It’s one-of-a-kind. It looks like an ultra-modern Batmobile. And it’s the most expensive new car ever sold. We can only be talking about La Voiture Noire, Bugatti’s 110th anniversary stunner, a car so steeped in myth and mystery that Bugatti wouldn’t even reveal the name of its buyer.
We’re car enthusiasts here at DC Clear Auto Bra, so we’ve been following La Voiture Noire ever since its debut at the Geneva Motor Show. Now we’re excited to tell you more about this one-off tribute to a classic Bugatti that went missing in the 1930’s.
La Voiture Noire — French for “the black car” — is a beast. Its full body is made from carbon fiber and has a sleek, almost seamless appearance. That’s just one of the reasons for the high price tag. Carbon fiber is extremely expensive and difficult to work with, but it is one of the strongest, most lightweight materials around.
Under the hood, La Voiture Noire is packing a 16-cylinder engine with nearly 1,500 horsepower and 1,180 pounds of torque. It can go from 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds and has a top speed of 260mph. The back is capped off with six exhaust pipes, and the front features Bugatti’s classic egg-shaped grill.
La Voiture Noire’s wheels are some of the most unusual we’ve seen on any car. The model car’s wheels were 3D printed representations of what the final wheels will look like. According to Frank Heyl, Bugatti’s head of exterior design, the wheels are designed to “follow the load path of spokes” and reduce unsprung mass with their minimal amount of material.
La Voiture Noire truly is a high-gloss masterpiece, as shrouded in darkness as the legendary missing car that inspired its design.
The Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic was created by Ettore Bugatti’s eldest son, Jean. Only four were ever created: one gray, one blue, one light blue, and one black.
The light blue “Rothschild’s Atlantic” was owned for a time by Victor Rothschild before it changed hands and ultimately ended up in the Mullin Museum in Oxnard, CA.
The gray “Holzschuh Atlantic” has a tragic history. Its original owner and his wife were killed during World War II. In 1955, the car’s new owner and his female companion were struck by a train and killed while driving the car. It was rebuilt by a French collector in 1963, and is now part of a private automobile collection in Spain.
The blue Atlantic was originally owned by British tennis star Richard Pope, who had it fitted with a supercharger. Pope kept the car until 1967. It changed hands many times before ending up in Ralph Lauren’s collection in 1988.
That leaves just one Atlantic unaccounted for: the black car, casually referred to as “la voiture noire”, owned by Jean Bugatti himself. There are a few theories about its fate. The official story from Bugatti is that the car vanished without a trace in 1938.
Some speculate that Jean gifted it to Bugatti racer Robert Benoist, who won the 1937 24 Hours of Le Mans. They think Benoist later gave the car to fellow Bugatti racer William Grover-Williams, who returned the car to Molsheim when he left for England in 1939. From there, it’s theorized that the car was shipped to Bordeaux, possibly incognito, to keep it safe from the looming war.
That’s the last we’ve heard of the missing Atlantic. Was it destroyed in transit? Is it sitting in a barn in Europe waiting to be rediscovered? All we know for sure is that 2019’s La Voiture Noire is a tribute to this classic car.
The Mysterious Buyer
Bugatti doesn’t do custom orders, but sometimes it builds cars with specific buyers in mind. La Voiture Noire was built for one special buyer who was fascinated by the looks, performance, and mythology of the missing Atlantic. But who are they?
Rumors circulated that the buyer was Portuguese football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, but his spokesperson denied the claims. Others believed boxer and car enthusiast Floyd Mayweather had purchased the vehicle, but that, too, turned out to be speculation.
As it turns out, La Voiture Noire was purchased by Austria’s richest citizen, former Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech, who is also scion to the Porsche empire. Piech is a longtime Bugatti fan; he and his wife are often seen driving a pair of Bugatti Veyrons. He was inducted into the Automobile Hall of Fame in 2014.
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Image credit: Bugatti