Missing vintage Bugatti’s? What else is new, I mean there is no doubt that countless vintage and analog Bugatti’s went missing or were torn up and completely destroyed during World War II, some were even hidden by Ettore Bugatti from the Nazis, so they wouldn’t find them and ruin his mechanical pieces of art.
But some automotive mysteries still stand to this day, like this one I’ll be writing about today, that asks this specific question, where did the world’s ultimately most valuable car go? There have been numerous rumors that Ettore Bugatti, the founder and creator of the infamous and prestigious French car company, would hide Bugatti’s during the Second World War, so they wouldn’t fall into the hands of the Nazi’s, I mean who wouldn’t hide those pieces of art from ruthless people? However, as vintage Bugatti’s have been discovered over the past decades, and as the remaining Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic’s have been bought, many car enthusiasts have wondered for years now, where is the fourth Atlantic?
Based on the also missing Bugatti “Aérolithe” concept, the Type 57 SC Atlantic stands as one of the ultimate ground-breaking cars of its era and every era that followed it. The Bugatti Atlantic created between 1936 and 1938 was an extraordinary coupe sports car that basically interpreted the Art Deco 30s styling in its own way and became a style icon on its own, and still stands as a style icon today. Elegant, timeless, rare, luxurious, sporty, this car had it all, and everyone lusted to have their own, well there was one issue. Only four were made for the entire globe, but that very low production number made it more desirable back in the day, and 100 times more desirable today, as it is rumored if found, the missing Bugatti Type 57 SC would be worth $114 Million. Its elongated hand-built body style catches eyes everywhere, as its supercharged Inline-8 sits under the narrow yet long bonnet, with exposed rivets lining and keeping the car in one piece. The high thin wheel arches represent an era of artistic styling with dipping and swooping lines, as the heavy clutch, heavy steering, and little to no ventilation bring you back to a reality that was the 1930s. This car is more than just special.
The Bugatti’s came from a family filled with sculptors and artists, not engineers nor mechanics, and you don’t need any proof of that, I mean look at these cars. Jean Bugatti son of Ettore Bugatti, and the automotive designer and test engineer for Bugatti, he had the artistic ability where he could put a pen to paper and create the most beautiful car of all time. But that doesn’t mean Bugatti’s didn’t perform well, in fact, they were some of the best-performing cars of the day. The Bugatti’s knew to win a race, lightness was key. And that’s what they did, they won over thousands of races before World War II and dominated the racing scene. And it was all down to incorporating their knowledge of design and used lightness and stripped-down cars with supercharged 8-cylinder engines to do all the talking on the track. The Bugatti Atlantic was more of a sports luxury car, they were designed with attention to detail, full bodies, and an eye of beauty. Theres a blue one, a silver one, and a black one that still stand to this day. The fourth and currently missing Bugatti was named la Voiture Noire, after its color, which means “the black car” in French.
It is rumored that Jean Bugatti used La Voiture Noire as his own personal car. And according to Tim Bravo, the head of Bugatti’s communications team, he says it was “driven only by Jean Bugatti and select friends.” If this is true, it means that this specific Atlantic was very special to Jean himself, all his cars were special to him, but this one, in particular, stood out. The Type 57’S were designed and engineered by Jean, however, the founders’ son wanted something more extravagant and elegant in the company. In 1935, Jean used his skill of art and design and created a result that was the Aerolithe concept, the show car’s design, curves, sloping rear end, and high wheel arches would create the type 57 SC coupes later on.
Only four were made for the entire world, one being kept by Jean for himself. That specific pure black car has no idea the mystery revolving around it. Three out of the four cars have been taken care of and are currently held in highly regarded collector hands such as Ralph Loren and at the Mullin Automotive Museum. The tear-dropped-shaped Atlantic has been named one of, if not the most exquisite and cutting edge cars in the entire world, these cars stand out on their own, but there’s one that stands out the most. And that specific car is missing. Vanished without a hint or without leaving a mark, is the most expensive out of them all, La Voiture Noire. And if it still exists, it could be the most valuable car ever, worth at least $100 million.
The missing car became the talking point once again when Bugatti’s $18.9 million coachbuilt one-off supercar named “La Voiture Noire” was shown and revealed to the world. It’s been over 80 years and no one knows where the Atlantic coupe, what happened to it, if it’s still standing, or if it was found by the Nazis. It’s gone, and it left no trace of where it went. People hoped it was finally found when the new “La Voiture Noire” came out, but Bugatti’s hidden gem is still hidden.
Countless rumors are the only things we have to track down and tp know the story of this fascinating car. It was lent to a couple of people, it was said that Jean Bugatti lent his Type 57 SC Atlantic to the racing driver Robert Benoist, who was also the one to secure Bugatti’s first outright win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but Jean was the rightful owner who had the keys. One thing that is known is that the Atlantic Coupe was headed back to the Molsheim factory just before Jean Bugatti’s tragic death back in 1939. One 1940 came around, Ettore Bugatti noticed that the Nazis’ would probably destroy his masterpieces, so Ettore sent all his cars on a train to Bordeaux to escape safely and without a scratch from the destructive and ruthless Nazis who took over a part of France. The Atlantic was put on that train, but according to Bravo, the black Atlantic “never arrived” in Bordeaux.
The hunt is still on to find this stunning sculpture on wheels. It could be that Ettore took La Voiture Noire to a secret location known only by himself, and even though Bugatti himself was a big figure in the automotive limelight, he apparently kept a lot of things to himself, or the car was sadly destroyed, no one knows. And when Ettore passed away back in 1949, if “La Voiture Noire” was hidden from the public, he took that secret to his grave. The Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic is the crown jewel of all sports cars and supercars, it was the design that shaped the car industry, and the missing Type 57 SC not only set many standards but also became one of the world’s most prominent automotive mysteries. If this car is found, it should be put on the road, driven, and revved high as that supercharged straight-8 intended to be.
Peter Mullin’s Type 57 SC Atlantic – Mullin Musuem