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Bugatti 100P Project Closer to Flight

 

Bugatti at AirVenture
Attendees saw the structurally complete Bugatti reproduction up close in the EAA Welcome Center at AirVenture 2011.

Bugatti 100P's input shafts, main gears, and forward prop flange
Bugatti 100P's input shafts, main gears, and forward prop flange built by S&J Engineering, Hinckley, UK.

September 26, 2012 - The ambitious project to finish and fly an ahead-of-its-time Bugatti 100P airplane will enter its final stages this fall, according to owner/builder Scotty Wilson, EAA 572551.

His structurally complete, accurate reproduction of the original 1930s design by famed automobile designer Ettore Bugatti and engineer Louis de Monge has its front engine, mount, and associated drive shaft "mechanically complete and set in stone" in the front engine bay, Wilson said. With work started on the more complex aft powerplant, he aims to fly the sleek project by the end of the year.

This original Bugatti, which was donated to EAA in 1996 and is currently on display at EAA's AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, was designed to compete in an air race before the outbreak of World War II. But when the German army marched on Paris in June 1940, the unfinished airplane had to be abandoned before ever flying.

"It's the most historically significant airplane that never flew," Wilson said.

In 2009 Wilson traveled to Oshkosh from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to precisely measure the original item with a digital profiler - an electronic plotter that rolls along the wing's surface transferring data to a computer for analysis. This allowed him to reverse-engineer the wing and other components because a comprehensive set of drawings covering the entire aircraft do not exist.

"The aircraft is structurally complete," he said, noting that his reproduction measures within 1/50,000 of an inch of the original specs. "It's as exact a copy as you can build." His re-engineered parts even match and accept original ones.

Most recently, work has focused on the powerplants - two Suzuki-Hayabusa motorcycle engines rated at 200 hp each, turning two metal, ground-adjustable, contra-rotating Ratier propellers. These engines were chosen, Wilson said, because it has an integral gearbox and the RPM of one of its gears is appropriate for the Bugatti's. Also the engine is relatively inexpensive and easy to acquire.

The engine bays are designed to accept the original Bugatti 50B engines should they ever become available. The original plan was to use two late-1990s/early 2000s BMW engines.

With the front engine installed, Wilson and his team are designing and test-fitting the rear engine - a used, non-functional engine block they call a "space-claim" - on the engine mount in the rear engine bay.

"This task is a little more complex because the rear-engine drive line has sprockets, bearings, shafts, couplers, etc.," he said. "It's a complicated machine, but the engine and gearbox will be more difficult to analyze."

While the hope is to fly before 2013, Wilson acknowledges the unknown may alter that schedule. "Things happen that force you to change course," he said. Such as installation of the engines, gearbox, and drive shafts may produce initial resonance vibrations that will require time to resolve. Another major challenge is funding, as some previous contributors have pulled out and he's writing all the checks.

"We suffered a setback earlier this year when a vendor pulled out setting us back several months on building the gear box," he said. They were ultimately built by S&J Engineering in Hinckley, UK.

Once the airplane is ready to fly - and the 40 hours required by the FAA care flown off - Wilson intends to bring the airplane "back home" to Europe where it will appear at air shows, car shows, and museums. In a perfect world, it would return to the United States and appear in Oshkosh, but that will depend on funding and sponsors, Wilson said.

"This project really is all about EAA," Wilson said. "I couldn't be happier with the help EAA has provided on this project." He even cites the weekly Hints for Homebuilders with providing some valuable pointers throughout the journey.

"A little bit of each EAA member is in this airplane."

While the project has a website, all recent and future updates can be found on The Bugatti 100p Project Facebook page.

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