car world. We came to a conclusion that the Aéro Coupé/Atlantic scenario is much more probable. Mr. Laugier’s quotes a mention about “57454 moteur 2SC… BELG”. The engine number “2SC” is the one that appears alongside the chassis number “57453” in the famous
“57 Aero Coupe / 2SC. 3/10. 57453. Black. Cloth interior. No. 602, Leather, P.C.S..”
line noticed by Mr. Laugier in factory documents from 1936.
A workshop notebook from 1936, called “Carnet no. 4”, is quoted by Mr. Simon and Mr. Kruta, on page 68 of their book. The expression “Belg. Coupé” is placed above the name “Alb. Prejean” (Albert Préjean), in a column that contains buyers’ names. Mr. Uwe Zummach points out that even Mr. Simon and Mr. Kruta state that the table containing a row about the “Belg. Coupé” appears “under type 57”.
On page 67 Mr. Simon and Mr. Kruta reveal that the “Belg. Coupé” was probably meant for “Mr. Gabriele Duhoux”. While the spelling “Gabriele” is a result of a mistake, it’s easy to identify the person.
Mr. Gabriel Duhoux was an architect, the founder of Le Berger Hotel in Brussels, the owner of a Bugatti Atalante with the chassis number 57562 (http://www.automobileweb.net/index.php?page=type57satalante) and a Monte Carlo Rally racer.
The family of Mr. Duhoux’s life partner has informed the historian Isabelle Léonard that:
“Mr. Duhoux had enough money to participate in the Monte Carlo Rally in one of his Bugattis” (https://www.humo.be/humo-archief/268816/het-leven-zoals-het-was-rendez-voushotel).
However, the records contain only his starts in a Dodge and in a Chrysler
Bugatti didn’t achieve a big success in the Monte Carlo Rally, while their arch rivals Delahaye eventually won in 1937 and in 1939.
If Mr. Duhoux had been an ordinary client, his name would have been noted in the factory documents in place of the “Belg. Coupé” expression.
Well, it’s known that in motor sports “the contestant” and “the driver” are not obviously the same thing. So … what if the “lost Atlantic”, reportedly a car with some racing history (with Robert Benoist behind the wheel), was meant to compete in the Monte Carlo Rally? Maybe even under the auspices of Ettore Bugatti’s friend, King Leopold III.
I keep on researching the Duhoux story, so please stay tuned.
For now, I would like to recommend you a very interesting offer by Bugatti and Cité de l’Automobile. It’s called “My Veyron Experience”. The entrants may choose from two options:
- Émotion (1 h 50 Min with Veyron, cost: 4 990,00 €)
- Rien N’est Trop Beau (9 h, 11 900,00 €)
The event will last from the 1st of July to to the 3rd of November and is open just for 110 participants (because Bugatti celebrates its 110th anniversary). The registration (here: https://www.myclassicautomobile.com/experiences?lang=en) ends on the 31st of May, so there is little time left.