Bringing the Bugatti 100P back to life: Bid to rebuild incredible 500mph WW2 …

  • Near completion in 1940, Bugatti was forced to conceal the aircraft
  • The plane survived the war hidden from the enemy but never flew
  • Now Scottish engineer John Lawson, 59, is developing a working replica
  • Original Bugatti 100P would have been fitted with two 450 horsepower engines and had a wingspan of nearly 27 ft (8.2m)

By
Ellie Zolfagharifard

13:41 EST, 27 February 2014


|

05:30 EST, 28 February 2014

A landmark but unflown aircraft, dubbed the ‘Bugatti Veyron of the skies’, is being recreated by a Scottish engineer working with a team in Oklahoma.

The Bugatti 100P was described as one of the most advanced planes of its era and if it had flown, its designers believed it would have reached 500mph.

At the time the air speed record, set by a German Messerschmitt in 1939, was 469mph.

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A British engineer is behind ambitious plans to recreate a landmark but tragic aircraft, the Bugatti 100P Pictured is the original Bugatti 100P which was mothballed in 1940 to conceal it from the Germans

A British engineer is behind ambitious plans to recreate a landmark but tragic aircraft, the Bugatti 100P Pictured is the original Bugatti 100P which was mothballed in 1940 to conceal it from the Germans

But in 1940, and near completion, Bugatti – the Italian car designer – was forced to conceal the elegant aircraft in the hope it would not be discovered by the German military.

Ettore Bugatti was keen to avoid the Nazis getting hold of the plane’s cutting-edge technology, so the aircraft was packed in crates and hid in a barn in the French countryside.

Mr Bugatti, who became a French citizen in between the wars, was known to dislike the Germans and had wanted to take them on in an aircraft race known as the Coupe Deutsch.

The French government knew about the
plane, but it could not be made in time for a deadline of September 1939
to enter the race. As the Second World War began, he decided to hide
the aircraft.

The only aircraft built by Bugatti was resigned to history until a team of engineers and enthusiasts sets about recreating the plane. A model is pictured here

The only aircraft built by Bugatti was resigned to history until a team of engineers and enthusiasts sets about recreating the plane. A model is pictured here

It
is thought that Albert Speer, one of Hitler’­s ministers, was aware of the
plane and if the Nazis had got hold of the technology it could have
eliminated the Spitfire.

THE BUGATTI VEYRON OF THE SKIES

The

100P featured a twin, mid-mounted engine design. Both engines would be
eight cylinder 4.9 litre race car engines producing 450hp each.

The
power would be transmitted to the propellers using twin drive-shafts
located just under the pilot’s elbows and attached to the double,
counter-spinning propellers via  nose-mounted transmission.

The
wings and fuselage were designed to provide high strength at a low
weight and were constructed from a multi-layer wood laminate – a concept
still used by many planes today.

The plane also featured cutting-edge aerodynamics with forward pitched wings, a
zero-drag cooling system, and computer-directed flight control.

It would have approached speeds of 500mph, a feat previously only achieved by
aircraft with twice the horsepower.

The
100P was also much more compact than most aircraft of the era, with a
wingspan of nearly 27 ft (8.2m) and an overall length of approximately
25.25 ft (7.7m).

The plane survived the war but never flew and, 70 years later, found itself in a U.S. museum too fragile to ever be restored.

Aeronautical
enthusiasts have long thought it was an industry tragedy that the 100P,
with its stunning design and ground-breaking performance, never got the
chance to fly. 

The only
aircraft built by Bugatti was resigned to history until a team of
engineers and enthusiasts sets about recreating the plane.

Musselburgh-born John Lawson, the engineering director, is one of the driving forces behind the project dubbed Le Reve Bleu.

Mr
Lawson, 59, who runs his own model making company in Nottingham, is a
former RAF engineer and used to work on the Vulcan bomber.

The trained pilot has played a vital role in designing and building the complex gearbox for the model Bugatti plane.

He said: ‘The Bugatti 100P was 85 per cent complete when the Germans invaded.

‘If it had flown in 1940 then it would
have been a revolution. It was an incredible aeroplane and Louis de
Monge, who worked on it with Ettore Bugatti, was a brilliant engineer.’

Designed in collaboration with Ettore Bugatti and Belgian engineer Louis de Monge, the original 1937 Bugatti 100P is considered by many to be one of the most technologically advanced aircrafts of the era

Designed in collaboration with Ettore Bugatti and Belgian engineer Louis de Monge, the original 1937 Bugatti 100P is considered by many to be one of the most technologically advanced aircrafts of the era

The

100P featured a twin, mid-mounted engine design. Both engines would be
eight cylinder 4.9 litre race car engines producing 450hp each.

HOW WAS THE PLANE POWERED?

The

100P featured a twin, mid-mounted engine design.

Both engines would be
eight cylinder 4.9 litre race car engines producing 450hp each.

The
power would be transmitted to the propellers using twin drive-shafts
located just under the pilot’s elbows and attached to the double,
counter-spinning propellers via  nose-mounted transmission.

The
wings and fuselage were designed to provide high strength at a low
weight and were constructed from a multi-layer wood laminate – a concept still used by many planes today.

The plane also featured cutting-edge aerodynamics with forward pitched wings, a
zero-drag cooling system, and computer-directed flight control.

The
power would be transmitted to the propellers using twin drive-shafts
located just under the pilot’s elbows and attached to the double,
counter-spinning propellers via  nose-mounted transmission.

The
wings and fuselage were designed to provide high strength at a low
weight and were constructed from a multi-layer wood laminate – a concept still used by many planes today.

The plane also featured cutting-edge aerodynamics with forward pitched wings, a
zero-drag cooling system, and computer-directed flight control.

It would have approached speeds of 500mph, a feat which had never at the time been achieved.

The
100P was also much more compact than most aircraft of the era, with a
wingspan of nearly 27 ft (8.2m) and an overall length of approximately
25.25 ft (7.7m).

‘However, these days it is in a very fragile state and it doesn’t have an engine,’ said Mr Lawson.

‘I got involved with the project four years ago after I was sent a picture of the 100P and told some people were building one.

The hope is for the model plane to be flying by October, and appearing across Europe at prestigious events like the Farnborough Air Show and Goodwood Revival

The hope is for the model plane to be flying by October, and appearing across Europe at prestigious events like the Farnborough Air Show and Goodwood Revival

Bugatti was forced to conceal the elegant aircraft by packing it up and hiding it in a French barn to prevent the German military discovering it.  It is thought Albert Steer, one of Hitler'­s ministers, was aware of the plane and if they got hold of the technology it could have eliminated the Spitfire

Bugatti was forced to conceal the elegant aircraft by packing it up and hiding it in a French barn to prevent the German military discovering it. It is thought Albert Steer, one of Hitler’­s ministers, was aware of the plane and if they got hold of the technology it could have eliminated the Spitfire

‘I
got in touch with Scotty Wilson and he asked me if I could build a
gearbox. It is a very complicated drivetrain but I thought I could have a
go at reverse engineering it from the plans and photos.

‘The
plane was designed to fly very fast in a straight line but the gearbox
wouldn’t have much longevity. So I set about seeing what was needed to
give it a few hundred hours of flight.

‘It
took a while but I managed to design one in computer aided design (CAD)
software. I also had help from a group of engineering friends who were
gearbox experts.’

After suffering some setbacks which delayed completion, a gearbox was finally manufactured before being sent out to the U.S.

Ettore Bugatti, who helped build the Bugatti 100p, is pictured with his son Roland in 1933. The plane would have been fitted with two 450 horsepower engines and was designed to reach speeds approaching 500mph, a feat which had never at the time been achieved

Ettore Bugatti, who helped build the Bugatti 100p, is pictured with his son Roland in 1933. The plane would have been fitted with two 450 horsepower engines and was designed to reach speeds approaching 500mph, a feat which had never at the time been achieved

Mr Lawson then met up with managing
director Scotty Wilson, from Tulsa, Oklahoma and Simon Birney, a Brit
who is the commercial director, in Oklahoma.

They hooked the gearbox up to the plane and, to the delight of everyone involved, it ran perfectly.

Designed
in collaboration with Ettore Bugatti and Belgian engineer Louis de
Monge, the original 1937 Bugatti 100P is considered by many to be one of
the most technologically advanced aircrafts of the era.

Handcrafted using largely the same materials and processes as the original, the recreation is dimensionally and aerodynamically identical to the original plane and includes elements of the five patents that Bugatti was originally awarded for the 100P.

But instead of replicating the original engine, the team opted to fix their 100P with two Suzuki Hayabusa motorbike engines which develop 200bhp each – giving it a speed of more than 200mph.

The aircraft will make its official
global debut next month at The Mullin Automotive Museum, a Southern
California institution devoted to the preservation of French art and
automobiles from the Art Deco era.

Musselburgh-born John Lawson, the engineering director, is one of the driving forces behind the project dubbed Le Reve Bleu. The trained pilot has played a vital role in designing and building the complex gearbox for the model Bugatti plane

Musselburgh-born John Lawson, the engineering director, is one of the driving forces behind the project dubbed Le Reve Bleu. The trained pilot has played a vital role in designing and building the complex gearbox for the model Bugatti plane

It will be part of the Art of Bugatti exhibition and will stay there until the autumn when it will return to Oklahoma when the engines will be installed.

The hope is for it to be flying by October, and appearing across Europe at prestigious events like the Farnborough Air Show and Goodwood Revival.

Scotty Wilson, Le Reve Bleu managing director, said: ‘For the first time, this incredible piece of engineering and design will receive the broad recognition it deserves, 77 years later.’

Father-of-six Ettore Bugatti, born in Milan in 1881, was a pioneering sports car designer. He built his first car before his 20th birthday and started his own company in 1910. He died in Paris in 1947.

According to the European Automotive Hall of Fame, ‘Bugatti’s work was characterized by a unique combination of advanced yet simple engineering and artistic execution of all technical details.’

He was known for creating every Bugatti model with parts that were used in other Bugatti models – meaning they were made not just in series. His company, founded in 1909, survives to this day.


Comments (79)

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The comments below have not been moderated.

phil,

tamworth,

moments ago

TO ME GERMANY DID WIN THE WAR, I MEAN IT RULES EUROPE NOW WHO KNOWS WHERE NEXT

Lukesenior,

Dewsbury,

43 minutes ago

It might well have been a great racer, but you wouldn’t take a Veyron into battle. In those days a lot of aircraft design was done through trial and error, and a lot of famous aircraft designers came up with plans that looked great on paper but failed in the air for a variety of reasons. I can see a number of potential problems in this, like it could probably carry fuel or guns, but not both, fickle V tail characteristics if not designed virtually perfectly, limited pilot vision for combat, stubby wings not suited to altitude flight (in a dogfight height is king), serious overheating concerns, and a few others spring to mind.

keith pearson,

Ebbw vale,

1 hour ago

very very clever like Bugatti cars , but useless as a warplane, with all parts hidden away and it would have been a nightmare for maintenance. For war you need a robust standardised design, like the Merlin engine which was fitted to all sorts of planes. Also the Veyron is NOT a real Bugatti but is a german car made by VW.

Patrick,

Belfast,

1 hour ago

Sorry Ellie. If you were still in school, the teachers would ask you to do this article over again.

happyone,

Newham,

1 hour ago

Can anyone tell me where he put the Guns, what sort of Guns they would have been and how many?

Robineff,

Hampshire,

1 hour ago

This aircraft was conceived for one purpose only – to break speed records. It was to be a flying sprint racer, like the Bluebird cars and boats. It was powered by 2 small racing engines, high revving, highly tuned and with a short life. It was light years away from being a military aircraft although certain aspects of its design might have been incorporated into a fighter.

monsta,

earth, United Kingdom,

1 hour ago

bugatti is originally french then bought by an italian company… NOT GERMAN

Somewhat peeved,

Shrewsbury, United Kingdom,

1 hour ago

Bugatti was a French car manufacturer founded in 1909 in the then German city of Molsheim, Alsace by Italian-born Ettore Bugatti. The name is owned by German car manufacturing group Volkswagen.

Pedro in Spain,

Granada,

1 hour ago

Like most things italian., it had a beutiful design, probably a wonderfull performance, but all the plastic bits would have fallen apart in two weeks, the rubber would have rotted away and rust would have eaten away at the structure. As for competing with the spifire, the big problem would have been that the thing would run out of fuel before it rached the battle ground!

arram,

westcliff on sea, United Kingdom,

1 hour ago

what an absolutely beautiful plane……

old fella,

Bedale, United Kingdom,

1 hour ago

Why people are harping on about Germany I don’t know, this story is about an airplane designed by an Italian, and there’s no doubt about it the Italians were good at building cars and developing aircraft including the helicopter, this aircraft could have been another Bugatti great just like his cars, and I look forward to seeing it fly.

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