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 Chamber 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 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

Motofiction or not Motofiction: Bugatti’s SUV

Today we start a new series in English: “Motofiction or not Motofiction”. The idea is simple: take a press speculation or a project made by an independent designer and give some “for and against” arguments. Let’s start with Bugatti Megalon.

Why it may happen?

  • China,
  • Arab Countries,
  • New Russians
  • Bentley Bentayga and its platform
  • Lamborghini Urus and its mad, yet attractive design

Why it may not?

  • There has to be some “pure” supercar brand besides Ferrari
  • … and Bugatti is accustomed to producing just one model
  • that is actually loss-making.

(C) by Andrzej Szczodrak