The Bugatti Model 100
The beginning of a new series that I am starting about unusual things that car manufactures made.
The 1930s were an amazing time for the development of aeronautics, as more and more people were fascinated by these works of science and art. With the idea of the powered flight which is an heavier-than-air aircraft, people were always innovating. During the 1930s, there were many technological advancements in both the design and construction of airplanes making them look more dynamic, increasing speed, and increasing range would all lead up to this:
The year is 1938 and the founder of Bugatti, Ettore Bugatti wanted in on the air racing trend. The Bugatti Model 100 was initially designed, and purpose-built to compete in the 1939 Deutsch de la Meurthe Cup Race. But sadly, the Model 100 was not completed by the 1939 deadline and was put into storage prior to the German Invasion of France.
At the turn of WWII, the French government turned to the legendary car manufacturer, Bugatti. The French government used the sophisticated design of the Model 100 to develop a fighter variant for mass war production. The Model 100 was used to develop five patents that aircraft still use today. Three of these include: the incline engine, the v-tail mixer controls (as seen in modern airplanes such as the Beechcraft Bonanza V-tail and the Cirrus Jet), and the automatic flap system which is used in just about every airplane.
The Bugatti Model 100 had two massive supercharged Bugatti Type 50P Straight 8 4.9L, 450 hp each! That means this 25ft (7.75m) airplane had 900 hp! To put that into perspective the airplane that I fly, the Cessna 152 is 24ft long and has a whopping 110 hp flat 4 engine. Another unusual feature of the Model 100 is the contra-rotating propellers that outputs the 900 hp through two driveshafts that are mounted on either side of the pilot. If you're wondering, contra-rotating propellers spin in opposite directions and have a similar action to sissors. The Model 100 as mentioned before, had a 120-degree v-tail, retractable landing gear, and is made of mostly wood sandwiched like fiberglass.
The Bugatti Model 100 was designed with three principals: go fast, win races, and look amazing while doing it. Ettore Bugatti made not only a flying machine but a masterpiece of art similar to his beautiful cars such as the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic. But when I said that this airplane is a work of art I don’t mean some boring painting in a boring museum; I mean that this was an eye candy with its futuristic design such as the v-tail, forward-swept main wings, and two contra-rotating propellers.
So what happened?
Unfortunately, due to many setbacks and delays, the Bugatti Model 100 missed the 1939 entry deadline. But, due to WWII the race was never held. Thankfully however, the Model 100 was hidden at the family chateau in Ermenonville. Probably the saddest thing to happen to the Model 100 is that both of its massive engines were salvaged for automotive purposes. Now having undergone a static restoration, the Bugatti Model 100 is now on display at the EAA Airventure Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
If Bugatti after the war would have continued his mission of completing the Model 100, this magnificent airplane could have and probably have beaten the 1938 airspeed record. The Model 100 could have even broken the 440-mph (708.11-kmh) barrier which at the time was something to dream about. Overall, the Bugatti Model 100 if completed would have beaten many records and looked amazing while doing so. Such a Bugatti am I right! 😉