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Link to the Past

de Monge brothers see great uncle’s Bugatti Racer for the first time

de Monge Brothers
Paul-Benoit de Monge, Scotty Wilson, Greg Carlson, and Ladislaus de Monge at the EAA Museum Bugatti Model 100 Racer display.

de Monge Brothers
Ladislaus de Monge, right, and Scotty Wilson look into the cockpit of the Bugatti, designed by Lad’s great uncle, Louis.

A full view of the Bugatti Model 100 Racer.
Larger view

July 19, 2010 — Two grand nephews of Louis de Monge, designer of the enigmatic Bugatti Model 100 Racer, saw the sleek design in person for the first time on Saturday, July 17, during a visit to the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh. Brothers Ladislaus and Paul-Benoit de Monge traveled to the United States from their home in suburban Brussels, Belgium, at the invitation of Scotty Wilson and Greg Carlson, the Oklahoma duo that’s building a flying replica of the famed aircraft.

There’s no doubt the airplane was well ahead of its time. Built by famed automobile maker Ettore Bugatti and designed by de Monge, the Bugatti racer has a dual drive train, a flight control tail that mixes the elevator and the rudder, and an automatic flaps system, which pre-dates those found in the F-16 fighter by 40 years. The Bugatti was to compete in an air race before the outbreak of World War II, but when the Nazis marched on Paris, the project was abandoned and never flew. Wilson and Carlson are aiming to fly their replica in May 2011.

Neither de Monge brother is involved in aviation and their sketchy knowledge of the racer had been limited to seeing some drawings. “Aviation was only one thing for him,” said Ladislaus of his great uncle. “We knew of the plane for many years, but didn’t realize the specificity. We learned that all the time he was in the avant garde.”

Their first reaction to seeing it?  To Ladislaus, it appeared small, but modern, especially set among the other airplanes in the museum, like the Spirit of St. Louis replica. Paul-Benoit, placing his hand on the fuselage, added, “My great uncle, made this. I feel a connection to the past.” He added that through their meeting with Wilson and Carlson, they’ve learned a lot more about not only the aircraft but also their family history.

Wilson and Carlson, whose work on re-creating the airplane continues in earnest, met the brothers in Brussels about six months ago. They decided to invite them to Oshkosh for their planned trip here to inspect the advanced aileron system, get more cockpit photos, and research the spare parts EAA has stored. They have also received permission from a museum in Mulhouse, France, to inspect all the original parts drawings that are archived there, numbering some 700 to 800 drawings, Wilson said.

“Every day we find something new and exciting about your uncle,” Wilson told the de Monge brothers.

To learn more about the airplane, click here.

To learn more about the project, click here.

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