The Reddit boards were alight with excitement over some mysterious photos of a legendary Bugatti model. One user posted a few photos of what appeared to be the remains of an impossibly rare and much hunted-for one of four Bugatti barn find built in the 1930s. The four cars in question are the Bugatti Type 57 Atlantic. But the one we are talking about today is the only one of the four that, even after an international hunt, is still left unfound, the Bugatti “La Voiture Noire.”
The Reddit user claims that the car pictured is that car, indeed. If so, it could easily top $100 mil for its infamous disappearance and legendary status. Finding this car would easily be the King of all barn finds – If we are to believe this is that same car. The poster quickly deleted the posting accounts with no trace.
Did someone really barn find the Bugatti La Voiture Noire?
Our friends at The Drive went to digging and found that the car in the now-deleted posts is almost certainly not the La Voiture Noire. However, that isn’t to say that the vintage Bugatti barn find isn’t still something incredibly significant, rare, and valuable.
The rousing Reddit posts from Nov 29 sparked a flurry of opinions, theories, and maybe an actual answer or two. First off, it probably isn’t the legendary “Black Car” because, after some digging, The Drive learned that the engine appears to be wrong. According to the research, the straight-eight powerplant in the supercharged Bugatti Atlantics had a different intake manifold from the regular Type 57s. Thanks to an anonymous source, the Drive has photo evidence clearly showing this is not a supercharged car.
Adding insult to injury, the chassis is also wrong. Jason Torchinsky at Jalopnik, Sandy Leith, an expert on vintage Bugattis and a member of the Bugatti Trust, told the reporter that “a standard T57 chassis frame [is not] correct for the untraced Black Atlantic. It should be a T57S chassis frame, which is substantially different than a standard T57 chassis frame.”
But it’s not all bad news for the mysterious Reddit poster. While this shrouded Bugatti La Voiture Noire barn find isn’t actually that car, it may still be an equally rare and valuable Type 57 prototype. As you may know, rare vintage cars are one thing, but the prototype of a rare vintage car is an entierly different ball game.
What is the Bugatti Aérolithe?
Before the production Bugatti Type 57 (La Voiture Noire) debuted in 1936, Bugatti made a single prototype with a magnesium alloy body called “Elektron.” Based on what is said to be a standard, this prototype should have a non-lowered Type 57 chassis. This enigmatic car was built in 1935.
There is little recorded history for this car. It debuted at the Paris Auto Salon in 1935 and was likely disassembled to give its precious parts to production Type 57s. Some suggest that the body was long gone or even possibly used to build the famous black Type 57, the Bugatti La Voiture Noire. The going theory is that while this isn’t the $100 million La Voiture Noire, the parts hiding underneath this body could well be the remains of the prototype Bugatti Aérolithe making it quite the find indeed.
Where was this Bugatti Type 57 barn find located?
An anonymous source told the Drive that the barn find was in Connecticut. But how did it get there? “One of the main mechanics at Redline who’s been in the industry longer than most… was in France visiting a client,” the source said.
The mechanic allegedly came to the country in either the 1980s or the 1990s. The source couldn’t recall when exactly—to purchase a different car from this client and was on their way home when they received a call about the chassis. “The way he told me, it belonged to a French movie producer, and he had a warehouse… filled with tractor-trailers for the movie sets.”
The story goes that the mechanic kicked around the property until finding the remains of this bizarre Bugatti. The mechanic bought all of the parts and shipped them back stateside. The Drive’s source said that the owner truly believed it to be the missing Aérolithe prototype.
But claiming to find lost treasure isn’t new. This claim has been made before, and it is always left wanting. Without more photos and documentation, this car, too, is presenting an unfinished story that leaves more questions than it answers. I guess we will have to wait to find out how the rest of the story unfolds. Until then, we cross our fingers and hope this is the missing Bugatti of old.