The “Belg. Coupé”- an underrated name of the most precious Bugatti


(photos: M_93– Veyron, Sfoskett~commonswiki– Atlantic)

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
(https://www.ewrc-results.com/profile/139696-g-duhoux/).
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.

How to help Lotus find the Mark I

Lotus wishes us Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year or, well, Merry Driftmas and a Hethel New Year. So, I would like to say “thank you” and give them a little present in return.

At the end of September 2018 the Hethel company announced that they are asking for help in tracking down the first car created by Colin Chapman i.e. the Lotus Mark One (https://www.lotuscars.com/news/corporate/finding-very-first-help-locate-lotus-mark-i). As the company has been celebrating its 70th anniversary, it would be really nice to find the car or at least learn what has happened with it.

There are, of course, a lot of people who would love to help, but the problem lies in how we imagine such research. I have once written about the need for an automotive Larra Croft or Indiana Jones but it’s a very simplified vision of the topic. Indiana Jones is a character inspired by archaeologists like Heinrich Schlieman and Howard Carter. And the search for lost cars may be a task for people who are ready to think like Jean-François Champollion (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jean-Francois-Champollion), the man who deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Here are the things that should be taken into account:

  1. Searching for lost cars, if done well, is mostly about reading, writing emails and making phone calls. Walking from barn to barn hasn’t got us the lost Bugatti Aéro Coupé (so-called “Black Atlantic”) and it won’t get us the Lotus. In the case of the Bugatti, it’s possible that people have been looking in barns in the wrong region (http://motofiction.eu/the-reasons-why-its-worth-to-search-for-la-voiture-noire-near-brussels/).
    If working with documents and writing requests for information doesn’t seem much of an adventure, we should realise that adventures rarely happen to those who just move around. They happen to those who do something unique. And a systematic research is less popular than the belief in accidental barn finds.
  2. We are looking for an Austin Seven
    Can we be convinced that any person who bought the Lotus Mark I ever started to consider his or her car “a Lotus”? If not, there may be a lot of documents in which the car is mentioned as an Austin Seven. We know that it has been described as “an Austin Seven Special four-seater sports-cum-trials” in the advert published in Motor Sport magazine.
  3. Learning the story of the British registration plate system can be the key.
    It’s known that the car carried two registration plates: PK 3493 and OX 9292. Although there are some articles that tell the story of the British registration plates (http://www.cvpg.co.uk/REG.pdf, https://www.autoexpress.co.uk/car-news/96260/uk-car-number-plates-explained-rules-history-and-what-they-mean, https://www.platehunter.com/news/a-guide-into-the-history-of-uk-number-plates/292), what we really need to know is:

    1. the real reason for the change from PK 3493 to OX 9292 and
    2. an answer to the question “was the subsequent owner obliged to change the car’s registration plate?”.
      I think that this book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/History-Vehicle-Registration-United-Kingdom/dp/187268632X might be the way to go.
  4. If books and articles won’t help us, we may just ask these questions to DVLA (https://www.gov.uk/get-vehicle-information-from-dvla).
  5. …or to Mrs. Hazel Chapman…
    …who may also remember some details about the car buyers’ look…
    …or some details of the car, that haven’t been yet described in books or articles published in magazines.
  6. We can assume that the Mark I was raced. Because race car.
    Therefore, a good thing to begin with is creating a database of trial events that were organized in the north of England in early 1950s.
  7. The automotive clubs are precious sources.
    In my research concerning the legend of a LHD Jensen FF (https://www.joc.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=13929), I contacted the British Racing Drivers’ Club. And my request was received by some very helpful people to whom I’m very grateful.

Andrzej Szczodrak

The reasons why it’s worth to search for La Voiture Noire near Brussels

DISCLAIMER:

The blog is called “Motofiction” as it was initially created for “what if” stories about the motoring brands that ceased to exist i.e. articles like “what if Polish pre-war brand CWS survived till today”. However, this analysis is based on facts and my conclusions seem to have been confirmed (see the end of the post).

The black Bugatti 57SC Aéro Coupé also known as the Black Atlantic or La Voiture Noire (the black car) is such a legendary vehicle that there is no better way to remind the world that cars are works of art than to find this Bugatti. Therefore, every hypothesis on its whereabouts should be verified. After a deep analysis of all available sources, I came to a conclusion that the car has been sold before the World War II. Here are the arguments:

•The plate with the initial chassis number of La Voiture Noire (57453) has been found in another car (the Hidden Treasure- http://www.bugattipage.com/newspics3/57453.pdf) in the USA. 57453 is the first of three chassis numbers known to be assigned to the Black Aéro. The last of them is 57454. After it had been used for La Voiture Noire, it was assigned to prototypes- Type 64 (probably) and Type 101 (for sure). So, there is little possibility that the Black Aéro was lost by the Bugatti company. If it had happened, the plates would have been lost as well.

•The 57454 chassis number was issued for Ettore Bugatti on 2th of July 1938. On 31th of September it was reassigned from the „Coach Gris” used by Mr. De Boigne (most probably François Le Borgne de Boigne, who later became the husband of Ettore Bugatti’s daughter Lidia) to Coach Special Type 64 with engine no. 2. „Coach Gris” means „gray coupé” or „pale coupé”. Therefore, the „Coach Gris” couldn’t be the Black Aéro. If Black Aéro had remained a factory car, probably any third vehicle between it and Type 64 wouldn’t have received the plate.

•A photography taken in 1939 shows a factory mechanic, Alphonse Meyer, working on the Black Aéro that has the 1521 NV4 registration plate (known to be linked to the 57454 chassis number). Selling the car would be a good reason to move the plate temporarily to Mr. De Boigne’s car and then, for a longer period of time, to the Type 64.

•The hypothesis that the elements of the Black Aéro have been used in Type 64 prototypes hasn’t been confirmed despite the fact that almost all of the Type 64 chassis are accessible. The only Type 64 chassis that is not well known to the public is owned by Mr. Robert Jarraud. However, the Bugatti enthusiasts say that the best way to find a contact to Mr. Robert Jarraud is to write to the famous author of “Bugatti Type 57 Sport”, Mr. Pierre-Yves Laugier.
Moreover, the transformation would have taken very little time as the Black Aéro still existed in the 1939.

•A French insurance company named “Aon Classic Cars” states that no parts of the Black Aéro have been found yet, so there is a high possibility that the car may be complete (http://www.aonclassiccar.fr/2016/04/bugatti-atlantic-57453-fausse-nouvelle-bonne-nouvelle/ ).

•In the Bugatti factory documents there are some mentions about a „Belg. Coupé” which had a chassis number of 57454. „Belg. Coupé” was meant to be ready for the 31th of August 1939. In the „Bugatti Type 57S” book by Mr. Bernhard Simon and Mr. Julius Kruta it’s assumed that the „Belg. Coupé” was a Type 64, planned to be exhibited on the Paris Motor Show in 1939. However …

•In the interwar period Paris Motor Show was often organized in October,

•The car was planned to be ready for 31th of August, the day before the outbreak of the World War II. The Paris Motor Show exhibition was canceled due to the war,

•Bugatti had an agency in Paris, where they sold cars. One of the factory racers, Robert Benoist, who reportedly drove the Black Aéro Coupé during Le Mans qualifications, was the sales director of that agency.

•Pierre-Yves Laugier, the author of „Bugatti 57S Sport” associates the „Belg. Coupé” name with the Black Aéro,

•On the other hand, Bernhard Simon and Julius Kruta mention „Gabriele Duhoux” as the client who ordered the „Belg. Coupé”

•Among the cars stored in Bordeaux, that are listed in the factory document from 18th February 1941, there is a “57454 Coupé Atlantic” having the “2CS” engine. However …

•The car’s registration number is 1244 W5. The Black Aéro has never been photographed with such plate. The Type 64 has.

•The cars that are noted in the factory documents under the name “Atlantic” (i.e. the 57473 and the 57591) have different front wheel arches than Aéro Coupés (57374 and 57453), with headlights on a top of a fender. There is no trace of an evolution of the Black Aéro into a “proper” Atlantic. On the contrary- the last known photograph (the one with Alphonse Meyer) shows the car with low placed headlights.

•If the Black Aéro Coupé is found near Brussels, it will be a double sensation. The black example of the Type 64 that is held in the Cité de l’Automobile Museum in Mulhouse will become recognized as a “Type 64 Atlantic”. It can make sense. The rear part of the Type 64 body resembles Atlantics as well as Aéro Coupés and its headlights are placed near the top of the wheel arch, like in Atlantics.

•Bordeaux has been an obvious direction for every person who searched for “La Voiture Noire”. It’s really hard to believe that the “57453” could still be anywhere near this city. It can also be assumed that all the places around the old Invicta works in Laeken (discussed by Ettore Bugatti and king Leopold III as a possible location for a Bugatti factory) have been combed as well.

•Gabriel Duhoux was a Bugatti customer from Brussels, as well as the founder and the owner of the Le Berger Hotel. He participated in the Monte Carlo rally (so he was more likely to buy a car that had been spiritedly driven by Robert Benoist). In 1937 he bought the Bugatti 57S Atalante with chassis number 57562. In early 1950s he sold that car to Jean De Dobbeleer. The 57562 had just 7000 km of mileage. It had been hidden during the WWII, then it was displayed the Grand Prix d’Excellence in Brussels in 1946.
In the 1950s, an attept to run the engine caused that the gears between crankshaft and camshaft were broken.

•According to the book „Le Berger. Souvenirs d’une maison de rendez-vous” written by Isabelle Léonard, Mr. Duhoux owned eleven mansions and multiple terrains. Pretty much space to place a car. And, certainly, a wealth big enough to think about buying a Bugatti 57SC Atlantic (or rather Aéro Coupé).

Mr. Duhoux died at 61. All his possessions were inherited by his life companion, Mrs. Thérèse Goyvaerts (http://intohistory.com/hotel-le-berger/). They had no children. In the 2010s the Le Berger Hotel, which had been created in the 1935 by Mr. Duhoux, was planned to be demolished.

EDIT:

After I had asked the notary of Mrs. Thérèse Goyvaerts to contact her heirs, I received an email with an information that the car had been sold in late 1950s and that the name of the vendor is not known. At first I thought that the heirs of Mrs. Thérèse Goyvaerts might have confused the Black Aéro Coupé with the 57562 Atalante. However, the Atalante was sold to Jean De Dobbeleer in early 1950s. Of course, I’m going to ask for photos and documents and continue the search for the current owner.

Here is the screenshot:

I continue the research.
Stay tuned.

Andrzej Szczodrak

Special thanks to: Uwe Zummach, Stephan Sturges, Cité de l’Automobile National Museum | Schlumpf Collection and Maciej Peda.

Automotive X-files or how a computer database may boost the Bugatti history research

 

 

I’m not very interested in paranormal things. However, I think I don’t need such interest in order to say that it would be good to create an “Automotive X-Files unit”. Actually, last time I wrote that there is a need for an “Indiana Jones of motoring” or an “Automotive Lara Croft”, although I’m not crazy enough to believe that such person would ever see any of the deadly traps faced by those popular culture archaeologists.

What I really believe is that the greatest puzzles of the automotive history deserve being disputed and solved. And while we don’t need any paranormal investigations in the motoring world, we need people who will approach every mystery from the car and motorbike history without fear that the case is too complicated.

In Poland, where I live, “Archiwum X” is a common metaphorical name for police units which handle “unsolvable” cases. What is typical for those units, is that they use new scientific discoveries and the information technology to analyze affairs from the past. This leads us straight to the usage of computer databases in the Bugatti history research.

It’s hard to say how many Bugatti databases are there. However, from what is written in books and on forums, most databases use chassis numbers as the main key. On the BugattiBuilder forum (http://www.bugattibuilder.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=2414&start=0) X-Filer asks “What do we need a chassis number database for?” and Herman responds “Because that is all we have. Although the real experts have lists with frame numbers, but are hesitant to release these lists, as they fear this might:

-help con-artists perform their art
-shake the Bugatti community too much
-will cause tremendous financial losses”.

Nevertheless, the question posed by X-Filer may inspire an another, more general question:

“What should be used as the key identifier in the Bugatti database?”

First two candidates have already been mentioned. The quote above indicates that the frame number seems to be the best option. But it’s easy to see its biggest shortcomings:

  • • these numbers are known only to owners and to the most renowned Bugatti historians
    which results from another problem i.e.
  • • to get to know the frame number, an access to the physical car is needed. At first it seems that it is not a problem for a true expert but … let’s ask if frame numbers of Aérolithe (Aérolithes?) or of La Voiture Noire are known. Sounds like a rhetorical question.

So, is the chassis number the best option? Well, not exactly. It would be nice to find something else, because:

  • • chassis numbers were reassigned, especially between factory owned vehicles like prototypes or race cars
    This issue is solved by adding another digits to a chassis number 57456-1 and 57456-2 (http://www.bugattibuilder.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=308) but…
  • • there are two kinds of operations that a good Bugatti register should keep trace of. These are chassis number reassignments and car transformations, as, for example, the Aérolithe (or Aérolithes) is (are) believed to have been converted into Aéro Coupé (or Aéro Coupés, i.e. both 57374 and 57453).

Someone may feel tempted to try engine numbers, but it would be naive to believe that all the cars kept their original engines.

So, is the conclusion that every choice has it pitfalls, but the database designers must stick to one of those numbers? No, I don’t think so. In my opinion, the base should include chassis numbers, engine numbers and frame numbers when they are available but the common name of the car should be used as the main identifier. Such base could handle three things that cause confusion i.e.:

  • • reassigned chassis numbers
  • • car transformations i.e. cases when one car was rebuilt into another
  • • multiple names for one vehicle- for example, the car mentioned in factory documents as “Belg. Coupé” is either “La Voiture Noire” or “Coach spécial Type 64”.

In the proposed database “a vehicle” is a recognized example of the Bugatti car-building art. Such example may be treated as a separate entity even if its evolution into an another vehicle is proven. Therefore the most popular name of such example is selected as the “common name”.

EDIT:
If a vehicle has no book name like “La Voiture Noire” or “Coupe Kellner”, a combination of a chassis number and a body name is the best candidate for the common name (for example, the 57819 would be noted twice as “57819 Voll and Ruhrbeck” and “57819 Atlantic-style De Dobbeleer” and its both transformations would be reflected in the Transformations table). For some cars, like most Type 35s, a chassis number may be used as a common name.

SPECIAL THANKS to Herman Brouwer, who pointed out that without the clarification above, a “common name” could be understood just as a synonym of “book name”.

To sum up, I think that tables could look like that:

(The “NULL” value is used when the actual value doesn’t exist or is unknown)

Table: Vehicles

ID Common_Name Production_
Date
Ordering_
person
Some_
other_
info
Additional_Notes
7991 Aérolithe_57331 1935 NULL
7993 Lord Rotschild’s
Atlantic
31 Sep 1936 276
7994 La Voiture Noire 03 Oct 1936 NULL
7995 Hidden Treasure NULL NULL

Where “ID” is a number generated from a sequence. The “ID” serves as so called “foreign key” in other tables.

Table: Frame Numbers

Vehicle_ID Frame_Number
7991 NULL

Table: Chassis Numbers

(I think, that there is also a need for a table with chassis models i.e. 35, 41, 57, 57S and so on. However, I would like to present just the tables that would be the most useful for documenting each car’s timeline)

ID Chassis_Number Engine_
Data
Last_Seen Currently_
Available
Notes
7991 57453 19 C.V 11 may 2011 TRUE

Table: Chassis Number Assignments

ID Vehicle_ID Chassis_
Number_ID
Assignment_
Date
Removal_
Date
Document_ID
7992 7994 7991 03 Oct 1936 NULL NULL
7993 7995 7991 NULL NULL NULL

Table: License plates

ID License_
plate
Chassis_
Number_ID
Vehicle_ID Assignment_
Date
Removal_
Date
Document_ID
7897 5800 NV 3 7991 7994 03 Oct 1936 NULL NULL

Table: Aliases

A car name is considered “an alias”, if there is strong conviction that the car is known under another name.

ID Expression Document_ID Vehicle_ID
5 Belg. Coupé 5682 NULL

Table: Engines

ID Engine_number Engine_model Production_date Notes
7992 226S 34 NULL NULL

Table: Engine models

(Like others, this table is also simplified, I show it just to mention that it should be a separate entity)

ID Engine_
model_
name
Displacement Fuel Type Removal_
Date
Document_ID
34 57 3257 Gasoline N/A NULL NULL

Table: Engines by vehicles

ID Engine_id Vehicle_id
7987 7992 7991

Table: Transformations

ID Base_
Vehicle_ID
Target_
Vehicle_ID
Base_vehicle_
last_seen_date
Target_vehicle_
first_seen_date
Notes
12 7991 7993 NULL NULL The transformation
described in
“The Bugatti Type 57 S:
Evolution Prototypes
Racing Cars
Production” book
written by
dr Bernard Simon
and
Julius Kruta

Table: Transformations by documents

(to be used if a transformation is confirmed by one or more factory documents)

ID Transformation_id Document_id

Table: People

ID Surname Name Birth_date Death_date Notes
301 Pracht Henri NULL NULL NULL

May be used both for clients and employees. Of course there should also be “Employee Positions” table, but to shorten the article, I omit it.

Table: Documents

ID Title Author_ID Date Contents Current_Location
5682 301 29 Sep 1939 2

Table: Places

ID Title
1 The Molsheim Factory
2 Cite d’Automobile- Collection Schlumpf

I think that such database would be a good tool for recreating the Bugatti car timelines. It could also provide information for some hypothesis-verifying software.

 

Andrzej Szczodrak

The Indy of Cars and the Mysterious Bugatti


or How the overlooked Hidden Treasure shows that we are all doomed

DISCLAIMER:

The blog is called “Motofiction” as it has been created for articles like “what if Polish pre-war brand CWS survived till today”. However, this story is real. The only “motofiction” here may be our belief that modern automotive media protect the automotive culture.

If we asked an average motoring enthusiast what automotive journalists are like, we would probably get an answer similar to “everyone of you, guys and gals, just wants to become The Next Jezza”. And well, such person would have a point, as suprisingly many of us claim to have driven Toyotas whose steering wheels provided feedback from the International Space Station instead of giving the driver an idea of what had happened with the front wheels. Or Alfa Romeos which are so Italian, that, instead of having their multimedia operated with gestures, they use gestures to control their drivers.
But then, such metaphors can’t make “The Next Jezza” of anyone. A journalist who overuses them may rather become “Yet Another Copy of Jezza”. So, instead of mocking Jezza’s style, we should think of taking up his mission, which can be described as

making people fall in love with cars again.

And when I say, that we need this mission to be acomplished so that we aren’t doomed, I mean that the price of your new muscle car, the existence of your local race track and the way roads are managed depend from the amount of the people who like driving. And media are the means of spreading the interest in cars and motorbikes.
However, in order to make a difference, not only does a journalist need to be a good columnist, but he or she also should be able to write a great story with his or her life. Of course, there are lots of stories that include motor vehicles and are made by artists. The books like “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein or the immortal “The Way to Dusty Death” by Alistair MacLean still bring us thrills. We also see that more and more people join our car conversations when movies like “The Fast and The Furious”, “Transformers”, Disney’s “Cars” or the returning “Taxi” series hit the screen. However, the automotive journalists are meant to stay just a step behind the professional motorsport drivers and just a step behind such artists. My childhood hero, Piotr R. Frankowski, whose articles are available to read on the Autoclassics.com site has stated that “A car is something beautiful, like a sculpture or a painting”. It’s my automotive creed as well. And, as beauty is something worth searching for, I will tell you the short story of

The Indy of Cars

Once upon a time, I was looking for some technical information about the reasons for not building the LHD version of the Jensen FF. This led me to an interesting forum thread entitled “Any trace of a LHD FF?“. One of the Jensen Owners’ Club members has meet an ex-dealer who claims having sold an one-off LHD FF. I started to investigate the topic, by finding the family of the reported buyer, talking with the dealer and contacting the friends and relatives of the Jensen representative in Germany from that time- Cornelius Richter. This is the moment when I should say a big “Thank You” to all the marvellous people who were helping me, especially Thomas (“Thomaslk”), Mr. Christoph Klein, Martin (“Alpinist”), Krystian Pomorski, who gave me a really important clue, and Mr. Jim Smith (“Challenger”), who has a very interesting garage called JIM’S Autos.
Although there is a lot of work done by some great jensenologists like the owner of the Jensen Museum- Mr. Ulric Woodhams and Australia-based researcher, Mr. Richard Calver, the Jensen history will, hopefully, attract more and more interest. Would you imagine that, despite the fact that the last FF example had actually been produced in 1971, the model was still offerred in 90s? If not, just look at this folder on the Jensen Owners Belgium website.
The Jensen chief engineer from that time, Mr. John Page denies existence of any factory-build Mark IV Jensen FF. So, such car hasn’t been produced. However, I would like to investigate the origins of the LHD story even more deeply and I will keep working on the topic.
Nevertheles, the Jensen investigation gave me a more general idea.
At the time, when I searched for the people who could know something about the Jensens sold by Mr. Cornelius Richter, I was reading “The Amber Room” by Steve Berry. And then I realised that the history of motoring is full of mysteries and ultra-rare vehicles that deserve being sought after. By the way- it’s nice, that no example of Mega Track has been lost.
I started to believe that the next big automotive story will be “the Lara Croft of Cars” or “the Indiana Jones of Cars”. Let’s just call this person “The Indy of Cars”.

The Ultimate Treasure of Motoring

But the greatest artifact that The Indy of Cars can find is a sibling of the 40 million dollar car. The famous “La Voiture Noire” is one of just four Bugatti 57S Atlantics that have been produced.

  • •The first one, identified by the chassis number 57374, is called “The Lord Rothschild” as it was initially owned by Lord Victor Rothschild. In 1971 the car was bought by Dr Peter Williamson, who restored it and received the Best of Show award at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance 2003. Dr Williamson died in 2008 and in 2010 his car was sold to the Mullin Museum for 30 or 40 millions of dolars.
  • •The second Atlantic was initially owned by Jacques Holzschuch, so it’s called “The Holzschuch car”. Its chassis number is or was 57473.  I say “is or was”, because the fans argue if the car that is currently marked with this number is a proper Bugatti. After the death of Jacques Holzschuch the 57473 was bought by Marguerite Schneider on behalf of Antoine “René” Chatard. It was damaged in an accident, in which Mr. Chatard and his another friend- Janine Vacheron were killed. The Bugatti was hit by a Renault diesel train on the unguarded railway crossing near Gien. Between 1968 and 1977 the 57473 was restored by Paul André Berson, who felt unable to use some damaged elements, including parts of the left side of the body, original engine and gearbox. Mr. Berson sold the car to Nicolas Seydoux who was not satisfied with the quality of the restoration and, in 1977, brought the Atlantic to renowned Paris-based collector and restorer André Lecoq. In 2006 another European owner commissioned the restoration by Paul Russel (https://paulrussell.com/articles/RestoringHistory.pdf). The car was shown during the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance 2010 but it didn’t take part in the contest.
  • •Despite being named “The Pope car”, the 57591 has nothing to do with The Bishop of Rome. It has been painted in dark blue and delivered to Richard Pope in June 1938. After nearly 30 years it was sold to Barrie Price who needed to repaint it after a small accident. Then it was by Anthony Bamford, Tom Price and, finally, Ralph Lauren who brought it to Paul Russell. The car is repainted to black colour and it reminds of the most mysterious Atlantic which is…

… but it’s not that simple, as both the chassis number and the registration plates of the car were changed several times. Actually, on the  list of cars sent to Bordeaux, La Voiture Noire is mentioned as 57454. Which brings a lot of confusion, because this number was used for one of the 57G “Tanks” that participated in Le Mans (probably the car destroyed in an accident which resulted in Jean Bugatti’s death) and, most probably also for the Type 64. The last car to bear the 57454 chassis number is the Type 101 Gangloff coupé. However, it is also not so safe to refer to “La Voiture Noire” as “the 57453”. It’s because of

the Hidden Treasure (http://www.bugattipage.com/newspics3/57453.pdf)

i.e. a car that has been sold on an auction held in the Mille Miglia Museum by Lankes-Auktionen in May, 2011. Mr. Kees Jansen, a renowned Bugatti Historian, has examined the car and came with a conclusion that it’s a Type 30 with an original plate moved from another car.
And this is where the big automotive media have failed, because the only sources of such information are Bugattipage.com, Bugattibuilder forum and the american “Pur Sang” magazine. Imagine that. A plate from the 40-milion dolar car. The one most sought after in the whole automotive history. And you can’t find an interview with Mr. Jansen on any important portal dedicated to motoring enthusiasts?!

Imagine finding a WWII document that indicates a place where the Amber Room may be hidden and how such fact would be reported in newspapers and news TV shows.

This is just what the automotive media have failed to do.

  • •”57453″ site:petrolicious.com – nothing
  • •”57453″ site:jalopnik.com – just photos of the Ralph Lauren’s car
  • •”57453″ site:motor1.com – an article about some Infiniti
  • •”57453″ site:carscoops.com – nothing
  • •”57453″ site:autocar.co.uk – nothing

Ladies and Gentlemen, are you serious? How on earth can we keep people interested in cars if we overlook such events. We may have faced the turning point in the search of La Voiture Noire.
The discovery of the Hidden Treasure makes us realise that we can rule out the 57453 chassis number from the lost Atlantic puzzle. And the consequences of such operation are much bigger than just a change of number. We might realise that …

Roland Bugatti probably knew what happened with the “lost” Atlantic.

Let’s move to 1939. You are a guy called Roland Bugatti and your brother Jean, whom you admire dies in an accident. He drove a Bugatti 57G, one of three Le Mans cars which were nicknamed “Tanks”. The chassis number of the car was 57454 (although I haven’t reached the sources that fully confirm it, it’s the most probable number). Then you witness the chassis number being reissued to cars which can be seen as souvenirs of Jean i.e. the Type 64 prototype he worked on before his death and then to his own Type 57S Atlantic. Some years pass and you become in charge of the Bugatti company. Your right-hand man is Pierre Marco who will later be described by Hugh Conway as “an important and useful henchman of Ettore and Jean”. And then, as if nothing had happened, your company builds the Type 101 Ganglof coupé with the 57454 chassis number which has been noted as the number of the Black Atlantic in the list of cars sent in 1941 to Bordeaux. 

Does it seem logical? Well, in my opinion, if Roland Bugatti had thought that there is a missing Atlantic with the 57454 chassis number, he wouldn’t have let the chassis number be issued to a new car. The Type 101, which may be the key to the puzzle of the Black Atlantic, is held in the Cité de l’Automobile – Collection Schlumpf Museum in Mulhouse, France (http://www.citedelautomobile.com/), where journalists, as well as everyday visitors, can get information from some really helpful people.

It’s time for a serious chassis-number-and-registration-plates sudoku. I will show my hypothesis here soon, as I have already started to play it. But how about the big players?

Andrzej Szczodrak

Call it whatever you want: What if Mitsubishi is trolling us?

(Photo by Oskar Speruda)

This is the famous Polish Mitsubishi Eclipse called “Szarak” (“szarak” means “a hare”, the word comes from “szary” which means “grey”) modified by a talented rally racer Aleksander Ilczuk. You are also invited to visit his site).

At the Geneva International Motor Show Mitsubishi has shown the Eclipse Cross. It’s a SUV. It has an “Eclipse” badge, which is important for automotive culture, also because of “The Fast and the Furious”. So, “They must be kidding us!” are the most polite words that can appear in petrolheads’ comments.

The automotive culture demands that every brand should respect its sport heritage. Mitsubishi makes fun of it instead! While “Fate of the Furious” was making its way to the screen, we were seeing the “Twilight of the Furious” in Geneva.

Well, almost..,

Almost, because the model name is “Eclipse Cross”, which means that Mitsubishi has left a chance to build a car that will be called just “Eclipse.” Two-word names often work like that:

  • Range Rover Sport – was a supplement to Range Rover. Before Evoque has appeared, the RR i RRS formed a line of two conceptually related cars (technically RRS was based on Discovery).
    Since the Evoque is offered, Range Rover is a subbrand, growing with the introduction of Velar.
  • However, Land Rover has also a typical model line- Discovery i Discovery Sport- technically different, meant for different customers but built with a common thought…
  • … Mitsubishi itself also offers such pair of cars- Pajero and Pajero Sport, …
  • … moreover the ASX is called the “Outlander Sport” in the United States.
  • The Jeep Grand Cherokee coexists with the Cherokee. In the beginning, the Grand Cherokee ZJ and Cherokee XJ had common styling cues . The word “Grand”…
  • … is also used in the minivan world to distinguish the long wheelbase model (Grand Voyager, Grand Espace).
  • The Volkswagens with the “Cross” badge, like Cross Polo, are also an interesting case. In fact, they are just versions, but the company seems to want us to treat them as special models. Even by using the “Cross Polo” word order instead of “Polo Cross”.
  • Ok, sometimes the two-word name is used just for the successor like with Fiat Grande Punto, Punto Evo and Suzuki SX4 S-Cross.

So, if there are two words in the name, and it’s nothing like the “Monte Carlo” (proper name) or “Rapid Spaceback” (body type), we can expect that some related vehicle will exist. It means that the Eclipse Cross may … be something like a teaser for the Eclipse coupé.
Of course- no automotive company would design a SUV only to tease with the sports car freaks. But a deliberate choice of the controversial name for the car, that was anyway needed, is something to believe in. There was an idea to create something between ASX (Outlander Sport) and Outlander, somebody designed a Pontiac-Aztek-like model, but someone else created an ingenious marketing plan. Before Mitsubishi joins the Japanese sports car attack that is led by Toyota’s trio (GT86, the new Supra and the MR2’s successor) and Honda/Acura NSX which can have a “little brother” soon, Eclipse Cross will be hated, but the voices “we want a true Eclipse!” wil rise. And when the true Eclipse appears, it will be more awaited than before the introduction of Mitsubishi Aztek.

Errr, excuse me, Eclipse Cross.

(C) by Andrzej Szczodrak

I don’t regret the Giulia Sportswagon, I have a better idea

Photo: Alfa Romeo

Many people regret the fact, that Alfa Romeo won’t make the Giulia Sportwagon. Some say that the poor estate has lost the battle to Stelvio and that it’s a pity. Why? Because station wagons have more sporty potential than SUVs, thank to the lower stance.

It’s true in terms of physics. However, automotive culture isn’t all about car physics. The automotive culture is influenced by everything- technical features, design, market position, historical aspects like famous owners of some car or motorbike, its appearances in books or movies and obviously racing record. Taking all those things into account, we can imagine a SUV as a fighter (like all those cross-country rally racers). And, despite mighty vehicles like Audi RS2 and RS6, Volvo 850R Station Wagon and so on, most of us see estate cars as those which may help us only in two fights. First enemy is the need to take all the contents of our house when we go on holidays. And the second one is our reluctance to reach our commuting destination.

So, is there any hope for those who want something more sporty than SUVs? Yes, there is. Using SUVs as everyday cars, is a fashion trend. And fashions change over time.

To predict, what will be the next fashion trend, you could look at automotive journalists’ social media profiles. From time to time they share pictures created by independent designers.  Sometimes they approve the idea, sometimes they don’t. And there are also cases, when they react with a cry of delight.

Those cases are often related with two words. The first one is “shooting” and the second is “brake” or “break”. Together they form a name of car body style that is said to have been a choice of active people when there were no SUVs. “Brake” was the British word for a choach and “shooting” means that such cars were used for hunting. The term “shooting brake” was used for three- or five-door “boxy-yet-sporty” cars, usually made by coachbuilders. As the terms “estate” and “station wagon” emerged, meaning of “shooting brake” narrowed to “three-door car with estate-like trunk”.

This is, probably, exactly the body style that we need. We are always in hurry, so we like sports cars. We want to be active, so the trunk is important. And, as our families tend to consist of a couple with one or no children and a cat or dog, we really don’t need the second pair of doors so much.

So, well, it may be a conspiracy theory, but some automotive journalists, may, consciously or not, be involved in market research conducted in order to set a new trend.

Today there is only one production model which can be called “a shooting brake”. It’s a Ferrari GTC4 Lusso. However, when we say “Ferrari”, we have just one small step to Alfa Romeo.

Really: who could be a better choice to start the “shooting-brakes-for-everyday-people” movement?

The way is simple: Giulia Sprint (a traditional coupé), then the Giulia Shooting Brake, and then … the madness that will drive us to a duel between Fiat Tipo Shooting Brake and a Škoda Rapid Shooting Brake.

by Andrzej Szczodrak

Motoendemics are the coolest thing in motoring

2008_Volkswagen_City_Golf

VW City Golf, Photo by Bull-Doser

Motoendemics are the coolest thing in motoring

Cars and motorbikes are something natural. So natural, that they seem to have replaced horses not only as means of transport but also as pets. As Walter Rohrl said “You can’t treat a car like a human being – a car needs love”.  Moreover, even if environmentalists would like to send us, gearheads for a psychiatric treatment, car and motorbike culture REALLY BEHAVES like nature.
Let’s remind ourselves that there are animals and plants that have one special place in the world. Koala, for example, lives only in Australia. Species like that are called endemic. Some cars, some motorbikes and even some forms of motorsport are also endemic, as their nature is the result of their environment. Only the US people could fall in love with racing on oval track. Only Japanese could invent kei cars. Only in Mexico and Brazil the original Volkswagen Beetle and its siblings could have been produced so long. Only in Brazil flex-fuel vehicles could have become so popular. Everybody knows that some people are fueled by ethylnene alcohol, but Brazilians use the precious liquid (alone or mixed with gasoline) to drive their vehicles. Why? Because they produce ethanol from sugarcane. A good example of motoendemic – the flex-fuel vehicles are ingrained in their habitat.
There are also some more Volkswagen curiosities, like the City Golf produced in Brazil and sold in Canada. The vehicle, like all the cars meant for US and Canadian market, had side-marker lights. A feature which is also motoendemic.
Volkswagen Gol (not Golf), which is produced in Brazil and sold in some countries of south and central America, may appear in dealerships next to the CrossFox. Yeah! They had supermini crossover before Europe got Peugeot 2008, Citroën C4 Cactus or Renault Captur!
Trabant and Polonez Caro that were outdated from the start, make the people in East Germany, Poland and some other places in central Europe feel the automotive versions of Ostalgie: Trabant-nostalgia, Polonez-nostalgia, Fiat 126p-nostalgia etc.
Fiat 126p is still popular in Poland as a race car. Just take a look at this event:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmOCKZWvDZo

and this girl’s Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/petrolhead.girl/.

There are also some endemic things in the Motorcycle world. Only Italy with its love for scooters could have been such a good place for the idea of Mazdago to be reborn as Piaggio Ape. Events that resemble The Tourist Trophy are held in some more places in Great Britain, but the Isle of Man with its curvy roads and no-speed-limit-outside-towns culture is the greatest habitat for the greatest race.
Even the neutral Switzerland is very interesting as a place of work of the biggest eccentrics in the automotive world- Frank M. Rinderknecht from Rinspeed and Franco Sbarro. You may laugh at Rinspeed’s designs, yet the philosophy behind 2001’s concept Rone is very simmilar to what Ariel Atom and KTM X-Bow stand for.
And if you still aren’t convinced, that car spotters could hunt for rare motoendemics like Opel/Chevrolet Corsa B Wagon the same way as they hunt for supercars, then just look at a map of Italy and see where Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Paganis are manufactured. Ok, supercars are designed everywhere. From Great Britain (McLaren, Noble), through Sweden (Koenigsegg), Denmark (Zenvo), Poland (Arrinera) to Croatia (Rimac) and Lebanon (Lykan).

So, as the most important representatives of this segment are produced almost in the same place, maybe the supercars are also endemic somehow?

(C) by Andrzej Szczodrak

This means war!

SAM-HMMWV

Photo: Eurocopter

There were hopes, that autonomous vehicles would coexist with drivers. However, some days ago the Audible company (subsidiary of Amazon) opened the gate and the flames highlighted the “Lasciate ogni speranza” statement:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHzzSao6ypE.

What does it mean? It means we are at culture war. What has to be stressed, is the fact that a culture war requires rejecting physical violence. If somebody uses such measures, he or she admits losing the war.
Sneer is the ultimate weapon. We need at least as much wits, as Jeremy Clarkson pitted against John Prescott. And if the high society of the IT industry stops Clarkson from speaking out for human driving (as he works for Amazon), we need to have new leaders.
The fight has to be bloodless, yet ruthless, as we are as different from these people as conservatives are different from liberals. We have to show the autonomous vehicle endorsers as screen-sucking zombies who treat “1984” as a handbook, or they will stigmatize us as potential murderers.

(C) by Andrzej Szczodrak