The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Amazing '30s Airplane: Bugatti 100P

Take a look at a fantastic airplane.

It looks like a plane that might have been flown by a 1930's-1950s comic book hero whose mercenary force assisted the world's free nations in their fight against the evil statists in Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union.

Air Commander Jake Savage and his squadron of Bluehawks.

Okay, so there was no such comic book character. But there was a real plane.

It's a Bugatti 100P which was designed in the late '30s and was being built to compete in the 1939 Deutsche de la Meurthe Cup Race. Wiki says that the plane was not completed by the September 1939 deadline and was put in storage "prior to the German invasion of France."

Ettore Bugatti started work in 1938 to design a racer to compete in the Deutsch de la Meurthe Cup Race, using engines sold in his automotive line for co-marketing. His chief engineer was Louis de Monge, whom Bugatti was partnered with before. Bugatti also approached by the French Government to use the technology of the racing aircraft to develop a fighter variant for mass production. The aircraft was the source of five modern patents including the inline engines, V tail mixer controls, and the automatic flap system. [1]
The Model 100 had an unusual inboard mounted twin engine arrangement driving forward mounted twin counter rotating propellers through driveshafts. The aircraft also featured a 120 degree V-tail arrangement and retractable landing gear. The construction was mostly of wood, with sandwiched layers of balsa and hardwoods, including tulipwood stringers covered with doped fabric.

For an excellent overhead schematic of the Model 100's engine layout, etc. click here.

Somehow the plane survived the war and over the next several decades was sold and resold several times. During that time both original Bugatti were pulled and used in race cars. The plane (minus engines) was restored by the EAA Airventure museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where it is on static display today.

But. That's not the end of the story. There's another Bugatti 100P that's being constructed right now by Scotty Wilson and Greg Carlson of Oklahoma. There are some great photos and lots of information on this painstakingly researched and constructed airplane at these two sites.

The first is The Blue Dream, Le Reve Bleu The Bugatti 100p Project.

The other is the Bugatti Aircraft Association.

When completed, the project plane will be correct in every detail except the engines, which will be twin Susuki Hayabusa motors modified and developed by Radical Performance Engines of England.

And guess what? The plane has also been in a comic book, Firehawks, illustrated by Herb Trimpe who worked on "The Incredible Hulk" and "The Wolverine." I haven't read the comic but the images of the plane on the cover and pages shown in the link look great--except for those red stars on the plane's wings and body. I don't know about you, but I have some bad memories associated with that red star.

On a slight tangent, something about the Bugatti 100P reminds me a little of the Bell P-39 Airacobra WWII fighter plane. These planes looked great but presented problems in combat. They were, however, used quite successfully by the Russian Air Force (with red star markings!) which found their nose mounted cannons quite effective against German soft armor. Here's a pic of the Airacobra in case you've forgotten what they looked like.

Back to the airplane under discussion: the Bugatti 100P. This airplane was originally designed to reach speeds up to and slightly over 500 mph. It will be interesting to see if the modern Bugatti 100P with its twin RPE Susukis can achieve that speed.

Air Commander Savage, your plane will soon be ready.


  1. ...his squadron of Bluehawks.

    Okay, so there was no such comic book character.

    But there WERE the Blackhawks, which I'm quite certain you know. I never missed an issue of The Blackhawks when I was a kid. Never. Hell, I wanted to BE a Blackhawk.

    Great post and that most certainly is a beautiful aircraft. But then again, I don't think Monsieur B ever created anything that wasn't beautiful.

    I'd never heard of the Bugatti 100P before and I kinda-sorta pride myself on my aviation knowledge. Just goes to show...

  2. Hi,

    If you’re interested, in January 2013 a book dedicated to the Bugatti 100 airplane will be published. For more information see
    Best regards,