Birth of the Bugatti

Original design sketches show how the raceplane evolved.

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A product of the late 1930s, the Bugatti 100P racer was conceived and developed in sketches and drawings, not computer-generated images. The artifacts here show that hours of nuanced and complex engineering went into the seemingly simple Art Deco aircraft. 

1937

Dated 12 Aug 37, this drawing appears to be an alternative racer configuration that Ettore Bugatti and Louis de Monge considered early on. This engine placement would have mandated a large fuselage cross-section, resulting in increased drag and thus slower speed.

Avion de Chasse

In this fighter (“avion de chasse”) design, done for the French government, Bugatti places the two engines side by side to reduce the fuselage cross-section. The two propellers and the airplane’s general shape show a kinship with the 100P.

Modified ventral fin

Initially, only the V-tail stabilizer had inlets to collect and direct cooling air to the radiators. When airflow proved insufficient, de Monge modified the ventral fin to provide additional cooling air to the radiators. His initial change to an earlier drawing evolved quickly to the exquisitely designed ventral fin air intake seen here.

Almost-final Configuration

This is the earliest drawing that depict the 100P’s almost-final configuration. The finished aircraft has subtle changes from this drawing, but by and large this is the airplane de Monge and Bugatti built. 

Caricature of de Monge

Not much is known about Georges Villa’s caricature of de Monge. It captures his tall, lanky build—he was 5 foot 11, according to government documents, and those who knew him said he always had a slide rule (the “régle à calcul” in the handwritten caption) in his hands.