Bugatti won't reveal who the customer is that paid them eleven million Euros for a one-off tribute to Jean Bugatti's chef-d'oeuvre, the Type 57SC Atlantic, but the car itself bowed at the 2019 Geneva auto show this week. Bugatti says that it is the most expensive new car ever sold, at $12.44M. The Volkswagen-owned French über luxury and performance car maker is calling it “La Voiture Noire.”
Jean Bugatti was company founder Ettore Bugatti's oldest son. A gifted engineer and designer, in his teens he was already influencing Bugatti automobiles and in 1936 he took over management of the company at the age of 27. Jean supervised the construction of just four Type 57SC Atlantics. Each was made for a specific customer, with unique appointments. Jean built a black one for himself. That became known as La Voiture Noire, “the black car,” and part of Bugatti lore is that vehicle's disappearance in the storm clouds of World War II, after Jean's untimely death in a collision in 1939.
Bugatti built elegant, fast, and luxurious automobiles. The supercharged Atlantics have a top speed of over 130 mph, an impressive feat in the prewar era. The remaining Type 57SC Atlantics are considered among the most valuable cars in the world, with two of them selling for a reported $40 million each, according to Bugatti.
The customer who commissioned the new La Voiture Noire, identified by the company as simply “a Bugatti enthusiast,” is rumored to be former Volkswagen chairman and Porsche scion, Ferdinand Piech.
Comparing the one-of-a-kind La Voiture Noire to the bespoke garments of Parisian designers of haute couture, Bugatti president Stephan Winkelmann said, “The true form of luxury is individuality. ‘La Voiture Noire’ is now at the cutting edge of automobile production. It is a sculptural beauty with unique technology, the ideal grand tourisme.”
The handmade, high gloss, deep black body is made of ultrafine carbon fiber, which is visible through the finish coating. Jean Bugatti was an expert aerodynamicist for his time, and the tribute car's lines flow smoothly from bumper to body to windscreen to the side glass, “like the visor on a helmet.” A dorsal crease runs the length of the car, an homage to the SC Atlantic's riveted center spine.
“We worked long and hard on this design until was nothing that we could improve. For us, the coupé represents the perfect form with a perfect finish,” said Bugatti designer Etienne Salomé.
La Voiture Noire is based on the Chiron and its 8.0-liter, 1578 horsepower W-16 engine. Piech may have his one of one, but Winkelmann possibly hinted that other coachbuilt Chirons might see the light of day. “With our automotive haute couture, we have shown what Bugatti is capable of.” If they look anything like “The Black Car,” we can’t wait for the next one to arrive.