Gabriel Duhoux confirmed as the first owner of La Voiture Noire

No, I don’t have any detailed information about the owner of the modern black Bugatti which was shown in March 2019 in Geneva. I’m just talking about the most valuable car in the automotive history. We call her “La Voiture Noire” but we should get used to some more names like the Belg. Coupé or … the Blue Bugatti. Yes, I know that “La Voiture Noire” means “The Black Car”. Actually, this incompatibility of colours caused me to stay silent about my research until now.

In October 2019 I was in Brussels to talk with a family member of Mrs. Thérèse Goyvaerts. Mrs. Goyvaerts was the wife of Mr. Gabriel Duhoux. Her relative, a very kind lady born in the late 1930s, told me that she remembered a blue car that was damaged by a young soldier who stole it in 1946.
Before the meeting I had communicated with the family via email. Therefore, I remembered that the lady had stated the damaged vehicle was very similar to the rebuild of the 57473 Atlantic. During the meeting the lady said that Mr. Thérèse Goyvaerts had disliked the car. Mr. Duhoux’s wife considered the resemblance between the grille shape and a horseshoe hung upside down as a sign of bad luck. It’s not only superstition that made her affraid. Mr. Duhoux drove really fast.

“The Bugatti Type 57S: Evolution, Prototypes, Racing Cars, Production” book written by Mr. Bernhard Simon and Mr. Julius Kruta mentions him “a pilot in Belgium”. However, the kind lady said that he was not an aviator. The authors might have seen a document indicating that the Bugatti staff treated Mr. Duhoux as a racer.

Although his primary profession was architecture, he did race. He participated in the Monte Carlo Rally (at least twice:
https://www.ewrc-results.com/profile/139696-g-duhoux/)
and in the Liège-Rome-Liège road rally-race, nicknamed “Le Marathon de la route” (https://www.ewrc-results.com/entries/43613-liege-rome-liege-1933/). Moreover, he crossed Sahara with a Rolls-Royce or a Bentley.

I hope to learn much more, because Mr. Duhoux really deserves it.

However, I owe my readers an explanation why I think that Mr. Duhoux’s ownership of the second Bugatti Aéro Coupé/Atlantic (the one built as “the 57453”) has been confirmed. And I also owe a big “Thank you” to Mr. Ante Furač who told me about a very interesting mention in the “Bugatti Yesterday and Today: The Atlantic and other articles” book by Mr. Lester G. Matthews. On page 37 there is a paragraph about chassis 57454. The author quotes suggestions that the chassis was “used in an Atlantic sold to a Belgian named Du Houx of Brussles, color Bugatti blue”. Before the meeting I exchanged some mails with Mrs. Goyvaerts’ family. Here is an excerpt, which may also explain why Mr. Duhoux took the 57562 to the Concours d’Elegance

So, two independent sources- the factory workers interviewed by Mr. Matthews and a person related to Mr. Duhoux inform about the same thing:
Mr. Duhoux owned a blue Atlantic. Mentions about the Belg. Coupé having the “2S” engine, later upgraded to 2SC, lead to the conclusion that the blue Atlantic was a repainted La Voiture Noire.

There are just two big questions:

Do we know more about the showroom where the car was put?

My answer: I’m doing my best to learn more. I will keep you updated.


What about the mail from the notary?

My answer: There are two scenarios. The optimistic and the pessimistic one.
The optimistic scenario is that the information given by the notary had also come from the heirs of Mrs. Thérèse Goyvaerts . They were aware that the car had disappeared, but they didn’t know how it had happened. So they assumed that it was sold during Mr. Duhoux’s illness.
The pessimistic scenario is that the lawyer (whose name I have to protect) was both the notary of Mrs. Goyvaerts and the notary of someone else, who had sold the car.

Andrzej Szczodrak

Special thanks

to the Lady and to her Daughter,

to Ante Furač for a very interesting mail about Mr. Matthews’ book,

to Yann Sadier and François Granet for caring about the meaning of The 57453 in the French automotive culture

to Stephan Sturges for answering my questions about Brussels,

to Jeroen Vossen for great books

to Uwe Zummach for all the support

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.