Ever heard of Le Voiture Noir? The name just means “the black car,” but this black car was very special, because it was one of four Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantics built, and of those four, three are still accounted for. No one knows what happened to the fourth one, the black one. The noir one. But now someone on Reddit has posted pictures of a car claiming to be it, so I reached out to a Bugatti expert to see if I should get my hopes up.
If actually found, this would be a massively colossal deal. The location of La Voiture Noir hasn’t been known since 1938 or 1939, when it was allegedly sent to Bordeaux in an attempt to protect it from the coming war.
Here’s how Bugatti themselves describe the car and its story:
The three remaining Atlantics are among the world’s most expensive and desirable classic cars. The whereabouts of Jean Bugatti’s personal “La Voiture Noire” are still unknown – the automotive equivalent of the Amber Room. It is thought the car disappeared during the Second World War, sent to a safe region before the German troops invaded Alsace. Its disappearance more than 80 years ago remains the biggest mystery in BUGATTI’s fabled history. Today, “La Voiture Noire” lives on as a myth.
(The Amber Room, by the way, refers to a gilded, amber-paneled, and wildly ornate room in the Catherine Palace near St.Petersburg, Russia, the summer residence of the Czars. The room was disassembled and looted by Nazis during WWII, and has been lost since then.)
La Voiture Noir was the only one of the four built with a factory supercharged engine, and was Ettore Bugatti’s personal car, so it carries even more value because of that, and, as it was never technically registered to a private owner, makes it even more elusive to trace.
So, again, this car is one of the biggest mysteries in the gearheadom, and if found would likely be worth well over $100 million, and that’s not even factoring in how crazy the used car market is right now.
But, of course, that’s a big if.
The original post purporting to show La Voiture Noir is titled, casually, “Buddy found this in a barn on a French property he owns. What the fuck is it lol” and while the original photos and commentary have been deleted, this is the internet, so nothing is ever really gone. Here’s the description:
So, the story claimed here is that La Voiture Noir (LVN) ended up being sent to a friend of Ettore Bugatti, where it was disassembled and stored, and never collected by Bugatti after the war. The poster also claims to work for a “prestigious car restoration shop.”
Here are the pictures included with the post, prior to deletion (but now available again, on that other post):
Those certainly do look like a Bugatti Atlantic, but I’m not a Bugatti expert by any means. I’m a low-born idiot who’s lucky to drive a Yugo. So, I reached out to the Mullin Museum, an organization that specializes in French cars and especially Bugattis, and they in turn connected me with Sandy Leith, of the Bugatti Trust, someone who knows a great deal about old Bugattis, and even owns and races one himself.
Here’s Sandy’s take on the car:
I have seen these photos which have been making the rounds over the past few days. The Atlantic coachwork appears to be of recent manufacture and it is sitting on a standard T57 chassis frame which would not have been correct for the untraced Black Atlantic. It should be a T57S chassis frame which is substantially different than a standard T57 chassis frame. There is what looks like an original firewall with a brass chassis plate…it would be interesting to see what number is on it!
I think this was an elaborate hoax, or someone having a bit of fun…
That chassis plate would be good to see, as the number of the original LVN is known: 57453, then changed, for some reason, to 57454 when it was sent into hiding, at least according to some sources.
I’m guessing that very few of you who read that headline expected a different result, but no, it does not seem likely that the car in those pictures is the legendary La Voiture Noir. It does seem to be some sort of Type 57 Bugatti chassis, of which only 710 were built, and not many survive, making that alone quite valuable.
I’m curious to see exactly what is going on here—is this a hoax, a genuine misconception, or something stranger? I’m hoping we’ll find out soon.
(Thanks to DummyThiccOw for the tip!)