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 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.