The stunning Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic La Voiture Noire is the ultimate hidden car, apparently smuggled off on a train in France during World War 2.
Bugatti has a long history of producing amazing cars. The modern era kickstarted with the Veyron nearly 20 years ago in 2005. But it has also produced other iconic vehicles such as the EB110 and historic racers like the Type 35. One of its most memorable classic cars is the Type 57SC Atlantic. One of the rarest cars ever produced with just four original examples leaving the Bugatti factory in the 1930s. Out of these, the most famous is that of the La Voiture Noire.
If the name sounds familiar, that’s because a one-off La Voiture Noire was actually built by Bugatti in 2019, based around the Chiron. But this one, the fourth of the Atlantics, disappeared after the Nazi invasion of France in World War 2. And it’s a car that may never be found but if it were, it would be the most incredible of barn finds.
Only Four Type 57 Atlantics Were Produced In The 1930s
La Voiture Noire was part of the four-car production run in the late 1930s, with Bugatti basing the car on a fighter-plane design. Each car was for the wealthiest elite of Europe. La Voiture Noire was kept by the designer of the car Jean Bugatti, the son of company founder Ettore Bugatti. The Atlantics would have a flowing, striking design with a dorsal seam running from the front to the back of the car. Bugatti would take some inspiration from its stunning Aerolithe concept car from 1935.
Under the hood was a 3.5-liter DOHC inline-eight engine, which would have produced 135 hp. It was the same engine that Bugatti had used in its Type 59 Grand Prix cars, and the top speed of the vehicle was 95 mph. Bugatti would keep hold of his deep black Atlantic for his own private use. And he would often consider the Type 57SC his most innovative and most valuable creation. La Voiture Noire was chassis No.57453, but Bugatti himself never managed to secure the car’s fate as he died in August 1939, at the age of 30 in a car crash.
The La Voiture Noire Was Hidden Away From The Germans In WW2
A wide array of valuables were all hidden away from the Germans following the invasion of France, to protect them from Nazi treasure hunters. Or even from outright destruction. Three of the four Atlantics would survive the conflict, and they exist today and are all accounted for. But La Voiture Noire disappeared into thin air. The general belief is that this Atlantic was placed into a train, along with a variety of other cars, to Rue Alfred Daney in Bordeaux. The aim was to get it and the other cars away from the Germans before they entered Alsace.
From that point on, the trail of the car goes cold. The trail goes so cold in fact, that it isn’t even clear if the Bugatti arrived at its intended destination. And since the war, a huge array of theories floats around as to what actually happened to the car. Bugatti engineers reportedly drove the car between 1938 and 1941, prior to its smuggling away. But Bugatti itself say they lost any record of the car in 1938.
Bugatti Type 57SC La Voiture Noire Rear Quarter View Scale Modelvia Amalgam Collection
Some of the wilder theories about its disappearance include the car getting destroyed upon arriving at its destination. Just in case it still entered enemy hands. It may have made it on a ship to safety before the Germans controlled France. Which may or may not have been lost at sea during unrestricted submarine warfare. But the possibility that most believe, and hope is true, is that the Type 57 is still in a barn somewhere in France, or in Europe. The car may have found its way into Germany via a keen fan of Bugatti in the German Army. It may have reached its secret destination, and remain there to this day. Potentially, whoever owns the car now knows its value, and thus keeps it as the most secretive of possessions.
Bugatti La Voiture Noire Type 57: One Of The World’s Most Expensive Car
There really are no clues as to where the car ended up. It simply vanished off the face of the earth. Due to its already rare nature, Bugatti has put a very high price on the car. They estimate that if it were found, the car would be worth up to $100 million. Making it one of the most expensive cars on the planet. And if it were in a barn, potentially the most expensive of all barn finds. What makes the car so difficult to trace is that, despite Jean Bugatti regularly driving the car, it never had a registered owner. Thus, there are no ownership records of the car to follow.
The death of Bugatti meant the company was in disarray, but by that time the car may have already left France. More rumors say the car was in fact given to Bugatti racer William Grover-Williams. This after it was given to fellow racer Robert Bonist. Grover-Williams apparently took the car to Molsheim while he returned home to England. From there, it was where the car ended up on a train, potentially even under a different chassis number to keep it’s whereabouts a secret. If it was under a different number, that could make the search for La Voiture Noire even harder.
Bugatti Created A New La Voiture Noire Based Around The Chiron
As a tribute to the car, Bugatti would create a special edition based on Chiron underpinnings in 2019. The car harks right back to the original La Voiture Noire, and it features the same W16 8.0-liter engine that is under the hood of the Chiron. The hypercar features iconic nods to its origins, with a dorsal fin represented by a piece of trim running from the front of the car to the rear spoiler. Masked A-pillars and a floating windshield are further cues from the original Atlantic.
2019 Bugatti La Voiture Noire Front Viewvia Bugatti
The modern equivalent has had as mysterious a life as the car it is paying tribute to. Tumors linking the car to Cristiano Ronaldo once surfaced. But this rarely spotted hypercar is reportedly registered in Zurich, Switzerland. And owned by a member of the family of the late Ferdinand Piech, who commissioned the car but passed away before he could receive it. Costing over $10 million, the modern La Voiture Noire is a bit of a bargain compared to the hidden original. But unlike that car, it hasn’t been the subject of multiple treasure hunts across Europe.
Will Anyone Ever Find The La Voiture Noire Type 57SC Atlantic?
It is impossible to say for certain whether the original Type 57SC Atlantic La Voiture Noire will ever be found. Bugatti itself isn’t actively looking for the car, and there are no genuine leads as to where it is. If it is sadly destroyed, it will be harder to find out for certain what actually happened to the car. And those who did smuggle the car away may no longer be with us. If it was one day found though, it will likely become the greatest barn find in automotive history. Although it equally could be in a very modern and climate-controlled garage.