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-,

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.


  • 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

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 (, 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