Simanaitis Says

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ETTORE BUGATTI combined artistry with his engineering of cars, boats, railway transport—and an airplane, the Bugatti 100P. In the mid-1930s, he teamed with Belgian aeronautical engineer Louis de Monge to design a single-seat racing airplane every bit as elegant—and unorthodox—as his automobiles. Today, the Bugatti 100P Project is well along with recreating this wonderful aircraft.

World War II deferred development of the original 100P, though it spent the war stored at Bugatti’s Ermenonville estate northeast of Paris. The aircraft came to the U.S. in the 1960s, passed through two owners and now resides as a static display at the AirVenture Museum of the Experimental Aircraft Association, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.


The prototype Bugatti 100P is a static display at the EAA’s AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh. Image by Jim Koepnick.

The Bugatti 100P Project ( is an international assemblage of classic aviation enthusiasts with the slogan Rêve Bleu, Blue Dream. Their mission is to build—and fly—a replica Bugatti 100P, a goal that may well be met during 2013. Their website and Facebook page give details of the team, its progress and its funding. By the way, donor contributions are said to go entirely to materials; fabrication is being performed by (highly skilled) volunteers.

There’s a related Kickstarter endeavor, with key closing date of May 6, 2013.  See for details of this, including neat thank yous to donors of various amounts.

Here, I’d like to share more about the fabulous concept of the Bugatti 100P.


A Microsoft Flight Simulator version of the Bugatti 100P has already taken flight. Shigeru Tanaka is its builder.

The aircraft has forward swept wings and a Y-shape empennage. It’s particularly sleek, owing to its two engines being mounted centrally (not unlike the single-engine Bell P-39 Airacobra fighter).


An innovative design, much of it of composite wood (predating the de Havilland Mosquito in this regard).

The two engines drive a pair of counter-rotating propellers, the aft engine driving the forward propeller clockwise (as viewed from the cockpit). Each engine is a 4972-cc dohc supercharged straight-eight, derived from the Bugatti Type 50B automobile.


The engines were a tight fit in the 100P’s sleek fuselage. This historic image and others from

Multi-piece driveshafts passing at pilot’s shoulder height transfer output to a forward-mounted reduction-drive. This gearbox on the 100P Project was reverse-engineered from the original by John R. Lawson, the team’s engineering director whose J. Lawson Modelmakers Ltd is also one of its sponsors.


The 100P Project’s gearbox was reverse-engineered from the original. This fine cad illustration by John R. Lawson.

The aircraft is a composite of balsa sandwiched between hard woods, fabrication that’s lightweight, strong and stiff. To put its 27-ft. wingspan and 25-ft. length in perspective, a Cessna 172’s corresponding dimensions are 36 ft. 1 in. and 27 ft. 2 in., respectively.

Transforming incomplete 1930s notes into 21st Century computer-aided-design engineering documents was a major challenge for the 100P Project team. Among its fruitful outcomes is a technical paper, Measurement of Unknown Airfoils: The Bugatti 100P, by Gregory Carlson, MSME, Carlson Design, with Scott E. Wilson, managing director of the 100P Project team.


The 100P Project’s airframe is all but completed. Flags in the background identify the project’s international participation and sponsorship.

The Bugatti 100P Project has a well-executed web presence (which is not unknown for such activities). What sets it apart from some, though, is evidence of continuing progress toward its goal, of taking a Bugatti 100P into the air. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2013

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This entry was posted on April 11, 2013 by in Vintage Aero and tagged , .
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