There’s often crossover appeal between aviation and automotive enthusiasts. Both tend to enjoy things that go fast and look spectacular while doing so. Ettore Bugatti, namesake of such supercars as the Bugatti Veyron and EB110, was one such individual. His one-off Bugatti 100P is amazing to behold.
The 100P was originally designed to compete in the 1939 Deutsch de la Meurthe Cup Race, but wasn’t completed in time to enter the competition. When German forces invaded France in 1940, Ettore Bugatti disassembled the aircraft and stashed it away in his estate, where it survived the conflict unscathed. Decades later, it was reconstructed and eventually became a static display at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin (home of the annual AirVenture convention that attracts aircraft and aviators of all types from all corners of the globe). Despite successful efforts to restore and preserve the 100P, it never touched the sky.
A few years ago, another aviation enthusiast and former USAF fighter pilot named Scotty Wilson undertook an effort to realize Bugatti’s dream of flying the 100P. With the actual 100P a priceless museum artifact, he and an international team of builders and project managers set out to create a modern replica with the ultimate goal of achieving flight. Out of Wilson’s workshop in Tulsa, Oklahoma eventually grew Le Rêve Bleu (“The Blue Dream”) which is a near-perfect facsimile of Bugatti’s gorgeous original.
The 100P was a giant leap forward for aircraft design, earning five patents and capturing the attention of the French military, which intended to apply elements of Bugatti’s design towards a production fighter aircraft. Its inboard mounted twin Bugatti 50P engines (placed one behind the other in the fuselage), forward swept wings, contra-rotating propellers, 120 degree V-tail and automatically-deploying flaps and landing gear all contributed to its incredible aura and mystique, which was compounded by the fact that the aircraft was never made airworthy.
Wilson and his team took a few liberties in their recreation, including the use of a pair of modern Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle engines for power. For the most part, however, their attempt to replicate the original is phenomenally successful. This is even more impressive considering that no blueprints of the original 100P are known to exist.
At long last, after years of painstaking engineering and construction work, the “Blue Dream” 100P replica was eventually prepared to take flight. A successful taxi test last month instilled enough confidence in the old-is-new-again design for Wilson to take the controls and attempt a first flight on August 19th. The video below shows the outcome of the attempt.
With cheers of exhilaration from the team, the Blue Dream lifted off and achieved 100 feet in altitude while reaching about 125 miles per hour. Unfortunately, Wilson experienced a brake failure on landing and the aircraft went off the end of the runway, coming to rest tipped forward in the grass with the propellers planted in the ground. While this wasn’t the exact outcome that the team had hoped for, the broader achievement of fulfilling Wilson’s dream could still be considered a massive victory.
There are no details yet about what’s next for the Blue Dream, but bringing a near-perfect copy of Bugatti’s racer from dream to reality is worthy of significant praise. Beyond that, making the thing fly is an achievement unto itself. As far as Bugatti crashes go, at least it wasn’t as bad as this one.
Photo credit: Top shot screen cap via embedded YouTube, 100P on display - FlugKerl2/Wikicommons, Blue Dream under construction - FlugKerl2/Wikicommons, Blue Dream taxi screen cap via embedded YouTube
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