Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Bugatti 100P aeroplane reconstructed, will fly again after public debut



Bugatti 100P aeroplane reconstructed, will fly again after public debut

I could barely contain myself at this news, coming the same day as the announcement of another new steam locomotive from the A1 Steam Trust (see yesterday's post), but have managed to wait until today to share it with you.

While the name of Bugatti is most readily associated with luxury cars of the 1920s and '30s, or extreme sports cars of the present, the company's foray into aviation is less well known.  It's sole product, the Model 100, has - as the accompanying media says - been largely forgotten for 70 years; a great shame, considering the beauty, futuristic lines and design of the aircraft (not to mention its story!).

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It should come as little surprise that the designer of some of the most magnificent and luxurious cars of the 20th century successfully transferred his skills to create one of the most beautiful aircraft of the 20th century.  Working with brilliant engineer Louis de Monge Ettore Bugatti designed the 100P as a racing aeroplane, similar to the Schneider Cup Supermarines and Macchis of the early 1930s, to win the 1939 Deutsch de la Meurthe Cup air race.  Between them the two men came up with a fantastically advanced design, with swept-forward wings, a V-tail (a design feature not seen on production aircraft for another decade) and two 450hp Bugatti in-line motor-racing engines driving prop shafts that ran past the pilot's seat to two contra-rotating propellors at the front.  Many of these features resulted in patents being filed by Bugatti, five of which endure on modern aircraft.  As a racing aeroplane it was designed to be streamlined and lightweight - the body made of wood composite, the large cockpit fully integrated into the fuselage with the pilot sitting in a semi-recumbent position.

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Sadly the original 100P never flew in the Deutsch de la Meurthe, nor at any other time, thanks to the start of World War II.  Despite a French Government request for Bugatti to adapt the design for a fighter aircraft, the German Army's swift advance on Paris curtailed any such attempt and in June 1940, with the fall of France imminent, the single extant airframe was dismantled and spirited away.  It would remain in storage for the duration of the war.  It then passed through several hands, sadly losing its original engines along the way, before being restored in the early 1970s and passing through several museums before finally ending up at the EAA Airventure Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  It can be seen there today as a static display; it is no longer airworthy. 

900bhp Bugatti sports plane revived



For the last few years a group of enthusiasts (including, I'm happy to note, the great-nephew of Louis de Monge) have been attempting to rectify this tragic tale, however, by undertaking to build a full-scale replica of the 100P - to almost the same standard as the 1938 original (bar a few modern upgrades/alterations) - that will actually fly!  Now I'm delighted to see that, after a few setbacks, this new Model 100 is close to completion with the final unveiling now scheduled for the 25th March at the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, California.  Readers may remember that that institute featured previously on this blog, being instrumental in the building of a "new" 1939 Type 64 Coupé.  Quite a suitable venue, then, for the reveal of Bugatti's only aeroplane!

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Following its March appearance the new 100P is tipped to fly some time later this year and with luck may appear at European events shortly thereafter.  Whether or not it will ever reach the dizzying [projected] 550mph of its predecessor is immaterial - just seeing this wonderful design in the air where it belongs will doubtless be thrilling enough.  I wish continued good luck to the Bugatti100P Project; I can't wait to see more!

1 comment:

  1. For more in-depth information about the Bugatti 100P racing plane, its designer, and the new re-creation, there is a book available here:
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=301074789340

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