What could and what could not have happened to the 57453/57222/57454?



We all would like to know what has happened to the car that we know as La Voiture Noire or Belg. Coupé. I have listed the scenarios that I consider probable and the ones that I find impossible.

Possibilities :

  • the car was repaired and then
    • Mr. Duhoux brought the 57453/57222/57454 to the hideout in which he had kept the 57562 (Braine-l’Alleud seems to be the first candidate for a region in which such hideout could exist)
    • Mr. Duhoux drove the Atlantic to the French Riviera
    • Mr. Duhoux brought it to Africa
  • the car has been scrapped by Mr. René Dupont, the owner of the Garage Métro (the showroom in which the car was, most probably, held)
  • Mr. Pierre Joseph Norbert Duhoux (Mr. Gabriel’s brother) did not return the car to Mr. Gabriel after taking over the Garage Métro from Mr. Dupont about 1948
  • Mr. Gabriel Duhoux knew many people from the high society and he could have actually been a proxy for some official person (maybe even for the King). The car has been finally given to that person.

Excluded scenarios:

  • Mr. Jean De Dobbeleer has seen the car and helped Mr. Gabriel Duhoux with selling it. Almost impossible because:
    • Mr. De Dobbeleer would have made a note about it
    • Mr. De Dobbeleer would have commissioned different looking replicas. A replica created by Mr. Jean Bats seems to be a proof that Mr. De Dobbeleer had not seen any of the 57453/57222/57454 and 57473 Atlantics
    • Mr. De Dobbeleer would probably have re-registered the car in Belgium before selling it
  • The car has been sold by Mr. Duhoux in Belgium. Very, very improbable as the car would figure in the Belgian license plates database. The reform of the Belgian license plates (their centralization) has been introduced in 1954. The number 57454 does not figure in the database, therefore the car has not been sold in Belgium after that date
  • The car has been sold by Mr. Duhoux in France. Rather impossible. The blue Bugatti Type 101 would not have been registered by the factory as the 57454

In memory of Mr. Paul Kestler

Andrzej Szczodrak

Confused or merged? The 57453/57222/57454 and the 57473 after the war



Most Bugatti fans know that the pre-war history of the 57473 and 57453/57222/57454 Atlantics used to be filled with confusion. Thanks to the great work of Mr. Pierre-Yves Laugier we learned that in 1937 both the 57453 and the 57473 had visited the French Riviera. But may some more photos or testimonies attributed to the 57473 (maybe even from the period after the WWII) be actually linked to the 57453/57222/57454?

A Bugatti Atlantic replica. But can the original 57453/57222/57454 still be found?
A replica. But can the original 57453/57222/57454 still be found?

The 57473’s body changes can be considered one of the most mysterious episodes of the history of Bugatti Atlantics. Yes, as mysterious as the whereabouts of the “La Voiture Noire” (or rather “Belg. Coupé”). The truth about the 57473’s redesign could even turn out to be the key to learning the true fate of the 57453/57222/57454.
Mr. Pierre-Yves Laugier believes that the modification has not been carried out during the Holzschuch era. The great historian is convinced that Mr. Jacques Holzschuch, who ordered the car as an elderly person, was unlikely to change his taste.
If we stick to this belief, we automatically assume that Mr. Jean Bugatti has not modified the 57473 directly.

This assumption may be true, but it leads into a difficult path of thinking. There is a convincing testimony, given by Mr. Pierre Marco to Mr. Gaston Garino, that Mr. Jean Bugatti had actually modified a body of an Atlantic. Moreover, an old article by Mr. Christian Huet (written before the rediscovery of the 57453/57222/57454) contains a strong suggestion that the redesign of an Atlantic had been commissioned by Mr. Robert Benoist (now, Mr. Huet believes that it was the 57473 that was directly modified, and therefore, that the operation was commissioned by Mr. Jacques Holzschuch).

As Mr. Jean Bugatti died on the 11 of August 1939, there are five possible scenarios:

  • What most of Bugattists used to believe: The 57453/57222/57454 was not modified and the modifications of the 57473 were carried out outside the Bugatti factory. But by whom? No proof of reported Figoni et Falaschi’s authorship can be found,
  • Mr. Jean made the body changes to the 57453/57222/57454. The carrosserie was put on the chassis of the 57473 by Mr. Jules Boichard (less likely) or by Mr. Robert Verkerke who, according to cartes grises, seems to have installed a compressor in the 57473,
  • Mr. Jean modified the 57473 when the car was owned by Mr. Jacques Holzschuch. Before or after, he probably did the same to the 57453/57222/57454,
  • Mr. Jean redesigned the 57453/57222/57454. After the war, the 57473’s body was modified accordingly,
  • Mr. Antoine “René” Chatard actually owned two Atlantics. The 57473 (it this case, Mr. Chatard’s ownership is indirectly reflected in documents- with Mrs. Marguerite Schneider as proxy) and the modified 57453/57222/57454. The cars were confused.

The last hypothesis seems easy to be eliminated as the photos of the Atlantic which was held at Mr. Francis Mortarini’s place clearly show the license plate- 1610 AV 75. The car shown in the photos is, almost surely, the 57473.
Therefore, a “conspiracy theory” assuming that the 57453/57222/57454 was hit by the train instead of the 57473 can not be true. It would require a scenario with Mr. Chatard owning two Atlantics and using the same set of documents for them. The Bugatti history contains an episode of a chassis number that was duplicated for tax reasons. But in the case of the Atlantics it would have been done outside the factory. And it sounds more than unlikely.
So, it is sure that the 57473 had been modified. Either by direct changes to its carrosserie or by putting the 57453/57222/57454’s body on its chassis.

The hypothesis that the factory copied a redesign of the 57453/57222/57454, done by Mr. Jean Bugatti, to the 57473 during the post-war era seems weak. The 57374 was brought to Molsheim in early 1950s and its rear part remained unchanged. If the factory had modified the 57374 according to Mr. Jean’s design, the same would have happened to the 57374.

On the other hand, Mr. Pierre Marco’s testimony sounds pretty credible. Yes, Mr. Marco had had a “difficult financial history” with the Bugatti family, but still he had no reason to lie to Mr. Gaston Garion about the Atlantic.
Mr. Ante Furač has done a great job of contacting a Figoni et Falaschi expert, Mr. Richard Adatto and asking him to research the documents in order to check if a contract for the Atlantic’s modification has been preserved. The only trace of Figoni et Falaschi’s possible intervention is that the archives of the coach-builder contain a photo of the 57473 with Mrs. Yvonne Pinder known as Yvonne Holzschuch (in fact, it is not sure that Mr. Holzschuch and Mr. Pinder were married- https://gw.geneanet.org/gelizabeth2?lang=en&iz=0&p=jacques&n=holzschuch, https://gw.geneanet.org/gelizabeth2?n=pinder&oc=&p=yvonne+rebecca).

So, there are three reasons to consider the hypothesis that Mr. Robert Verkerke has merged the 57453/57222/57454 and the 57473:

  • the reported installation of a compressor in the 57473. The car was registered as a “57SC” in the “cartes grises” during Mr. Bouteaux’s ownership (and Mr. Bouteaux was Mr. Verkerke’s successor). Therefore, the compressor seems to have been installed for Mr. Verkerke who has also made the first appearance with the modified body. Then, the engine upgrade could have been an element of broader modifications.
  • The changes that have been made to the body. All the answers to the question what happened between the Holzschuch photo from Juan-les-Pins and the Verkerke photo from the « 3ème Circuit international de vitesse pour voitures particulières de série » are still more of hypotheses than of proven facts
  • the story of the Delahaye axle:
    Mr. Alfred Barraquet, who was the mechanic of Mr. Pierre Boncompagni, mounted a Delahaye’s axle in a single Bugatti (the fact is confirmed by Mr. Alfred’s son). Messrs. Barraquet and Boncompagni lived in Nice before the WWII. This is one of the reasons why Mr. Jess Pourret links the Boncompagni story with Mr. Ernest Friderich, who was a Bugatti dealer in Nice and who exposed the 57453/57222/57454 at a salon in that city. Moreover, Mr. Friderich is likely to have been the agent who attempted to sell an Atlantic (the 57453/57222/57454) to Mr. Gabriel Duhoux (as it was Mr. Friderich who sold the 57562 to the Belgian). Therefore, Mr. Barraquet is much more likely to have had an access to the 57453/57222/57454 than to the 57473. However, according to Mr. Lester G. Matthews, Mr. Gaston Garino, a “close collaborator of Francis Mortarini”, claimed that Mr. Mortarini had removed such axle from the 57473. The question is if Mr. Garino witnessed a removal or just noticed that the axle was not there. Mr. Christian Huet opts for the second response. He is also convinced that it was Mr. Jacques Holzschuch who had commissioned the modifications of the 57473.

Basically:

  • A direct proof that Mr. Mortarini removed a Delahaye axle from the 57473 would be a strong argument for (I would even say “an indirect proof of”) the hypothesis that the cars have been merged.
  • A photo of the 57473 from the Boichard era showing the car without modifications could also be considered a proof of the merged cars hypothesis.
  • On the other hand, a direct proof that Mr. Holzschuch commissioned the body modifications of the 57473 would mean that the post-war stories of the 57453/57222/57454 and the 57473 are, most probably, separate.

Mr. Christian Huet, who says that Mr. Gaston Garino was his friend, denies that Mr. Garino had been a close collaborator of Mr. Mortarini. It means that Mr. Garino’s claims concerning the removal of the Delahaye axle probably resulted from his deduction and not from an eyewitness experience.

Therefore, the Belg. Coupé was probably not merged with the 57473. So, it is likely that the car can still be found.

Andrzej Szczodrak

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 Mrs. 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 as “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 (“pilote” in French).

Although his primary profession was architecture, he did race in some big events. 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 is said to have 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 57453 destroyed in Bordeaux? Forget that fiction

Almost every Bugatti enthusiast knew that the last known trace of the lost Aéro Coupé was the list of the “automotive goods” (“Materiel Automobile”) dated 18th February 1941. The document refers to the Bordeaux storage (therefore I call it “The Bordeaux List”), but the actual meaning of its date has been a subject to various hypotheses. Mr. Pierre Yves Laugier’s statements are a bit ambiguous. This ambiguity should not be considered as a fault of the great historian, who has proven the existence of the fourth Atlantic. It just means that Mr. Laugier doesn’t confuse hypotheses with facts. That is why he writes about “trace lost in 1941 in Bordeaux” where La Voiture Noire “appears on a list of automotive goods sent [not “delivered”, but “sent”- note by A.S.] from Molsheim to the Bugatti works on boulevard Alfred-Daney, Bordeaux”. Bordeaux is the last place associated with the Black Aéro but no official proof is known that the car really got there.

Therefore, Mr. Laugier’s statements are being read both ways. Some believe that “the 57453” (well, at that time it was 57454) actually got to Bordeaux
(I have seen a comment claiming that a proof of this exists- https://www.hemmings.com/blog/2019/02/26/the-114-million-barn-find-that-has-yet-to-be-found#comment-10624250) where it was probably destroyed. Others say that it has never reached this destination.

There is a very interesting comment under the Hemmings’ article about the Black Aéro. “FA_92″ (https://www.hemmings.com/blog/2019/02/26/the-114-million-barn-find-that-has-yet-to-be-found#comment-10658963) states that according to his or her sources “the actual relocation of the Bugatti (machinery and the cars belonging to the factory) occured between the official onset of WW2, 3. September 1939. and January 1940” and that the information may “be found in French Ministry of Air war records” from that time. Then the mentioned user says that “The part of the Bordeaux, where the storage was located, was also bombed by RAF of Britain, by the end of 1940.
So, anything that was shipped to Bordeaux after that date or later in 1941. would be a very confusing and irational decision. Maybe the document counts the cars kept in storage, that have survived the bombing and looting… “
. Many sources mention such bombing. However, there are reasons to believe that it’s a repeated mistake (like “rue Alfred Danat” instead of “boulevard Alfred Daney”) and the damaged factory was actually the one in Molsheim (on the other hand, this site: http://www.ajpn.org/commune-Molsheim-en-1939-1945-67300.html?fbclid=IwAR1HnPEAuFzZIDkpVfyMexHCdTmvjEKV8gJPF72ljdldZm8OHKY4sJI2WIM contains no info about a bombing in 1940). Now is a time for one more “thank you” to Uwe Zummach who informed me about a photo of damaged works. The photo shows a signboard with the inscription “Trippelwerke”. This points at Molsheim. Therefore, I contacted the Municipal Archives in Bordeaux, getting the following response:

So, the workshop is not mentioned on the lists of buildings damaged during the World War II. A fun fact is that I received the message on the 83rd birthday of La Voiture Noire, on 3rd of October 2019. I shared it with several people and planned a bigger article about the case. Then, I received some more information. I fully understood it just recently, thanks to Mr. Ante Furač. The answer from Bordeaux is only a prelude to the news which I will share in the next entry about the most famous “lost” car in the world.

Andrzej Szczodrak

Why the Bugatti Chiron is the perfect base for the modern La Voiture Noire

As many of you probably know, I’m researching a very interesting track of the black Bugatti Aéro Coupé/Atlantic known as “The 57453”, “La Voiture Noire” and “The Belg. Coupé”. The last of these names, albeit not widely known, may be the most important clue. It’s mentioned in the factory documents along with the name of Belgian architect, Monte Carlo Rally pilot and hotel owner, Mr. Gabriel Duhoux. The name “Belg. Coupé” is quoted both by the authors of “The Bugatti Type 57S”- Mr. Bernhard Simon and Mr. Julius Kruta (these authors believe that the name refers to the Type 64) and by the author of “Bugatti. les 57 Sport”- Mr. Pierre-Yves Laugier.

The Belg. Coupé’s due date was 31.08.1939, and that’s why I would like to share my thoughts today.

The origin of the name “Belg. Coupé” is an object of hypotheses. Mr. Pierre-Yves Laugier has pretty much exhausted the topic of the basic directions, because he listed all three of them. The car could have been

  • meant for an exhibition in Belgium
  • prepared for a Belgian customer (and Mr. Duhoux was definitely Belgian)
  • built for the King Leopold III (a special case of the second scenario)

Although exhibitions are mentioned both by Mr. Laugier and by the authors of “The Bugatti Type 57S”, this hypothesis is the least credible one. If the car had been meant for the Paris salon, then why would it have been called the “Belg. Coupé”? Why would the due date have been 31.08, while the Paris Salon regularly took place in October. On the other hand, if “Belg.” means the place of exhibition, then why do we see “Paris” next to the due date?

Then, there are two other hypotheses, which may be actually combined. What if Mr. Duhoux had been a middleman for the King?

Even so, it’s very interesting to realise that Mr. Duhoux competed in the Monte Carlo Rally 1932 with Louis Chiron. Moreover, Mr. Chiron often worked with Ernst Friederich (a Monte Carlo Rally participant from 1925) and Mr. Duhoux has received his first Bugatti, the 57562 Atalante from
Mr. Friederich’s Bugatti agency in Nice.

In the reasoning that led me to contacting the notary of the heirs of Mr. Duhoux, I probably made just one mistake. However, the mistake doesn’t rule out the conclusion than Mr. Duhoux’s story is really worth researching. After receiving very interesting mails from Mr. Ante Furač and having a great conversation with Mr. Uwe Zummach, I believe that the entry:
«Moteur 2CS, 57.454 Coupé Atlantic, 1244 W5» probably refers to the Black Aéro. The problem needed a re-analysis because:

  • “Moteur 2CS” is an argument for the Black Aéro. The Type 64 with the chassis number 57454 is known to have an engine with the number “2”. However, for all the cars on the Bordeaux list the “C” means “compressor”. I haven’t found any mention of a supercharged prototype of the Type 64.
  • 57454- appeared with both cars
  • “Coupé Atlantic”- in French automotive culture there was a difference between a “coach” and a “coupé” . The latter had only two side windows, embedded in its doors. The black Type 64 from the Mulhouse Museum is a coach. Even if the white car seen on the photos (www.bugattibuilder.com/photo/displayimage.php?pid=4581&fullsize=1), is not the same, it started its life as a coach as well.
  • “1244 W5”- as I wrote, the registration plate hasn’t been photographed on the Black Aéro. It can be seen in the photo of the Type 64. But it’s not a very strong argument.

However, the presence of the Black Aéro in Bordeaux, might rather mean that the car was returned to the factory. And even the change of the registration plate from 1521 NV4 to 1244 W5 is an argument for that.

There are two strong arguments that La Voiture Noire was received by Mr. Duhoux before the World War II and went back to him after the conflict had ended

  • A letter from 29th September 1939 documents a move of the 57454 chassis number and the 1521 NV4 registration plate from a grey Ventoux to a “Coach special Type 64”. It means that this identity had been moved from the Black Aéro to the Ventoux before.
  • The last known identity of the Black Aéro (the chassis number 57454) was assigned to another car just after the war.

I keep on researching, so please stay tuned.

For now, I would like to recommend you a visit to the Cité de l’Automobile Museum in Mulhouse. From the 19th of June to the 3rd of November there is an exhibition called “Incomparables Bugatti”.

Andrzej Szczodrak

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.