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”.